What’s new? It was after I heard Carl Pei, who is now the co-founder of London-based consumer tech brand Nothing, talk about his company’s future plans that I thought that way. He wanted to say that smartphone innovation is dead, but Nothing will change that with an open ecosystem and its new Nothing phone (1). Pei says that they want to make the “most compelling alternative to Apple,” and they want to make that happen, too.
Besides, this idea of making the next Apple isn’t new. It didn’t make me think, “Wow, that’s a big goal.” That’s fine with me if you say so. While it’s easy to dismiss this as cynicism and being too critical, there’s very little evidence that the Apple model has worked well for anyone else.
Even though Google has a lot of money and can do a lot of things well, it’s still trying. No, the Pixel is not a threat to the iPhone. There isn’t a good Android tablet that can beat the iPad. Even though Chromebooks have become very popular during the pandemic, Apple has its own line of MacBooks that are far better than anything else out there. Let’s not forget all the Apple Watch and AirPods rip-offs that are out there at every price point.
This “integration” between Android and other devices, which Pei said needs to happen, is something that even Google agrees on. It is working on it. When and how this will be done isn’t clear at all. Yes, even Samsung has some kind of ecosystem integration on its top-of-the-line Galaxy phones.
But no one comes close to Apple’s ease of use. With AirPlay, I can move photos from my iPhone to a computer without a hitch. When I get a new iPhone, setting it up is easy thanks to iCloud. Now, there’s a new feature called Universal Control that lets you move files from your iPad to your Mac. The blue bubbles of Apple’s iMessage system make even young people afraid to leave them, even though it’s free.
In this example, we are not saying that a closed ecosystem is the only way to get new ideas and make things easier. Instead, we want to emphasize how hard it can be to change how things work now. Apple owns everything from the hardware to the software, and it would be better if it was more open. But the hard truth is that once people start using Apple products, it’s hard to switch back to other brands. Users have a hard time convincing people that they need to give up their iPhones and buy a new Android phone from a new brand.
So, where and how will Nothing phone (1) change the story? People didn’t understand that part of the story. It felt like a secret that Pei didn’t want to tell anyone about. This doesn’t mean Pei, who is best known as the face of OnePlus, didn’t make any good points in his speech. He’s right that smartphone “innovation” is dead. All we get are new phones with bigger screens and different camera placements every year. How nothing would change this story isn’t clear.
When Nothing’s phone comes out, it’s going to run and be built on a Qualcomm Snapdragon platform, which sounds like a lot of other phones out there. Just what is new about this? And, yes, it will run the company’s own Nothing OS, which has less software and a simple look. Groundbreaking? Not at all. There is a chance that the phone could have a unique design, but that’s just a “could” right now.
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