Nothing's first smartphone is on its way

Nothing's first smartphone is on its way

What if we told you that 2021 was just a warm-up? In 2022 such a phrase might sound like a threat, but in reality it is the slogan behind the latest news of Nothing, the tech company led by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei.

The warming was the Nothing Ear 1, a pair of earphones presented last year as the first product of the then new brand. As a second act, Pei confirmed what was considered a secret of Pulcinella in the world of technological gadgets: Nothing is making a smartphone, called - in a not too imaginative way - Phone 1.

Tech experts claimed to knowing that it would happen sooner or later, but not when. Now we know this too: the release of Nothing's Phone 1 is scheduled for summer 2022.

A sector that has ceased to amaze Hearing about Carl Pei, there is an equal amount of disaffection and enthusiasm for technology: " Today, no one has a passion for technology anymore. On the consumer hardware front, there are basically the same things in terms of products, "Pei explains." Less and less differentiation, and consumers are no longer so enthusiastic. People don't want to look at them. new product launch events ".

Although these statements clash with the YouTube view numbers of recent Apple events and with the fact that Pei himself told UK almost two years ago about having stopped watching tech company launch events long before, Pei is not entirely wrong.

The companies with the highest growth rates in the smartphone sector are the Chinese giants, who hide their self-cannibalization behind a series of sub-brands. Oppo, Realme, OnePlus and Vivo are all part of the same group. Ominously familiar models are found in their product lines, the similarities of which are hidden behind different names, camera housing shapes and finishes.

This year, Xiaomi's Redmi and Poco lines have also come close together. clumsy. The Poco X4 Pro and the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G are practically identical, for example, beyond some very superficial differences. Fantasy is scarce in 2022.

Are you tired of this lack of vitality? Pei thinks you should be: "Today everything is very boring and sleepy in the industry, and then we come with something new to move things", he says.

Claiming that a startup like Nothing could be the solution in a sector that has brought down giants like HTC and LG is a sign of an audacity that borders on stubbornness, undoubtedly fueled by the success of OnePlus. The Nothing Phone 1, however, remains something that will at least be worth following.

Information with the dropper Concept of the back of the Phone 1 UK / Nothing Unsurprisingly, Nothing follows the old OnePlus model when it comes to advertising, with snippets of information slowly being leaked to eagerly awaited fans. The latest Nothing event showed a hint of the company's operating system interface for Phone 1. Its "always-on" display mode suggests that the smartphone will have an oled screen.

They've seen each other also a series of large shapes that will characterize the design of the back of the phone, which, if it were to follow that of Ear 1, will be transparent.

"One principle we follow for product design is that a person should being able to see the product for two seconds and then close your eyes and be able to sketch a very representative part of it, "says Pei.

What is the function of these hieroglyphic-like shapes? What do they mean? This information was not disclosed during the event; for society, asking these questions is at least as important as the answers. It's the way Nothing makes us talk and think about a phone that is not expected to be released for several months.

A probable answer is that they are white led strips that light up differently depending on who you are calling or texting, allowing users to understand what's going on without having to glance at the screen. It cannot be ruled out that there are multicolored LEDs that offer a light show every time music is played.

Even if this were really the case, it might not turn out to be so tacky, considering that the Phone 1 of Nothing is developed in collaboration with Teenage Engineering, who have done a good job on the company's earphones.

Hipster charm Teenage Engineering is not a Stem program for underprivileged kids, but a minor design icon for the millennial generation , which has made products such as Teenage Engineering Op-1 and Pocket operator synthesizers. More recently he has worked on the design of gadgets such as the Playdate handheld console. If you're in your thirties and passionate about technology, there's a good chance you've craved a Teenage Engineering product at some point in your life.

The Crucial Importance of This Partnership to the Plan Pei's becomes apparent when the founder of Nothing outlines his ultimate goal: "We want to create the most compelling alternative to Apple." "When [Apple, nda] started they had their audience, the creatives. They convinced the creatives that they would help them attract more people to the brand, because they were the creators of culture, the writers, the artists, the people who created. culture. But now that Apple is so big and mainstream, there is no longer a brand that will appeal to early adopters or creators of culture. This is where we fit in, "Pei explains.

Hope is that Phone 1 can benefit from Teenage Engineering's influence among "creatives". And to some extent it has already done so, helping the company amass $ 144 million in funding from venture capital funds and high-profile lenders like youtuber Casey Neistat and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin.

Teenage Enginering makes and designs great products for people who identify as creatives. And the fact that it would make more sense to buy a cheap Novation midi controller rather than a Teenage Engineering Pocket operator is further proof of the company's design prowess.

Its products are designed to influence a generation that remembers the era before social networks, which misses physical media and does not resign itself to the way in which the tangible and the tactile have been swept away by the digital. You won't find a better embodiment of all of this than the Playdate console's hand-cranked controller.

The Nostalgia Factor But how does all this work in a phone? So far we have only had a taste of it. The Phone 1 has a sound recording app equipped with a retro analog controller that allows you to rewind clips by spinning a virtual reel. It's an idea inspired by Teenage Engineering's 2015 OB-4 speaker, which had a motorized knob that allowed the audio to be rewound and "remixed".

"Sound is a very important part of the design which I think is too often overlooked - says Pei -. On the one hand it is a technical question, but on another level we want to show a kind of nostalgia ".

The physical-virtual knob of the sound recorder should reflect this nostalgia. But it is also a trinket, destined to collect virtual dust in most cases, just as, let's imagine, ninety-five percent of Pocket operator synthesizers are abandoned on shelves collecting real dust.

So where is it the real substance of the Nothing project? We need to move on to Pei's idea for Nothing's OS ecosystem.

The Nothing OS Ecosystem Phone 1 Nothing's Ecosystem At the moment, Nothing's ecosystem includes a decent but not earth-shattering pair of wireless headphones, and a phone that doesn't exist yet. Nothing OS will be based on Android in the Phone 1 and is fundamentally comparable to the third-party skins already seen in the industry. How do you create a separate ecosystem while "reducing the operating system to the essentials" and adopting a "pure Android" approach (another element embraced by Nothing)?

The idea probably rests on patents which Nothing got in 2021 when it acquired Essential, a tech company founded by former head of Alphabet's Google Android division Andy Rubin, who completely disappeared from the spotlight following allegations of sexual harassment that surfaced in 2018 and 2019.

Essential had made a phone with a pair of pogo pin connectors on the back, which allowed it to connect to an Essential 360-degree camera and charging dock, but it was never introduced to the market. The smartphone was a failure. Essential also announced plans for a privacy-focused smart home system as early as 2017, called Ambient OS, again never released.

The Ambient, a site dedicated to news on smart home technology , he described the concept of Ambient OS as a "pumped Ifttt". Ifttt stands for "if this, then that", a way to program automations on different devices and platforms. Ifttt is great, but it's used almost exclusively by nerds since it is a bit reminiscent of actual programming. for example, use Ifttt to turn on the smart lights in the living room when your phone comes within range of the home wi-fi network.

If the new operating system could make this interaction between devices interesting for the 'average user, Nothing might be on the right track. A statement from Pei during the conversation with UK seemed to go in this direction, despite the fact that there is no reference to this aspect of the technology in the company's announcement.

"From the point of view of the consumer internet, these companies have become evil in our heads because of issues related to privacy, anti-competitive practices and so on. So, on the whole, people don't find inspiration in technology and we want to be the catalyst for change, "says Pei.

Third parties If this were to be the foundation on which to base the appeal of Phone 1 in a ultra-crowded market, the new smartphone will now have to be compatible with a lot of different devices.

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