Behind the company Ex-OnePlus, investors like Google or the father of the iPod, renowned influencers to fuel the hype, renowned designers etc. All this for an already (almost) global company subject to European law that swears by beauty and greatness looks … but carefully.

There’s a newcomer to the smartphone arena. Neither juggernaut nor completely unknown, this little thumb is called Nothing and has just launched its Phone (1), a terminal whose main objective is to stand out from the competition. An already ambitious goal in a market of one billion units per year!

The Telephone (1) of Nothing.  (Adrian BRANCO / 01net.com)
The Telephone (1) of Nothing. (Adrian BRANCO / 01net.com)

Strangers in the battalion, there are groups of them. There are Chinese brands that don’t make it to our European countries, those that survive through crowdfunding, trials, more or less futuristic projects. And then there is Nothing, a small but big brand – over 300 people on three continents. A new company (founded late 2020) but with industry veterans. A dwarf compared to Apple and Samsung, but which has already raised more than $140 million – including part of Google’s investment fund.

Nothing isn’t OnePlus (but it retains some genes of it)

Nothing’s communication media for its phone (1) features parrots. We could therefore produce the picture “Like the phoenix, the original OnePlus rises from the ashes”. But if the company is led by the former OnePlus in particular – Carl Pei, OnePlus co-founder, Akis Evangelis in communications – the parallel would be shaky. Because nothing is not OnePlus. While the original OnePlus literally invented the concept of a good value terminal with high-end components (concept of “Flagship Killer”), Nothing does not emphasize the power, but the appearance.

Akis Evangelidis, Communications Manager of Nothing.
Akis Evangelidis, Communications Manager of Nothing. (Adrian BRANCO/01net.com)

Our first card is for design, not performance or high-end components ‘ explains Nothing’s communications director, Akis Evangelidis. Because between the beginnings of OnePlus ten years ago and today with Nothing, the components have evolved a lot. And the Phone (1) doesn’t even have a high-end chip. ” Mid-range processors are now more than adequate for 90% of users, cost less and use less power ‘ explains Akis Evangelidis. All without really sacrificing anything, he says: “We chose a chip that is still from Qualcomm’s line of gaming SoCs so that our users can play with peace of mind.”.

This choice of justification allows Nothing to offer a device whose entry-level price is less than 500 euros – yes, like OnePlus back then. A price far below the flagships of the tenors, but which does not aim for minimum margins. ” We neither want to undercut the prices nor be the best quality/price/performance ratio. We try to make sure we offer a good balance. And above all, to offer a terminal that is identifiable at first sight “, explains Mr. Evangelidis.

Design: transparency based on the 2000s

In an industry that sells rectangles with a screen on one side and a colored case on the other, the challenge of being visually different was daunting. In order to fulfill it, the team headed by Hong Kong-based Carl Pei went directly to his Teenage Engineering designers’ boat. A team of slightly crazy and genius Swedish craftsmen, specializing in the design of electronic musical instruments – keyboards, pocket synths, speakers, etc. But they also concern fonts, software interfaces (they developed a music app for Pixels, by Google), etc. A team that was integrated into the structure of Nothing to take complete control of the phone (1) », as A. Evangelidis explains to us.

Feeling the “touch” of Teenage Engineering in the Android overlay of “Nothing OS” breaks the specificity of the phone (1), that is, its back breaks with the codes of the design lab. And sounds more like an ode to the late 90s/early 2000s with this work about transparency. Under the back glass – obligatory for any terminal that wants to offer wireless charging – the designers have played with the LEDs, bent the electronic cables to give them the shape of an elephant, polished the screws, etc.

The Telephone (1) of Nothing.  (Adrian BRANCO / 01net.com)
Do you see the elephant? (Adrian BRANCO / 01net.com)

When looking at the phone (1), it’s hard not to think of the iMac. Perhaps it was that wink that prompted Tony Fadell, the father of the iPod, to invest in the company. In any case, it’s undoubtedly what drove Nothing’s teams forward. to send a terminal to Jonathan Ive “, as revealed by Akis Evangelidis.

the names fall is one of the communication elements of Nothing. While we dismiss it for most of the consumer products we’ve tested, the economic truth of this terminal is that the phone (1) isn’t aimed at the fanatics of the most powerful processors, the diehards of 4K screens, or those seeking tech supremacy. The main target group is a clientele more sensitive to the appearance, the community phenomenon or the environmentally responsible delivery discourse (aluminium of the terminal, paper and cardboard of the packaging). In short, not really super techies.

(Adrian BRANCO / 01net.com)

Does this mean that it is a company that creates opportunities hype to make a smokescreen brand that will collapse in three years? Everything indicates that this is not the case at all.

“Nothing is not delirium” (A. Evangelidis)

It’s important to remember that former OnePlus folks are at the helm of the Nothing boat, because if the brand has since become more integrated with the giant Oppo, it’s still been a success. ” Many of us left the OnePlus adventure because joining an industrial giant like Oppo meant being part of a very – too much! – snuck explains Akis Evangelidis with a smile. ” The Nothing initiative grew out of a desire to get out of that straitjacket and do less routine. To regain the fun of technology “. This ‘era’ of OnePlus is one of Nothing’s strengths because it allowed defectors to gain tremendous experience. ” If we go back to the first “North” terminal, OnePlus, it was already $3 billion in sales ‘ boasts Akis Evangelidis.

(Adrian BRANCO / 01net.com)

A success that has allowed Nothing to impress beforehand and has already carried out several fundraisers of 144 million euros for a sales forecast of 700,000 terminals this year. Numbers that are important but modest in this market. ” We move cautiously. 144 million sounds like a lot of money, but it’s the minimum entry ticket into this business. The costs are huge, the pressure is huge – the components have to be paid for within 30 days, so the announcement and marketing dates are calibrated to the millimeter to manage cash flow! “.

Sequins of “stars” and a design that has “the face” on one side, calculations by a responsible accountant on the other, nothing careful not to burn its wings… and has ” refrained from launching its terminal in the United States later this year », Akis Evangelidis teaches us. Why the hell avoid one of the largest markets in the world where design, as Apple’s example shows, holds a good place in the hearts of consumers? ” Because the US market is highly competitive and very complicated. They need big support, big crowds, big support. Nothing is not delirium, we have the ambition to be a real alternative to Apple in terms of design, but we have to move forward step by step. »

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