The Nothing phone (1) will arrive this summer with the goal of shaking up the world of Android phones. Founded by former OnePlus head Carl Pei, the Nothing tech startup has already released the Nothing Ear (1) earbuds and will soon release its first smartphone with a similar translucent design.
Pei’s tech startup Nothing has attracted plenty of interest from Android enthusiasts. Pei helped make the OnePlus brand popular in the West and has inspired hope for a similar flagship-killing handset that will shake up the industry, at a time when the top Android phones tend to come from just a handful of brands.
As of April, the Nothing startup has raised over $144 million, with $63 million coming from Android community investors and the rest from venture capitalists. Evidently, Pei has gotten people to buy into a phone he claims will be a "compelling alternative" to Apple.
But what exactly is the Nothing phone (1), and how is it different from other Android phones? We don't have the full picture yet, but details and rumors keep trickling in that tell us what to expect from the Nothing phone, including its design, specs, and UI.
Nothing phone (1): Design
In a recent interview, Pei and Nothing head of design Tom Howard showed Wallpaper a Nothing phone (1) design preview that confirmed our hunch that it would sport a translucent design that emphasizes its internal components.
"From a design perspective, we really wanted to bring the inside out, and that meant working with the engineers to start from first principles," says Howard. "There are over 400 components in a smartphone, assembled in layers. We wanted to celebrate the 'good ones,' the things we thought were really interesting to emphasise."
In other words, Nothing had to "overhaul the entire manufacturing process" in order to make certain components visible. It's a different approach than the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro took; it had a visible circuit board that wasn't actually the real circuit board, and only a portion of the phone back was translucent. In theory, the Nothing phone (1) will actually show its real components.
The Nothing ear (1) also had a see-through design, but it appears the Nothing Phone (1) will take things to the next level, something that enthusiasts may appreciate but could turn off fans of bright, colorful phones.
All of this aside, we don't have any hard details yet on the phone's dimensions, display size, and so on. On April Fools Day', Nothing facetiously unveiled the Another phone (1), a generic phone model with "edge-to-edge monotony." We can expect Nothing's final design will look nothing like this; we know about the transparent back, but perhaps it'll do something unique with the camera module and the display edge as well.
Say hello to just Another (1). You’ve seen a phone just like this before. Experience edge-to-edge monotony. It’s inspiringly uninspired. Utterly unoriginal. And exactly the same as everything else.Coming to bore you soon.https://t.co/pLWW07l8G7 pic.twitter.com/2FHHI5ELr1April 1, 2022
It'll be intriguing to see what Nothing comes up with, and whether it shares any resemblance to the Essential phone, given Nothing acquired the Essential brand. Our video editor Alex Dobie has speculated that a cryptic logo shown off during the Nothing phone (1) reveal could hint at a "modular attachment area" with a physical or magnetic connector, similar to what Essential was developing before it shut down.
Nothing to see here. pic.twitter.com/mzLeTVHSXmMarch 7, 2022
At MWC, a blurry photo leaked showing Pei sharing a phone with a Qualcomm executive. It had a square camera module but was otherwise masked by a case, and there's no guarantee this prototype would look like the final product. But we do know Nothing and Qualcomm have partnered on future products, so it makes sense Pei would show off their progress with a partner.
Nothing phone (1): Specs
Several sites covered an obviously fake Nothing phone (1) leak in early May, probably because the company has remained very leak-proof compared to what you typically see from Google or Samsung.
Nothing has confirmed the phone will use a Snapdragon chip, and sources told Android Central privately that it would use an unannounced Snapdragon 7 series chip. That could refer to the recent Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, or a variant exclusive to the Nothing phone (1).
By using this chip, it's clear Nothing will prioritize efficiency over raw performance, something Pei himself hinted at during the "Truth" livestream reveal, describing the phone's "powerful and energy-efficient experience with fast connectivity speeds." He went on to say that the OS "delivers the optimal processing power and RAM for the exact app you're using," with your most-used apps launching faster with cached RAM.
Using a Snapdragon 7 chip, Nothing will take Apple's approach with its Bionic chips, focusing more on efficiency than raw power and memory. But we'll have to see whether Nothing can deliver on such a promise, as Android phones typically rely heavily on RAM for benchmarks.
While Pei also promised a "smooth" experience, that doesn't mean the phone will have 120Hz — though we hope it will. He instead focused again on how the Nothing OS uses design consistency and minimal animations to prioritize efficiency.
The only "spec" we know for certain is the amount of software support it will receive. Pei promises three OS updates and four years of software support, which would mean a lifespan through the summer of 2026.
Nothing phone (1): Software
Pei spoke the most about the phone's Nothing OS software, which he promises will be “built on an open and seamless ecosystem that will effortlessly connect and integrate Nothing products and products from other world-leading brands.”
Referencing Apple's connectivity between its products, Pei said Nothing will aim to achieve similar connectivity, only with third-party products so you're not locked into an ecosystem. Again, this sounds like a tall order, so we'll have to see whether Pei delivers.
In terms of how the OS will look, it will have "stripped back, minimal animations" and "bespoke fonts, colors, and graphical elements that all speak our unique visual language." The dot matrix font visible throughout these screenshots gives you a glimpse of its simplicity.
It also will have unique features, like a voice recording logo shaped like an analogue tape recorder that you can swipe with your finger to rewind, fast forward, or adjust playback speed. And it will have unique sound design with "raw, technical sounds" inspired by "morse code, oscillators, and digital watches." No doubt this phone will have some unique notification chimes and ringtones.
Despite all these unique elements, we did see a few glimpses of traditional Android OS elements like the Quick Settings and app icons that look similar to what you'd see on the Pixel launcher.
If you want to try the Nothing Launcher out for yourself, the Nothing Launcher Beta is available on the Play Store for phones running Android 11 or higher.
Nothing phone (1): Release date and price
We know that the Nothing phone (1) will ship in "summer 2022." But we don't have a more concrete release date as of yet, nor do we have an official price. That will likely depend on specs that we know little about as of yet.
A recent Nothing price leak (opens in new tab) claimed the phone would launch on July 21 at a price of 500 euros. That would mean it would launch the same day as Pixel 6a preorders opened at a similarly mid-range price. We suggest taking both the price and release date with a heaping dose of skepticism until more reliable sourcing corroborates the news, though.
An uncertain future
In his Nothing phone analysis, Android Central global editor Alex Dobie broke down some of the challenges the startup will face.
Photography and videography will be a challenge even if the Nothing phone has powerful lenses; most major phone brands have entire engineering teams dedicated to computational photography and image tuning with years of experience, which the 300-person Nothing startup can't hope to match.
And with component shortages hitting all major smartphone brands during the pandemic, it could be a challenge for Nothing to scale its new phone enough to make a major impact. Plus, Pei is promising the moon here, claiming the Nothing phone (1) will have the same innovative impact as the original iPhone. If he doesn't deliver, it'll be hard for the brand to recover.
Still, there's a reason why 4 in 5 Android Central readers are at least somewhat interested in the Nothing phone and the brand has raised $144 million from investors and community backing as of April. The Android space has consolidated for years, with experimental brands like LG dropping out of the game and OnePlus abandoning its flagship-killer mantra for cheap Nord phones and unexciting software.
It's unclear if the Nothing phone (1) has what it takes to become one of the best Android phones, but at least it's promising something new.
Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.
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