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.
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.
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?