Since its launch in late 2020, mysterious startup Nothing – created by former OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei – has led a fairly private existence; having launched its first product in mid-2021 and otherwise spending time raising funds for further business development. However, murmurs surrounding a Nothing smartphone have now started to grow in both volume and veracity.
While the Nothing Ear (1) true wireless headphones proved an insightful first offering, subsequent messaging from both the company and Pei directly, have centred around the notion of ‘ecosystem’, dovetailing nicely with talk of a smartphone being the next product in Nothing’s pipeline.
As for how a smartphone (whether it’s called the ‘Nothing Phone (1)’ or otherwise) will serve as the heart of Nothing’s promised ecosystem remains to be seen, especially from a software standpoint, but there are already clues surrounding the phone’s existence, as well as the hardware it might be sporting when it does arrive.
When does the Nothing Phone (1) launch?
While Nothing hasn’t formally acknowledged the existence of a smartphone per se, alongside closing on US$70M in Series B funding, the company also set a date for its next event: 23 March (at 14:00 GMT).
Formally branded as ‘Nothing (event): The Truth’, Pei is quoted as saying, “we can’t wait to reveal what we’re building at Nothing during the upcoming event.” With talk of a more extensive product roadmap being shown off that might reach beyond a single product category.
Referencing “a source with direct knowledge of the matter” Tech Crunch claims that “Nothing has been working on a smartphone for over a year and plans to announce it by next month,” which would suggest a release window of April 2022, at this point.
How much is the Nothing Phone (1)?
The company’s debut product – the aforementioned Ear (1) – boasted competitive pricing (at £/$99), while retaining premium features like ANC (active noise cancellation), placing them at the upper end of what would be considered ‘budget’ within their respective product category.
If the same treatment would be applied to a smartphone, we’d expect something in the region of £250/$300, however, suspicions and leaks point to Nothing producing something a little more high-end.
If the company were to produce a smartphone powered by the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, for example, competitive pricing would land it in the region of £700/$800/€750, taking on the likes of Realme’s fresh-faced GT 2 Pro and Google Pixel 6, while undercutting entries from more established players: like the Oppo Find X5 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S22 and iPhone 13.
What features will the Nothing Phone (1) offer?
The idea that Nothing’s smartphone may sport a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 isn’t wholly speculative, as the company openly announced a partnership with Qualcomm in late 2021. The latter’s involvement reportedly consists of supplying Nothing with its Snapdragon hardware for use in “future products” (as per a report by Forbes from October 2021).
While no specific chipsets have been mentioned by either company, the hope is that Nothing is working on a flagship device and if that turns out to be the case, an 8 Gen 1 SoC would be the obvious choice.
One of the most promising pieces of evidence confirming the existence of a Nothing smartphone running on a Qualcomm chip comes from an image shared by established tipster @evleaks, following the Mobile World Congress trade show that took place in Barcelona, Spain, in late February.
Nothing to see here. pic.twitter.com/mzLeTVHSXm
— Ev (@evleaks) March 7, 2022
The image shows Nothing’s CEO showing off some unnamed hardware to Qualcomm’s CEO, Cristiano Amon, in the private area of the company’s stand at MWC 2022. Even when cropping in and enhancing the image, however, it’s difficult to make out what the device in Pei’s hands actually looks like.
With Teenage Engineering defining the brand’s industrial design language thus far and Dyson’s former Head of Design joining Nothing in more recent months, simplicity and minimalism seem like likely bedfellows with regards to the look of a Nothing phone.
It’s a notion that’s clearly resonated with a lot of fans, with various concept creators sharing their interpretations of what Nothing’s debut smartphone could look like since the company’s launch.
The most popular concepts even gained enough momentum to receive recognition from Pei and other members of the team; with Nothing’s Head of Design, Tom Howard, reacting to concepts by Over The Edge Agency, Povilas Grigas and Osho Jain, in a video released on the company’s YouTube channel on 11 March.
While Jain’s design, in particular, has seen a lot of support from Nothing fans since its publication in late 2021, it was Grigas’ concept that appeared to strike a chord with Nothing’s Design Head. “It’s fantastic to see some ideas around how we could work with the internal components of things and sort of bring them to the surface,” Howard exclaimed in the video.
Having reached out to Grigas directly, the Lithuanian design student, currently studying at Aalto University, in Espoo, Finland, told Tech Advisor that his decision to create his Nothing phone concept (apparently inspired by old pacemakers, ice cubes and jewellery) was born out of an appreciation for the company’s vision. “I got into concepts because of Nothing… This project was probably the most enjoyable in my life.”
Howard’s comments during his React video hint at elements that the company’s design team might be focusing on with their debut smartphone but details are still too ambiguous to be sure of anything at this stage.
As for the user experience that a Nothing phone might run on, there’s little to suggest that it won’t be an Android device, helped by the fact that Pei himself shared an innocuous tweet back in February that some took to mean he had moved from an iPhone back to a Nothing-made device running on Google’s mobile operating system:
Back on Android
— Carl Pei (@getpeid) February 15, 2022
Check out our rundown of the most hotly-anticipated phones of 2022, to see what else is coming besides a potential Nothing smartphone this year and check back here regularly as this story develops.