Nothing special as the phone (1) finally launches

After months of teasers, new smartphone brand Nothing has finally launched its first phone, but it’s hard to see how it will significantly disrupt the space.

Nothing is the brainchild of smartphone veteran Carl Pei, who has certainly brought a novel approach to marketing and industrial design. The big question mark has always concerned the substance behind the hype, with the mature smartphone sector offering little scope for substantial innovation beyond component upgrades.

With yesterday’s official launch we are now in a position to address that question and our initial impression is slight disappointment, while still welcoming the attempt to differentiate. The headline novelty seems to be something called the Glyph Interface, which consists of a bunch of LEDs on the back of the phone, visible under its glass case. They offer visual indicators for things like incoming calls and other phone functions.

Other than that we have the industrial design itself, which does seem distinctive, consisting entirely of gorilla glass and aluminium. Apparently it’s a lot lighter than an iPhone and uses lots of recycled materials. The much heralded Nothing OS seems to be an anticlimax, with an emphasis on not reinventing the Android wheel, and the SoC is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+, which is the tier below the 8-series flagship chips.

For all its emphasis on hype and edgy marketing, there doesn’t seem to be a press release or much in the way of images for media. To learn enough to write this report we had instead to watch the half-hour launch video embedded below. Presumably Nothing is counting on a more viral, word-of mouth marketing strategy but it doesn’t seem like there is sufficient innovation in the phone (1) to generate the kind of buzz this would require.

The first physical retail outlet for the phone (1) is a ‘kiosk’ in central London and Western Europe seems to be the initial geographical focus for the launch. This has resulted in a sulky silence from the US tech press, which put a further dent in the launch buzz. With an entry price of £399, Nothing seems to be targeting the high-but-not-flagship tier. That’s probably where a lot of the action these days, but it’s also where a lot of big Chinese vendors excel, so it won’t be easy to make something out of Nothing.


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