After months of teasers, Nothing is finally ready to unveil the phone (1). From what we’ve seen so far, there’s a lot to like here: the design is unique thanks to the LEDs on the back, and the hardware is on par with other mid-range phones. Nothing hasn’t shared too many details about the software itself or the rest of the device, but we won’t have to wait long to find out what’s in store.
To me, it feels like Nothing is trying to emulate Apple, and it won’t be the first Android maker to do so. To their credit, the brand is doing something different in this segment and it’s great to see. Ultimately, the success of the phone (1) will depend on two things: value and software. There are over a dozen great mid-range phones available today, with little to no difference in hardware or camera performance, and Nothing has no choice but to position their phone according to market conditions.
While Nothing does an Apple-like job with marketing, the fact is that the phone is (1) not a premium device. Apple is able to charge a premium for its phones because of its seal of approval; In most parts of the world, an iPhone is a status symbol. While Nothing has done a good job of generating interest in its device, it doesn’t have such a cachet.
Nothing is about design as a differentiator instead, but that alone isn’t enough to make the phone stand out. Where I think the brand can really distinguish itself is in the software. At the moment there is a distinct lack of devices with a clean Android interface. OnePlus used to be the standard bearer for avid users looking for a simple user interface, but integration with ColorOS has changed that.
Only four manufacturers still offer a clean UI without adjustments: Google, Motorola, Nokia and ASUS. Google doesn’t sell its hardware in most parts of the world — making it a moot option — and Motorola’s hardware is often lackluster and its phones don’t get as many updates as the industry standard. Nokia, on the other hand, seems keen on launching the same entry-level phone year after year, and while ASUS gets many things right, it’s taking too long to get its phones into the US and other key markets.
In short: there is a lot of potential here. A lot of what Nothing is currently doing has parallels with OnePlus’ early days, and if it manages to deliver a clean user interface without bloatware, the phone has (1) a good chance of becoming a bestseller.
Nothing’s estimates will differ wildly from Samsung’s as far as a good sales figure goes. It’s easy to forget that Nothing is a year-old brand at this point, and while it’s garnered a lot of attention over the past 12 months, its size is tiny compared to Samsung, Xiaomi, Realme, and even Google’s hardware efforts.
For example, if Samsung sells less than a million units of the Galaxy A53, it would be considered a failure. But if the phone (1) sold almost a million copies, it would be a milestone for Nothing. After all, only over 500,000 of the ear (1) wireless earbuds were sold last year.
Additionally, Nothing has to ensure it doesn’t face the same hurdles that other smaller brands face: availability and after-sales service. As Nothing is undoubtedly running with smaller production runs, it must have an adequate inventory of phones(1) to meet initial demand and have the after-sales service infrastructure in place by launch day.
I’ve been reviewing phones for a little over eight years and have broken half a dozen devices in that time (not a bad average considering how I use phones). The first was the Xiaomi Mi 3; I bought the device the day it was launched in India in July 2014 and it was delivered two days later. In my eagerness to upgrade to the device, I broke the SIM card tray – it had a mini SIM slot, and I was using a micro SIM (Nexus 4) at the time.
While using a SIM cutter tool, the SIM card didn’t quite fit into the case and I had to take it to a service center to have the device replaced. There was only one problem; No one had heard of Xiaomi at the time, and being an online-only brand in those years, there weren’t any stores where I could get the Mi 3 serviced. Xiaomi partnered with a local service provider, but since the phone had just launched, they didn’t have the necessary parts.
Of course, a lot has changed in this area in the last eight years, but far too few brands pay attention to after-sales service. Nothing needs to get this right, and while there’s a young list of service centers set up for the ear (1), nowhere is it as extensive as other brands.
I think the phone (1) can stand out in a crowded category that includes the Pixel 6a, Galaxy A53, Realme GT Neo 3 and Nord 2T. Nothing has managed to generate much interest in the device, and now comes the hard part: actually delivering a phone that lives up to its expectations.