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Fast Charge: Don’t judge the Nothing phone(1) by its cover

Nothing has just unveiled the design for its new phone. But is this the new look that will change the smartphone world forever?

If you haven’t heard of the new tech start-up Nothing, then that’s despite all their very best efforts. This company is trying to win a reputation for thinking out of box, even turning the tech world upside down with its innovative products, and in recent weeks the PR campaign has been in overdrive as it gears up to launch its very first smartphone. This week – after numerous tasters, trailers, and teasers – we finally got to see the device itself in all its glory:

Judging the looks of a smartphone is often an exercise in futility, with each of us having our own dearly-held subjective opinions on what a phone should or shouldn’t look like. The perennial debates of gloss vs matte or curved screens vs flat rage on as ever before, and none of us are any the wiser despite it.

For my own two cents, I have to say that it just looks like nothing special to me (and yes, the pun is fully intended). The device strongly resembles an iPhone 11 aside from the superficial surface changes, which amount to some flashing lights and a see-through back that lets you see some components. I couldn’t call it beautiful but it’s slightly different, that’s for sure, and it is nice to see a company genuinely trying something new, but, in the context of Nothing’s mission statement it really isn’t quite as spectacular as I’d been hoping.

After all, Carl Pei has previously torn into the tech industry by saying that it’s running out of ideas and needs to change for the betterment of consumers. For all this time, has he really just been talking about transparent back panels and flashing LEDs? Has that been the missing link in modern smartphone evolution?

For his part, Pei claims that the device has been “polarizing as planned”. He’s presumably hoping that for every person who’s underwhelmed by the device there will be another who is enthused by it. There was certainly evidence of both sides in full force on social media, with savage detractors criticising it for looking like a wacky phone case, and fans eagerly making their own renders and swiftly registering to be among the first hundred to buy the device on 21-13 June.

This physical design is certainly more promising than the software that we’ve seen so far (the Nothing launcher not adding much of value beyond stock Android), but of course the true signifier of whether this phone sinks or swims will be its actual performance and its price tag.

Nothing has managed to create a real wave of excitement around a new product that, to the extent we’ve seen so far, does do things differently – even if not quite so differently as the brand seemed to claim when starting out. If you can’t get enough of this new design then the next few weeks will no doubt be a filled with anticipation, as the new phone is soon to make its full debut on 12th July – and I for one will certainly be intrigued to see where the manufacturer goes from here. As much as it’s been interesting to get our first glimpses of the handset, I’m hoping that the real revolution will take place when we see the device in action.

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