OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei returns with smartphones

Insignificant phone 1.

Nothing

Chinese smartphone brand OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei is back with a new phone, only this time from a different company that is literally called Nothing.

Pei, a startup with a peculiar name, officially unveiled its debut smartphone on Tuesday after months of hints and teasers about the appearance of the device. Called Phone 1, this is the company’s second product launch to date.

Based in London, Nothing was founded by Pei in 2020. Last summer, the firm released its first gadget, a set of wireless headphones called Ear 1 and has sold 560,000 units so far.

At first glance, Phone 1 looks like Apple latest iphones. The phone runs Android, has a dual camera setup with two 50MP sensors and 5G mobile connectivity, along with the standard hardware you’ll find in a mid-range smartphone like Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G + chipset.

Bold design

The most intriguing thing about the Phone 1 is its design.

The phone has a transparent back that shows a unique pattern of shapes and lines, or ‘glyphs’. The company says it was inspired by a modernist version of the New York City subway map created by Italian designer Massimo Vignelli in the 1970s.

Another feature of the phone is that it literally lights up when you receive a call or an app notification. The device is equipped with 900 small LED lights that flash intermittently in tandem with a series of robotic ringtones when someone calls you.

There’s also a feature called “Flip to Glyph” that mutes the phone when you flip it face down, showing only flashing lights when you receive a call or notification.

AT interview with CNBC Last year, Pei described the design of Nothing’s products as “retro-futuristic,” drawing inspiration from a variety of items ranging from vintage Sony products to luxury clothing.

A Chinese-Swedish tech entrepreneur said he thinks modern hardware feels “cold” and that “innovation has slowed down a lot” at Apple, which changed the world with the release of the first iPhone in 2007.

In terms of software, Phone 1 runs on the latest version of Android. It includes a feature that allows Tesla owners open their car doors, among other things, through a partnership with Elona Musk electric vehicle company.

Price and availability

Aside from some design quirks and niche quirks, the Phone 1 isn’t all that different from most standard mid-range smartphones.

The most attractive part of the device is its price. The Phone 1 starts at £399 ($473) for the base model with 128GB of internal storage, making it cheaper than Apple and Samsung latest flagship phones.

Instead of trying to turn the smartphone industry around by focusing on foldable displays or 5G, Pei is relying on the strategy he put into place at OnePlus – generating hype from some unorthodox marketing and sales tactics.

Nothing will initially launch the Phone 1 at a kiosk in London’s West End from July 16 to 20 before opening sales to the general public online and at select retailers and carriers on July 21.

It will become available in more than 40 countries, including the UK, Japan and Europe, but not in the US. There is nothing to suggest that the company is looking for a partner operator to start selling the device to US customers.

Tough competition

Pei’s new phone will face stiff competition. Together, Apple and Samsung control 40% of the smartphone market. And smaller Chinese phone makers like Xiaomi and Oppo have made significant headway in Europe.

Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, said that the success of the Nothing Phone 1 launch would be “a huge challenge.”

“The smartphone market is frighteningly competitive and dominated by Apple and Samsung with incredible resources,” Wood said in an email.

“The rest of the addressable market is a shootout between numerous Chinese manufacturers desperately trying to grab a share, making it even more difficult for a new entrant to break into this segment.”