We met the young visionary behind the smartphone brand of the moment. “In the last 5 years, technology has become boring”
What if the new Steve Jobs had the traits of a boy born in China but raised between the United States and Sweden (“But I really consider myself a citizen of the world,” he said during our interview with him)? Carl Pei32 years old, he tries an almost impossible feat: to bring back a bit of magic in the world of smartphones, which has too many years on its shoulders and is increasingly leveled, free of flickers. Pei is something of a hype wizard. He knows how to create excitement about a product, a launch, an idea. In short, marketing, but done well, with the head and the heart. We met him for the launch of the Phone (1) of Nothing, the company he created, along with investors who are legends of the tech world: from iPod “dad” Tony Fadell to Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, passing through Reddit CEO Steve Huffman to YouTube star Casey Neistat.
Pei is young but has already made the history of smartphones: OnePlus (founded with Pete Lau) was the first Chinese brand to become loved and admired even in the West. Now he is still betting on phonesin a market that is in decline and very static. Nothing, perhaps slyly or perhaps not only, is a sort of programmatic manifesto: to bring the magic back to us.
“Me and the co-founders of Nothing are people who have found inspiration in what technology has to offer. I was the first kid in my school to have the iPod and then I was the first on my tour to have the iPhone and then the iPad. Those were the days when our industry was flourishing and progress was so rapid. There was the idea that tomorrow should be better, thanks to new devices and the Internet. Suddenly, you could access the one you loved, you could connect with others on Facebook, you could upload your videos to YouTube. Everything gave the impression of progress and great creative energy. But over the past five years, it’s like we’ve come to the end of innovation“. Because, explains Pei, “there are only a few large companies left and all of them are on the safe side, looking at each other. The products are all similar, and many of these giants are perceived as bad, whether they approach privacy or act as monopolists. It seems to me that society no longer believes in technology“. And he concludes: “Our aim in Nothing is to try to make people believe again that technology can be a way to a better future.”
A high ambition for a phone, but Nothing’s Phone (1) is really different from all the others. In this sense it is really a la Steve Jobs, when Jobs asked his engineers something apparently absurd, just because it was more beautiful or because he knew that people would want it that way. And usually he was right. The idea of Nothing is that of a transparent device. It sounds simple but it isn’t. On the back there is a glass that lets you see inside. And the interior, over 400 components, had to be completely redesigned compared to normal phones, creating electronic parts that were beautiful to look at and with a consistent aesthetic. There’s more: a light pattern created by over 900 mini LED lights. A real visual code, the interface Glyphinspired by very different fields such as the New York subway map. The result is impactful but there is no lack of practicality because Glyph tells us if we have received notifications and from which apps, who is calling, the state of charge and so on. Nothing Phone (1) in hand does not go unnoticed: it is difficult to say if it will be enough to bring the magic back to the world of tech gadgets but Carl Pei seems to have a very clear path in mind.
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