Nothing Phone 1 is set to launch in India in the third quarter of 2022, the company owned by OnePlus Co-Founder Carl Pei has confirmed after much anticipation and rumours. The smartphone will come with a custom Android version that the company calls Nothing OS. Pei hosted a virtual keynote where he revealed the plans of launching the phone. The Nothing Phone 1 will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC. Nothing also separately announced a $10 million (roughly Rs. 76.23 crore) allocation for an upcoming equity-based community investment round. It will be the second community-based funding as the UK-based company initially raised $1.5 million (roughly Rs. 11.43 crore) in a similar community round last year.
At the Nothing event on Wednesday, Pei said that the Nothing Phone 1 will debut in the summer. It should be noted that he referred to the British summer which starts around July or August.
Nothing India Vice President and General Manager Manu Sharma indicated that the launch of the Nothing Phone 1 would take place alongside its global debut.
“We need to bring back the optimism which has been lost, the passion which has been lost, and the excitement that consumers have when they buy a new product, new tech,” Sharma told Gadgets 360.
Prior to joining Nothing last year, Sharma was the vice president of product marketing at Samsung.
“When we launch the product, it will be literally a change in the smartphone industry — a freshness that we bring back,” he said.
Exact specifications of the Nothing Phone 1 are yet to be revealed. However, the phone is confirmed to have a Snapdragon SoC. The company announced its partnership with Qualcomm in October — months after its debut in the technology world with the Ear 1 earbuds.
The Nothing Ear 1 true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds were launched in July as the company's first product. So far, it has sold over half a million units of the earbuds globally.
Nothing Ear 1 Review: It's About Nothing
Sharma told Gadgets 360 that the launch of the Ear 1 helped the company set the pitch for its debut in the smartphone market.
“It helped in two purposes,” he said. “Internally for us, it both built the foundation, the R&D, the marketing, the teams collaborating together. And externally, I think we were able to clearly establish ourselves as a brand, and to be compared with Apple, the world over many times as a company.”
The Nothing Phone 1 will run on Nothing OS that is claimed to bring the best of pure Android. It will have a very personalised experience where users will have bespoke fonts, sound, and graphic elements that can be customised depending on user preferences, Sharma told Gadgets 360.
Alongside customisations, Nothing OS is touted to have 40 percent less preloaded apps compared to the competition. The operating system will also caching in the RAM for most used apps and close the ones that are not in use for some time to deliver a faster experience, the company said. Additionally, the interface is claimed to feature minimal animations and design consistency to offer a smooth experience to users.
“The current consumers are literally deprived of the user experience they literally desire or they deserve,” the executive said. “I think a lot of that has been massacred by many of the leading brands by putting bloatware, by putting in a monetisation where they have been thrown on ads and whatnot where people are struggling with unnecessarily specifications, which is not required.”
Apart from reducing the clutter, Sharma noted that Nothing is making its software to “complement the hardware seamlessly” and play an important role in building an ecosystem.
“I think that's where we will be doing most of the work — how we integrate, for example, just from the drop down on our home widget, or an easy setting, you can connect third party devices seamlessly,” he said. “This is going to be a very important aspect of our strategy as you build an alternative to the Apple ecosystem as you move forward, and integrate brands, which are even outside technology.”
To give users a glimpse of Nothing OS ahead of the Phone 1 launch, Nothing is launching a preview of its software via a launcher that will be available for download on select Android phones. Nothing OS will also come with a promise of giving three years of OS upgrades and four years of security updates.
Initially, the Nothing Ear 1 debut saw supply constraints that Sharma said was a result of “challenges by incumbents” who tried to stop the company from getting “access to the best of the supply chain.” Things are claimed to be all sorted now, though.
“We've been able to establish great partnerships, starting with Qualcomm, for example, and including manufacturers, who will help us with these devices,” Sharma added.
Nothing surprised India consumers by launching the Ear 1 at Rs. 5,999, as the earbuds debuted in global markets at $99 (roughly Rs. 7,600) and EUR 99 (roughly Rs. 8,300). However, the pricing of the Phone 1 in India is a mystery.
“For us, a starting point is what is the user experience we want consumers to have, and which still caters to a large enough market. I think that's the starting point, and we are working towards that. And then comes the pricing. That's what we did with Ear 1,” Sharma said.
It is currently unclear whether the Phone 1 will be exclusive to online — just like the Ear 1 — or also available through offline channels.
“Everything's open on the table,” said Sharma. “I mean, we are very flexible. We will be there wherever consumers are so that we cater to them.”
Some early reports suggested that the Nothing Phone 1 would come with a transparent design — similar to the one available on the Ear 1 earbuds. However, official details about the design are yet to be revealed.
Sharma said that the phone will be targeted at tech enthusiasts and design-conscious consumers. This suggests that we could see some distinctive design-level treatment.
Earlier this month, Nothing announced that it raised $70 million (roughly Rs. 534 crore) in a fresh funding round. This will include the $10 million funding that the company will get from its new community round. Total valuation was not disclosed at the time of filing this article.
Since its debut last year, Nothing has expanded its workforce to over 300 people around the globe.
Investors have access to Nothing's private community through which they will get exclusive benefits and insights. Pre-registrations for early access are now open, and the investment round will go live on April 5, the company said.
Ben Wood, Chief Analyst at London-based analyst firm CCS Insight, said that the launch of the Phone 1 was an “incredibly ambitious move” by Carl Pei and the Nothing team.
“It sets the scene for a David versus Goliath battle which will require every ounce of Carl Pei's ingenuity, deep industry relationships and genius marketing if it is to be successful,” he said.
Market experts also believe that Nothing's plan to enter the smartphone market is specifically to enter the ecosystem play.
“Nothing has a good team that understands the space well, especially Carl,” said Tarun Pathak, Research Director at market research firm Counterpoint. “The smartphone will take a more central role in the coming years and by 2030 we believe that more than 12 devices will be connected to the smartphones. So, smartphones are a very important segment to be in but at the same time it is a very competitive space to be in.”
He added that a successful player needs to ace almost all the variables and control key elements to deliver a great user experience.
Can Nothing Ear 1 — the first product from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei's new outfit — be an AirPods killer? We discussed this and more on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts. Affiliate links may be automatically generated - see our ethics statement for details.