Nothing Phone: Carl Pei's anti-iPhone Android falls into the OnePlus mainstream trap, but that's OK!

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Nothing Phone: Carl Pei's anti-iPhone Android falls into the OnePlus mainstream trap, but that's OK!
Nothing - a phone that seemingly came out of Nowhere, is trying to achieve Something...

Happy July! It's Nothing phone month, huh? The Nothing Phone 1 isn't launching before July 12, but thanks to a few fresh leaks, we already have a good grasp of what Carl Pei's new creation is shaping up to be - the specs, price, and Nothing's ambitions are all pretty much on the table now.

For starters, the Nothing Phone was already exclusively shown off during a hands-on video by Marques Brownlee. It's two sheets of Gorilla Glass held together by an aluminum frame and a ton of glue. In other words - a familiar phone concept.

But without a doubt, the most notable thing about the Nothing phone is its transparent back, covered in LED lights. Nine hundred of them, to be precise - that's 9-0-0. They can light up in various scenarios, like when you're charging the phone itself or when the back of it is used to wirelessly charge your earbuds; as a battery percentage indicator and even as a video recording indicator.

The full spec sheet of the Nothing Phone 1 is also out now, including the price:

  • Android 12 (little to no bloatware)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+ chipset
  • 6.55" OLED display with 120Hz adaptive refresh rate and Gorilla Glass protection
  • Dual rear camera - 50MP f/1.8 primary, 16 MP f/2.2 ultra-wide (up to 4K 60fps video recording)
  • Single 16 MP f/2.2 selfie camera (up to 1080p 30fps video recording)
  • Price: €469.99 (8/128GB) or €549.99 (12/256GB) - will vary in according to region (not available in North America)

As you can tell by the spec sheet, if we ignore the hype that's been building up around the Nothing Phone for the past year, the simple way of looking at the it is as a mid-range Android device with LEDs lights and a cheeky name that opens up a million different pun opportunities. I call them pupportunities

However, is that enough to break into an extremely saturated phone market in 2022, where we have phones at any price tag and with a dozen different selling points? Let me tell you what makes me question Nothing's idea of a competitive mid-range phone and why despite my reservations, I remain optimistic about the Carl Pei's Phone 1... Let's go!

Carl Pei's Nothing Phone 1: Flagship Killer 2.0 - OnePlus (almost) all over again...

Before we dive into the nerdy bits and bops, I can't avoid giving credit to Nothing's terrific marketing campaign. Sure, it's a familiar marketing campaign. OK, painfully familiar.

But it's the same Peid strategy that turned OnePlus into a hype machine… The slow but steadily paced mythical feature reveals on social media; the direct manner in which the company likes to address its audience; and the overachieving nature, which is so typical for a startup. Check, check, and check….

Unsurprisingly, it seems to be working quite well so far! The Nothing phone's exclusive hands-on YouTube video has over 6.5 million hits, which is about as impressive as it gets for a debuting unreleased phone. However, there are a few things that might challenge Carl Pei's idea of a Flagship Killer 2.0, and some of them are rather obvious. Name them with me:

  • The Nothing Phone will not be available in North America (the OnePlus One wasn't either)
  • The Nothing Phone will be sold through an invite-only system (like the OnePlus One)
  • The Nothing Phone will not be a direct flagship contender as far as overall specs and price are concerned (despite the fact that flagship phone sales are hitting a new high as of Q1 2022)

But of course, that's not where the story ends...

The Nothing community (partly made up of OG OnePlus users) is behind Carl Pei & Co

Despite the availability hardships that are unavoidable when you have a small team of 300 people, Pei & Co have the attention of nearly 200k people who've signed up to pre-order the Nothing Phone 1. Here are a few enthusiastic YouTube comments from March, when Pei announced the Nothing Phone:

  • Focus on better repair-ability . Do not super Lock the Hardware.
  • Same for Software. Let people play with it, do not make it a super closed system.
  • Price appropriately. DO NOT become greedy. Money will come gradually with other services also.
  • Build a great ecosystem (I know you guys are working for this).
  • Always be young, energetic, do not become lazy eventually and make your product just to sell it. Make it innovative and compelling.
  • Make a model "X" of your phone which can be super rich with features .. like your testing bed for phone enthusiasts.


In a nutshell, many are rooting for Nothing to succeed. Some of them are quite literally calling for support on Pei's behalf; some believe he's could be modern-day Steve Jobs, and some even have an elaborate vision on what would lead Nothing to total takeover...

But will lightning strike twice for Pei and would that be good or bad?

Will Carl Pei's Nothing fall into the same "mainstream trap" as OnePlus?

The answer is… absolutely no. Because, very much unlike 2013 OnePlus, Nothing already is a mainstream brand...

It's a public secret - Carl Pei left OnePlus because his desired vision of what a "disruptive phone" is supposed to look like was no longer attainable at the scale which OnePlus had reached. However, although some might forget, OnePlus technically wasn't Pei's only attempt at creating a brand with a targeted mission.

If you remember the way the OnePlus Nord launched, you'd know that it was a very similar campaign to that of the Nothing Phone launch. The Nord was and is its own brand - it has separate social media accounts from OnePlus, and the pure existence of the budget Nord lineup is basically OnePlus and Pei admitting that their most popular phones aren't longer "flagship killers", but simply flagships.

Then, if we go way back and look at the original OnePlus One, we'd see that this was a phone that had an actual target audience and a clear mission too. The original OnePlus was the phone for Android enthusiasts and modders. It quite literally ran the highly customizable CyanogenMod instead of Google's version of Android, a locked OS like Apple's, or a messy overlay like Samsung's TouchWiz.

But of course, that had to change. As it grew, OnePlus began looking for broader appeal, but guess what! That's what happens when a business starts expanding.

BBK, OnePlus' mighty parent company that also happens to own Oppo, Vivo, and Realme, was Never going to Settle for less. Wink, wink. The difference now is that Nothing's already there - past the hero stage. But that doesn't mean that the company can't win. In fact, quite the opposite...

Nothing Phone (1): Carl Pei will Never Settle

Yes, the Nothing phone is a confused "iPhone competitor" (as per Pei's own ambition), which has absolutely no chance of stealing iPhone users from Apple. For one, the Nothing Phone 1 isn't a flagship device and it still runs… Android. If you don't believe in Cupertino's gravitational pull, ask Android phone-makers like Samsung and Google if it's easy to compete with Apple...

Really, the Nothing phone appears to be just another Android, which is trying to be something that it isn't and that's because of Pei's everlasting idea of things that need to be "fixed" and phones that must "become fun". His Twitter bio quite literally says: "Let’s make tech fun again!"...

But which smartphone problems is the Nothing Phone going to fix? Is it easily repairable? Super durable? Is it the most sustainable phone out there? Will its battery last three days? Does it carry a groundbreaking camera sensor like the Xiaomi 12S Ultra? No. Not really. And that's OK!

Nothing Phone should be proud to be mainstream

I'm simply trying to say that I actually like what the Nothing phone is shaping up to be! It's an adequately priced device that happens to look attractive and different enough. For instance, it has flat sides (ironically, taking after the iPhone), a bold rear look (totally badass in black), and somewhat thick but symmetrical display borders, which I prefer over the opposite approach that's wrongly picked by manufacturers 9/10 times.

Yes! I'm saying I like what I'm seeing! It took me a minute to get on board with the design, but I'm there now. However, it's the bizarre notion behind the Nothing phone that makes it seem… embarrassed to be what it is. It's a mainstream phone that's trying to appeal to the masses by calling out other mainstream phones for being… too mainstream. Just watch Pei's passively and sometimes actively aggressive keynote, which is literally called... "THE TRUTH". All caps.

Anyway, here's to hoping that Nothing's launch goes smoothly... you know - despite Carl's obsession with being the good guy. Because if after a whole season of teasers, we get another rushed Android phone full of bugs and a rear light show, existing value champs from established brands like the Galaxy S21 FE, Google Pixel 6, and iPhone 12 (€450-550), will make Nothing's mission of success even more impossible than it already looks. Moreover, the Google Pixel 6A and Google Pixel 7 are also knocking on the door now...

But you know what... I'm rooting for Nothing! Get Peid, Carl.

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