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In the Nothing brand, art in synchronization with technology. Competitors are listening

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Ssmart phones have now become the new PCs. Commoditization has happened with smartphones, as technological leaps are now iterative. In fact, for a short while, demand accelerated for anything tech-related thanks to the pandemic. While all of this has happened, we often talk about the usual industry suspects who have been ruling the roost for a decade. Apple, Samsung, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, Xiaomi, and we would even have talked about Huawei if its smartphone business hadn’t been gutted-key, thanks to the US-China rivalry and Covid-19.

But since the end of 2020, there is has been a new entrant that has made waves and partnered with some of the best in the business. It’s called Nothing, and it’s the tech hardware brand that was started by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei.

In 2020, shortly after Pei left OnePlus, he threw Nothing, and in 2021, it launched its first product, Nothing Ear (1) true wireless stereo headphones. And immediately they became a sensation, thanks to a clever mix of clever marketing, tasteful, design in your face and a focus on simplicity.

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Between Manu Sharma…

From 2021, Nothing was now planning to launch its first smartphone, the Phone (1), which the author has Used as a daily driver since October. This phone managed to support Jio’s new 5G network, nearly two months before Apple could enable it on the iPhone. To launch this phone, Pei managed to onboard Samsung veteran Manu Sharma to lead the team in India., identified as a key market for the brand.

As the Global Vice President and Managing Director of India, Sharma, who, prior to his 9 years in Samsung’s mobile phone business in India, was a former APAC executive for HP’s corporate business, created and cultivated relationships this enabled Nothing to even make the phone (1) in India.

“I built the team from scratch and brought all the departments together. Our first product was the Ear(1), which of course is pretty well done for us. And then, of course, we launched the phone (1),” Sharma said.

He noted that this was achieved despite the semiconductor crisis and some dirty tactics from shaken competitors who discouraged vendors. of working with the young brand.

It’s a journey. We are hungry. I think that we are just scratching the bottom of the mainstream technology industry. And I think it’s also encouraging to know that not only consumers, I mean, this competition is noticing us. So much so that competition, not just globally, is blocking our supply chain. I would even say when we started bringing in some offline distributors, suddenly they were very suspicious. Don’t do this, don’t work with Nothing,” he revealed.

Although Sharma did not insinuate who these competitors were, there had been reports of bad blood between Carl Pei and his former employers in bbk group, which is the parent company of the OnePlus and Oppo brands. According to sources, OnePlus tried to trick vendors into not granting Nothing access to certain components.

Sharma also notes that nothing as a brand works to the intersection of technology and art. This is supported by the fact that its latest product, the EarStick, is now also sold on Myntra, owned by Flipkart.

Sharma’s extensive experience in building sales and distribution channels has enabled Nothing to also offer its phone (1) in physical outlets. To date, combined, Nothing has sold over one million units worldwide with a product portfolio that only has three products. It lists Qualcomm, the fabless chipset maker, as its strategic partner.

The Nothing Phone (1) is also made in India, which is no small feat. Sharma also revealed that 1/5th of its users come from an iPhone, which is staggering for a brand that operates in the sub-Rs 50,000 segment.

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And after?

Nothing recently acquired Android founder Andy Rubin’s ill-fated start-up dubbed Essential.

Essential had filed for bankruptcy in light of sexual harassment allegations that surfaced against Rubin in 2019. He was working on an ambient operating system for the smart home., which could indicate what could happen next in 2023.

But Sharma also doubles down on the fact that Nothing’s North Star will be in the smartphone market and that audio will also remain a very important category. He added this software will be a big part of the differentiation quotient it brings to the table.

“What we want to do is move forward and elevate the operating system game, the software experience. So coming back to the art, the design will continue to be a very strong differentiator. for us, because if you don’t have that, then you’re almost like everyone else, aren’t you?” Sharma explained.

“Audio is definitely, you can see we’re going to continue to make inroads. Phone is going to be the most important category for us. Because like I said, it allows us to grow our consumer base . The paramount The message is that we want to build a complete ecosystem of connected devices,” he added.

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Products so far

Nothing in its short existence has impressed. It has propagated a minimal yet futuristic cyberpunk ethos with its product design language and strives to bring an element of simplicity to gadgetry that has so far only been experienced with Apple products.

Ear (1), for instance, has this unique transparent design and was impressed with the audio quality which was tuned by the audio alchemists at Teenage Engineering, another benefactor of Nothing.

Similarly, its latest product, the EarStick jumps with her lipstick shaped case, which is very convenient to open and close with a true wireless stereo (TWS) that, While skipping active noise cancellation, it delivers meaty sound with an excellent balance of substantial bass and serene mids. It’s also the type of earphone that fits perfectly and could potentially work for serial joggers.

The phone (1) also carries over the transparency quotient of the ear (1) in a design that would be most reminiscent of an iPhone. It is devoid of the unnecessary additional cameras that marketing teams advocate. The back panel of the phone is littered with LED lights that light up as notification indicators, Reminding you of the strobes of an underground Berlin techno rave. Its software is clean to the level that only a Pixel can possibly beat in terms of purity.

And daily use, after some startup software problems, did it one of the most usable phones, which simply runs smoothly and without frills thanks to the Glyph operating system.

Now hopefully it can produce a phone that has maybe a little more performance and even better cameras. But for the layman, nothing struck with a decent camera stack and sufficient performance paired with great battery life, a great display, and a design that is not only elegant but will be eloquent conversations.

Sahil Mohan Gupta is a Delhi-based technology journalist. He tweets @DigitallyBones. Views are personal.

(Edited by Tarannum Khan)

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