The Android marketplace is a tough nut to crack, but since 2020, one-time OnePlus cofounder Carl Pei has created hype around his latest startup. Nothing is set to launch its first device — Phone (1) — later this summer, and here’s what to expect.
With HTC and LG leaving the smartphone space and an even greater Samsung-Apple duopoly growing in the United States, carving out a market share is going to be a tough ask for this fledging Android OEM. However, with GV (formerly Google Ventures), public, and celebrity backing, Nothing’s first smartphone is still highly anticipated, but what could we see?
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Video — Nothing Phone (1): Everything to expect from the newest Android
Design, hardware, and specifications
It’s a mystery just what Pei’s vision of a modern Android phone should look like, but we can immediately rule out a few things. Firstly, there is no indication that we’ll see a foldable, nor are we set to see any outlandish Essential GEM-style hardware. It’s going to be interesting to see just what Nothing does with the Essential brand, especially now that OSOM has also planned an upcoming smartphone launch for later this year. For now though, just what Nothing has in store for the Essential brand is unknown.
Pei has also stated that there is “no alternative to Apple” on the Android side of the fence. While we’d question his comment somewhat given that Samsung offers its own product lineup that interacts and works with each other directly, this could hint at some of the future plans for the Nothing Phone (1) and the wider Nothing lineup. Essential was working on a smart speaker before the company was shuttered. Maybe we’ll see that resurrected at some point.
The Ear (1) earbuds could be considered the first steps into the Nothing “ecosystem” and could be an indication of what to expect from the smartphone hardware. Sadly, save a potentially staged image of Nothing CEO Pei holding a device prototype alongside Qualcomm head Cristiano Amon at MWC22, we only know that the traditional smartphone paradigm is being adhered to.
However, some abstract teaser images from the company hint at some of the hardware features. While it’s not 100% clear, the outline placeholders certainly hint at a fairly common rear panel layout with an upper-left camera nodule, a wireless charging coil, and battery wiring for fast charging. We must stress this is pure speculation on our part, but Pei has said that the design itself is “unlike anything you’ve seen before.”
Some outlandish concepts have appeared online showing a completely clear casing, but while this is certainly an interesting look, transparent smartphones are nothing new. The most recent example was that of the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro, which was released back in 2019. High-profile team members from the likes of Dyson and the watchful eye of Teenage Engineering will undoubtedly shape the Nothing Phone (1) aesthetic.
There has been little shared about the potential camera capabilities of this upcoming device. It could be that the design and software are set to be core focus points rather than the camera. This certainly would mimic the OnePlus launch journey, where the camera takes a back seat to the internals and software experience and might be enough to convince one-time fans of Carl Pei’s former venture to jump ship.
A previously announced partnership with Qualcomm means that the Nothing Phone (1) is set to be powered by a Snapdragon processor. However, during the “Truth” live stream, no details were shared upon the positioning of the hardware. This means it’s unclear if it will offer a flagship processor such as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 – which has been used throughout 2022 by many flagship Android phones – or a slightly lesser chipset like many affordable Poco devices have launched with over the past few years. Recent chip shortages could also play a part in just what processor Nothing’s first smartphone will ship with.
Should Nothing be more focused on the software experience, a great recent example is that of the Pixel 5. It launched with modest internals but retained the “premium” feel that is often associated with modern flagship smartphones without major impact. It’s also a way to reduce production and sales costs without a major performance hit. This could mean using a Snapdragon 7XX series or Snapdragon 8XX series processors rather than the top-tier Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
Special attention was paid to the Always-on display features during the original Phone (1) teaser keynote. That means that almost without a doubt that the Nothing Phone (1) will ship with an AMOLED display as this feature is not possible on LCD panels.
Nothing OS, features, and more
We know that the Nothing Phone (1) will run Android, and Pei said it has been designed to “deliver a fast, smooth, and personal experience.” This is being coined “Nothing OS” and a recent taster of the upcoming launcher hints that it will be a clean, unobtrusive experience that mimics the Pixel Launcher.
The iconography, font, and general experience are fairly close to what you’ll find on the Google Pixel series, but it’s not clear how Android 12 and Android 13 will differ on this third-party skin. If a monochrome aesthetic will be adhered to, it will be interesting to see Nothing’s take on Material You and Dynamic Color.
One would also wager that to offer a fast and smooth experience, a high-refresh-rate display would be a priority for such a device. In the past, we’ve seen flagship OnePlus phones offer almost outlandish amounts of RAM alongside a flagship processor. A high RAM allocation would certainly ensure that things are smooth when switching from app to app, while a 90 or 120Hz screen ensures animations and interactions feel slick.
Some of the fonts and widgets offer what we’d describe as a monochrome, digital retro-minimalist look. During the “Truth” keynote we saw some of the UI concepts, a Recorder app mockup, and some of the potential lock screen designs. Sure, it’s different, but there isn’t much here that differs too drastically from what we’ve seen before on other launchers and third-party Android skins.
Pre-installed apps are also in the firing line for the Nothing Phone (1), as there are said to be 40% less apps on the phone by default. Given that bloat has started to creep into almost all third-party Android skins, this could be a core selling feature for those wanting an experience that is ultralightweight and just a few steps above AOSP builds.
Three years of OS updates and four years of regular security updates have been promised. This matches the rest of the Android space but still pales in comparison to the likes of Samsung and Google. It could be a stumbling block but so long as updates are prompt, it shouldn’t be a major problem.
Pricing, availability, and release date
The only information known at this stage is that the Nothing Phone (1) is set to be released sometime this summer. An actual launch event date, pre-order, or shipping date is also unknown. With a wave of flagships set to launch in late-2022, the device could face serious competition if this proposed summer unveil slips into fall.
Pricing heavily depends on where this device is positioned within the wider Android marketplace. Should it be a flagship Android phone, it could easily reach a four-figure asking price. Modest pricing would undoubtedly help build fan loyalty and is one way to guarantee that certain foibles — should they exist — are less of a dealbreaker for buyers.
What are you hoping to see from the first Nothing phone? Do we need a new player to shake up the market or is this merely a hype-generation exercise for a PR master Carl Pei? Let us know down in the comments section below.
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