Carl Pei, who co-founded OnePlus, is the brains behind Nothing, which has Swedish design company Teenage Engineering shaping the design language of the gadgets.

Nothing ear (1)Nothing ear (1)
Atom Review Saturday, July 31, 2021 - 11:52

What’s your definition of good design? For some it’s functionality over form and for others, it’s just form – design that stands out and gets attention. It’s been almost five years since Apple’s AirPods hit the scene. Work-from-home and active lifestyles plus urban commuters (especially in a pre-pandemic world) have all contributed in making True Wireless (TWS) earbuds a mainstream phenomenon. So ubiquitous that we’ve hardly seen a pair of earbuds break away from the standard template of earbuds. It’s why the all-new Nothing ear (1) has our attention.

Carl Pei is a legend in the consumer tech space. He co-founded OnePlus and the brand developed a cult following quickly with a carefully crafted smartphone product portfolio. In early 2021, Carl Pei made a key announcement, that he was going solo with a new brand – Nothing– that would focus on removing barriers between people and technology. He backed that up by picking Swedish design company Teenage Engineering to shape the design language of Nothing’s gadgets. 

Scandinavian design comes to the fore in Nothing’s first product – the ear (1). This is not just excitement that usually accompanies any unboxing but a user experience that goes beyond that initial eureka moment, a perfect intersection of form and function. Swatch’s legendary Jellyfish transparent watch helped the Swiss brand break the clutter in the 80s and made it a hipster favourite even before hipsters were a thing. The ear (1) takes a similar route with a transparent, stripped down version of TWS earbuds. You see the microphones, magnets and circuit board. 

Almost every design element makes it easier to use the product – the right earbud sports a bold red dot, no more figuring out which bud with trial and error. A fisheye dip in the transparent case keeps the buds secure. The buds don’t just look good but also feel incredibly light (just 4.7 gm) in your ear. A choice of three silicone tips ensures you find the right fight. I worked out with these buds, and they didn’t fall off. The snug fit also creates the perfect ear seal to shut off external sounds. 

The ear (1) is packed with 11.6 mm drivers that ensure these buds deliver terrific sound at this price tag. I tested these buds with my diverse playlist, and it was quite impressive. The ear (1) also held its own at high volume levels, a zone where many cheaper earbuds usually stumble. While the ear seal is quite efficient, the ANC (Active Noise cancellation) is certainly not as effective as more expensive rivals. 

Aside from music output, call quality and battery life are the other key purchase drivers for consumers looking for TWS earbuds. My callers could hear me even when I was outdoors and weren’t able to tell if I was using buds when I spoke to them from silent, indoor environments. My battery experience with the buds is in line with Nothing’s 5.7 hour claim, I didn’t get to use the buds for 34 hours to validate Nothing’s battery life claim with the case included. 

Is this much ado about ‘Nothing’ or a genuinely new chapter in gadget design? Based on our first brush with these earbuds, we’re optimistic that ‘Nothing’ is on to something here. Agreed, we’re floored by the design but it’s more than just good looks. I certainly believe in the simplicity of design that should enhance user experience. That’s one reason Nothing’s ear (1) scores. It’s not just design that is bound to spark attention but a product that delivers bang for your buck and simplifies everyday usage.

The Nothing ear (1) is available for Rs 5,999/- on Flipkart.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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