Rooting for Nothing

After many months of teasers and hints, the Nothing Phone 1 is official. It shamelessly borrows hardware cues from recent iPhone models and runs Android, but it is an interesting experiment that reminds me of the Essential Phone.

Chris Hannah:

I want this phone to exist in a wide marketplace of different offerings from various companies. I want devices that exist to have a bit of character, not just be a minimal slab of glass with a generic camera square at the back. I think there should be loads of smaller niche devices that cater more towards certain markets or tastes. Because if everything is the same, then it’s just boring.

Matt Birchler:

I’m rooting for the Nothing phone as well, even though it’s not for me.

I have long loved the idea of a more boutique, limited-run smartphone brand. The smartphone market would be a more interesting place if there were a couple dozen companies each making phones for a few million people, instead of a handful of companies making products for hundreds of millions.

I am hopeful but skeptical. While I am rooting for Nothing, it feels destined for a similar fate as Essential, which discontinued its phone a little over a year after its release and shut down entirely in February 2020. There are so many advantages to making a phone at massive scale that, unfortunately, it is hard for a smaller company to compete at any level.

The Nothing looks like an intriguing entry. Unlike the Essential, it is not trying to fit into the premium market with a high price tag. It is more modest and lighthearted, especially with those lights on the back. According to a video from Tom Honeyands, it runs close-to-stock Android and Nothing is promising three years of OS updates plus a further year of security updates. But is it unique enough to persuade people to buy its simple glass-and-metal rectangle instead of sticking with a brand they already know — or, at least, enough people to keep the company running long enough to deliver its promised software update schedule?