Nothing built a lot of hype for nothing


Ava Stone

Nothing’s current products do not live up to the company’s promise of revolutionary innovation.

Venkata Sri Saiveer Chelliboyina, Perspectives Reporter

Carl Pei, the co-founder of OnePlus, left the company in Oct. 2020 to launch a new startup with the goal of making technology products that will not get in the way of our lives. Their argument was that gadgets like smartphones and earbuds should blend into the background, claiming in an introduction video that “what is in reach is not worth reaching for” because they have “tried reaching a little further, and came up with Nothing.” 

That was the name. Nothing. 

The company touted that its goal was to make tech “that improves our lives without getting in the way of it.” They declared their intention to change the stagnant technology industry. Fast forward two years and Nothing has put out two products: earbuds with an eye-catching design and a phone with some lights on the back, both at a relatively low price. 

The startup chose to promote its brand through cryptic social media posts instead of traditional, expensive advertising. Their entire online presence was hyper-designed at building as much hype as possible for products that do not exist yet. The company managed to raise dozens of millions of dollars with the blind trust their community had in Carl Pei and his vision before their first product was even announced. 

Yet, when the time came for Nothing to show off the incredible tech they have been building, they came out with a pair of earbuds, the Nothing Ear 1, that had all the standard 2021 features like Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and in-ear detection, but offered nothing new to the industry other than a unique transparent aesthetic. They have since released a follow-up product, the Nothing Ear Stick, that lacks ANC and silicon tips in exchange for a lower price.

Their next release was the Nothing Phone 1, a standard slab smartphone with lights on the back that alert the user for calls and notifications. This feature was meant to be useful when the device is face down on a table, but it is arguably more convenient to flip it over and use the front display that has more functionality rather than relying on four lights. The technology itself was nothing special, but it looked cool.

Nothing currently has three products that try so hard to look different but they sacrifice functionality. The transparent design looks cool, but it is expensive to engineer and drives up production costs that could have been spent on marketing or innovative features. As of right now, Nothing has not shown anything close to its early promotional videos that promised a seamless ecosystem of tech that works hassle-free. 

Vague ambitious claims generate hype in the modern social media landscape. Popular figures and successful CEOs know this, and take advantage of it all the time. Most recently Elon Musk made bold claims about buying and improving Twitter, then seemed to try and back out of the deal. Ultimately he bought it and introduced heavy uncertainties about its future by carrying out massive layoffs and implementing harsh deadlines for employees. Overpromising is a way to ensure immediate exposure and attention for companies, but it also creates high expectations and taints their reputation in the long run. Whenever we see something new and exciting online, we should remember to keep our expectations in check.