The event comes after Nothing founder Carl Pei made some interesting comments on his upcoming plans at Mobile World Congress 2022 amid numerous rumours that he was about to make a smartphone.
Stuff joined Pei at a Qualcomm-hosted roundtable at the event, which was interesting in itself given that Qualcomm provided the hardware for OnePlus devices.
Predictably Pei wouldn’t be drawn on the rumours that his new company is working on a phone, but he was happy to suggest that there are big plans afoot for his company with both hardware and software.
“The opportunity we have in front of us that there’s no alternative to Apple, said Pei. “And what I mean by that is their ecosystem…[how] all their products work well with each other.
“If you leave Apple’s ecosystem…you don’t have that same integration. So why can’t there be another option on the market?
“I think we need to look at the past… at one point in time [Apple was] also a small startup. And they were entering a market with a lot of incumbents.”
On the same day as our meeting, Pei was also pictured on the Qualcomm stand with what looked like a smartphone. While the shot looks like it was captured covertly, we think it’s clearly set up since Pei and also-pictured Qualcomm chief Cristiano Amon would have known who was in the room with them.
Pei also said his reason for doing the Nothing Ear 1 earphones first was that “we had to put ourselves on the map. I don’t have the luxury of having a huge supply chain supporting me or huge capital base supporting me. And it was a brand new team.
“I wanted the team to also get to know each other and learn how to work together from supply chain to design to engineering to marketing, sales to service. So it’s kind of like a trial run.”
“We chose this category is because it’s still one of the biggest and fastest-growing product categories, and we also felt like we can make a difference. A lot of earphones look very similar to Apple AirPods; white, glossy plastic. And from the very beginning, we knew we wanted to bring a new design expression to the market and we thought that this will be a great category to start [with].”
Pei says that Nothing has sold more than 400,000 of the buds, which he described as “It’s OK. I think in the context of the first iPod, I think that sold 400K in a year. We launched our product in August. So it’s not it’s not an apples to apples comparison [ha] but still, we’re happy with the results.”
Phones need to look different
Pei was also happy to talk about the current state of the smartphone market. “If we were to put our phones on the table and put a tape over the logo you [those present at the event] could tell them apart. But if you ask a normal person on the street, you wouldn’t be able to tell the different products apart, maybe apart from the Pixel [6 and 6 Pro] – that’s pretty differentiated.
“When [smartphone makers] talk to consumers. It’s all about specs and features. Nobody’s communicating on a higher level. That’s why I’m really inspired by what Tesla’s doing. Their entire mission is to accelerate mankind’s adoption of renewable energy… one step to support that is making their patents available for other car manufacturers to use [supporting] that higher purpose.
“Within the smartphone industry. I haven’t seen companies do that lately. Foldables – I think it’s interesting that people are pushing into into new factors, new innovation. I hope that one day we’ll have a [version of] Android that works better for foldables, I think they’re working on it.
Pei also revealed that he called his new company Nothing in response to his sister not liking his previous ideas for the name: “I was like OK, then I’ll just call it Nothing”.