When OnePlus One first launched in April 2014, there was a lot of hype and curiosity around the phone. After all, it offered a unique finish (the sandstone black finish was rare), a good processor (the Snapdragon 801), and came with the Cyanogen Mod– a much-loved version of forked Android among hardcore fans. The OnePlus One when it eventually launched in December 2014 started at Rs 21,999.
At the time, OnePlus had an invite system– meaning you needed a pass or code to buy the phone. And yes, it was dubbed as the original ‘flagship killer’ since it offered great specifications and a smooth software experience for what was half the price of a flagship those days. Cut to 2022, and the smartphone market is very different and even OnePlus has evolved as a brand.
So it is no surprise that the Nothing phone (1), the latest smartphone from the new company of former OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, is being compared to the OnePlus One. But hype aside, can Nothing make its mark in this mid-range segment? We take a look at the challenges for Nothing phone (1) and why it might also have an edge.
The smartphone market has changed significantly in the last two years. The mid-range segment–which we have categorised as phones starting over Rs 25,000 to Rs 35,000– is buzzing with new phones. Nothing phone (1) plays in the higher end of this segment, where the competition is intense with brands like Xiaomi, Oppo, OnePlus, Poco, iQoo, and Realme all offering good options.
The point is that this is a segment where specifications do matter to consumers in India, especially if they are willing to take the leap and spend a higher amount. Analysts have also pointed out to indianexpress.com that phone replacement cycles are getting longer, closer to 20 months and above. So anyone buying a phone in this price bracket might be looking at a device that they plan to keep for close to two years. Then it might be better to get a device with higher specifications.
One might consider a phone with a better chipset simply because the perception is that it will be good for a longer period. This is not to say that there’s something wrong with the 778G+, but rather to stress that Nothing can’t completely ignore the ‘specifications’ comparison which is inevitable and might be justified for many users especially when they are buying online.
There’s no doubt that the comparisons with OnePlus will take place for Nothing. After all, Carl Pei was once the global face of OnePlus. It doesn’t help that Nothing phone (1) has an invite system similar to the earlier OnePlus phones. Plus the hype and interest around the Nothing phone (1) is something that’s rarely seen for a new brand in the tech community. But as analysts have also noted Nothing will still need to make its mark beyond just tech enthusiasts.
Further, in order to replace OnePlus as the go-to brand in this mid-range segment, it will need to get a lot of other aspects right. It will need to ensure top-notch daily performance and even excellent after-sales–perhaps a tad more than established brands. The post-sale experience will be particularly critical for Nothing phone (1). This matters because how the first set of users perceive Nothing phone (1) will also decide the brand’s future image. Given the level of competition and other options in the market, Nothing cannot afford any missteps in this department. And we’ve already seen how negative social media coverage can be used against a new brand.
This is really the Nothing phone (1)’s big Unique Selling Point (USP). The back is all glass, there’s no plastic anywhere, and it looks premium to the touch. If you put the Nothing phone (1) next to all other phones in the segment– this one does stand out. At least this is not the same old boring design. The transparent back in particular along with those LED lights and the Glyph interface, this is one phone that cannot be missed. This kind of build and design is usually reserved for more premium phones. So Nothing has got this aspect bang on. This design might work with consumers who are looking for something stylish and do not really care about the processor. After all, not everyone is obsessed with specifications.
This could be another advantage point for the Nothing phone (1). When OnePlus launched, and even with OxygenOS, what kept many users happy was the user interface which had very little bloatware compared to other user interfaces (UIs) in the market. Nothing is offering something similar with its Nothing OS and using Google apps for most and limiting bloatware. The user interface could appeal to the purists. Sure, the UI is unlikely to be a significant factor when driving purchase decisions. But if Nothing does well on this aspect and can deliver software updates in a timely fashion, it could help the brand build a reputation for future products. Nothing has promised three years of software updates and four years of security updates. This means Nothing phone 1 will be getting Android 13, Android 14, and Android 15 and continue to get the latest Android security updates till four years after launch. On paper, this does sound good, but how it delivers on this promise will be closely watched.
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Shruti DhapolaAssistant Editor at Indianexpress.com and looks after the Indian Expre… read more