BUS 230331 NOTHING CEO ARAMZAN 6-1680591267859
Nothing will target online channels and also sell through Sharaf DG stores in its UAE push. The model will be priced around Dh1,500. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: A new smartphone brand – London-based ‘Nothing’ – is out to make something of itself in the UAE and Gulf marketplace, where the latest and the most innovative new entrants have often found receptive consumers.

Nothing’s Co-founder and CEO Carl Pei believes his brand – priced around Dh1,500 - stands a good chance of being counted. Despite whatever recent history says of new smartphone brands trying to cut it.

Video: Ahmed Ramzan | Editing: Irish Belleza | Reporting: Nivetha Dayanand

“Everybody who’s tried in the last 10 years has failed,” said Pei, who believes being a smaller brand gives the freedom to do something different. “It’s challenging, but in terms of competition, we’re probably the only brand that has the freedom to do something different. In that sense, there’s no competition,” Pei said.

Not just the competition, it sure is a daunting time to try and break into the gadget space. Chip supplies that power the devices are yet to get back to full pre-Covid production runs and supply levels.

About Nothing’s pricing strategy, Pei said factors like reduced consumer spending power or higher production costs will not impact the brand. “We still have so much market share to take and that means if costs increase for us, it will also increase for everybody else,” he said. “When this happens, the bigger brands have to worry more because they already have a lot of market share. The impact is more.”

Break into UAE market

The Nothing Phone (1) – first launched in 2022 - is available in more than 35 countries. According to Pei, the UAE, GCC and India are key for Nothing’s overall strategy. “I think we are going to see a slowdown in Europe because of the economy. This region, GCC, will see positive growth. And India has a very young and tech-savvy population. So great fit for us.” In the UAE, Nothing Phone (1) 128GB model costs between Dh1,349 to Dh1,498. And the price of 256GB model hovers between Dh1,835 to Dh2,232 range. Nothing products are available online and in Sharaf DG stores.

Nothing Phone (1)
The Nothing Phone (1) comes with 6.55-inch AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate and Qualcomm Snapdragon 778+ processor. Specs also include 4500mAh battery with 33W charging speed, Dual camera setup on the back with 50MP main sensor and 16MP front selfie camera. The phone also comes with Glyph Interface, where the light patterns indicate who’s calling. Signals app notifications, charging status and more.

Other features include

• High refresh rate (120Hz)
• 5G ready
• High screen-to-body ratio (85.93 per cent)
• Supports wireless charging

Finding that niche

“As a new brand, you have to kind of find your own tribe,” said Pei. “Then you got to provide them with a much better experience than other brands can provide them for a certain group of people.”

Nothing has onboarded ‘way more’ Gen Z compared to its competitors, and Pei reckons that’s a good thing. “There are a lot of young people who don’t want to have the same smartphone or the same earphones as their parents. Good for us.”

Value for money

Nothing’s value proposition centers on making the ‘best product possible’ while providing good value for the money. Pei cited the recently launched earbuds, Ear 2, which received high scores in tech reviews and from consumers.

“Our business is more new age, more digital. That allows us to shave off some unnecessary costs in terms of marketing to provide consumers better value.”

Pei describes Nothing as an engineering, product, and tech company. More than 300 of their 420 employees are in engineering, and a significant portion of the company’s expenses goes as salaries to them.

BUS 230331 NOTHING CEO ARAMZAN 5-1680591272478
Carl Pei, CEO and Co-founder at Nothing

Pei explained that unlike some products on the market that look similar to each other, Nothing incorporates elements like transparency into their designs. Achieving this presents challenges, such as developing a gluing process that does not get in the way of visual appeal and at the same time managing to keep off dust during the production.

Who is Carl Pei?
Carl Pei, is a Chinese- Swedish entrepreneur. Pei grew up in Stockholm and studied at the Stockholm School of Economics. He dropped out before finishing his degree. Before founding OnePlus, Pei worked at smartphone makers Meizu, OPPO, and Nokia. He left the firm in October 2020 to start a new hardware venture - Nothing.

In the initial phase, Nothing only raised money from individuals. “We wanted to find other entrepreneurs who had the experience that we could draw from,” said Pei. Nothing’s investor line-up includes - Tony Fadell, who was with the iPod division at Apple Inc. and former CEO of Nest Labs; Kevin Lin, co-founder of Twitch; Steve Huffman, co-founder of Reddit; Swedish House Mafia, Swedish house music group; and Casey Neistat, the American YouTuber.

“So we just got we just found people with very diverse experiences that we can learn from,” said Pei. “And later on, we raised funds from bigger institutions. So Google Ventures was one of the first ones that invested. We just kept raising more money. So we have a lot of investors.”