Nothing phone (1): Everything we know so far

The Nothing (1) phone will arrive in a few months with the aim of shaking up the world of Android phones. Founded by former OnePlus boss Carl Pei, tech startup Nothing has already released the Nothing Ear headphones (1) and plans to release its first smartphone in just a few months.

Carl Pei’s tech startup Rien hasn’t garnered much interest from Android enthusiasts. Pei helped make the OnePlus brand popular in the West and has already raised a huge amount of money, both from venture capitalists and the Android community. So far, 25,000 people have invested $63 million in Nothing, not even counting venture capitalists.

But what exactly East the Nothing phone, which Pei promises will be a “compelling alternative” to Apple? We do not know yet. But we know enough to break down some of what you can expect.

Phone Nothing (1): Design

nothing ear(1) black

(Image credit: Alex Dobie/Android Central)

You will notice that the image above is not a smartphone. But the headphones and the Nothing Ear (1) charging case could give a glimpse of what the phone could look like.

A recent leak from Nothing revealed that Pei will be showcasing a prototype Nothing phone at Mobile World Congress 2022, and it will have the same “transparency elements” and design aesthetic as the Nothing headphones.

In theory, that could mean a look similar to the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro (see below), with a translucent back for a sleek hobbyist look. The visible circuit board is fake, but it look at real, and nothing could imitate that style. The HTC U11+ also had a similar aesthetic.

Mi 8 Pro

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro

At MWC, a blurry photo leaked showing Pei sharing a phone with a Qualcomm executive. It had a square camera module but was otherwise obscured by a case, and there’s no guarantee that this prototype would look like the final product. But we know Nothing and Qualcomm have teamed up on future products, so it makes sense for Pei to show off his progress with a partner.

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Otherwise, we don’t know anything concrete about the design. There was no rumored preview of the phone on Twitter with a standard USB-C port and bottom-firing speakers, but it turned out to be the preface to an April Fool’s Day joke about “another ” phone “which will soon bore you”. So we still don’t know anything at the moment.

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It will be interesting to see what Nothing offers and if it shares any resemblance to the Essential phone, given that Nothing has acquired the Essential brand. But we suspect the phone will do its own distinct mark instead of retreading old ground.

Nothing phone (1): Specifications

We have very little to officially report when it comes to the Nothing(1) phone’s specs. We don’t know if this phone will be a “flagship” or a more affordable handset. For now, the company remains coy and promises “innovation” instead of comparing its product to hardware from other brands.

We know it will use a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, but we don’t know if it will use the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or a more mid-range SoC. While revealing the “Truth” livestream, Pei described “the phone’s powerful and power-efficient experience with fast connectivity speeds.” And he went on to say that the OS “delivers the optimal processing power and RAM for the exact app you’re using,” with your most-used apps launching faster with cached RAM.

Carl Pei's Truth For Nothing Event (1)

(Image credit: Nothing)

It looks like the Nothing(1) phone will focus more on efficiency than raw power and memory – Apple’s approach with its Bionic chips, in other words. But we’ll have to see if Nothing can deliver on such a promise. Either way, it might not have a flagship processor or as much RAM as you’d traditionally want in an Android phone.

While Pei also promised a “smooth” experience, that doesn’t mean the phone will have 120Hz – although we hope so. Instead, it focused again on how the Nothing OS uses design consistency and minimal animations to prioritize efficiency.

The only “specification” we know for sure is how much software support it will receive. Pei promises three operating system updates and four years of software support, which would mean life until summer 2026.

Nothing phone (1): Software

Nothing from the concept of operating system

(Image credit: Nothing)

Pei spoke the most about the phone’s Nothing OS software, which he said will be “built on an open and transparent ecosystem that will effortlessly connect and integrate Nothing products and products from other leading global brands.”

Referring to Apple’s connectivity between its products, Pei said Nothing will aim to achieve similar connectivity, only with third-party products so you’re not locked into an ecosystem. Again, this looks like a tall order, so we’ll have to see if Pei delivers.

Nothing from the concept of operating system

(Image credit: Nothing)

As for the OS’s appearance, it will have “minimal, clean animations” and “bespoke fonts, colors, and graphics that all speak our unique visual language.” The matrix font seen throughout these screenshots gives you a taste of its simplicity.

Nothing from the concept of operating system

(Image credit: Nothing)

It will also have some unique features, like a voice recording logo shaped like an analog tape recorder that you can swipe with your finger to rewind, fast forward, or adjust playback speed. And it will have a unique sound design with “raw and technical sounds” inspired by “morse code, oscillators and digital watches”. No doubt this phone will have unique notification chimes and ringtones.

Carl Pei on stage for The Truth event showing Nothing OS

(Image credit: Nothing)

Despite all of these unique elements, we saw a few glimpses of traditional Android OS elements, such as quick settings and app icons, that resemble what you’d see on the Pixel launcher.

Nothing Phone (1): Release date and price

We know that the Nothing(1) phone will ship in “summer 2022” and that the startup will launch the Nothing OS launcher in April. But we don’t have a more concrete release date or official price yet. It will probably depend on the specifications which we know little about at the moment.

An uncertain future

No Phone (1) teaser

(Image credit: Nothing)

In his analysis of the Nothing Phone, Android Central Global Editor Alex Dobie outlined some of the challenges the startup will face.

Photography and videography will be a challenge even though the Nothing phone has powerful lenses; most major phone brands have entire engineering teams dedicated to computational photography and image tweaking with years of experience, something the 300-person startup Nothing can’t hope to match.

And with component shortages plaguing all major smartphone brands during the pandemic, it could be difficult for Nothing to scale its new phone enough to make a major impact. Additionally, Pei promises the moon here, saying the Nothing(1) phone will have the same innovative impact as the original iPhone. If it doesn’t keep its promises, it will be difficult for the brand to recover.

Still, there’s a reason why 4 out of 5 Android Central readers are at least somewhat interested in the Nothing phone and the brand has raised $144 million so far. The Android space has consolidated for years, with experimental brands like LG abandoning gaming and OnePlus abandoning its flagship mantra for cheap Nord phones and unexciting software.

It’s unclear if the Nothing(1) phone has what it takes to become one of the best Android phones, but at least it promises something new.

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