Nothing Phone 1: Why people are willing to pay thousands for an unknown smartphone
The Nothing start-up is set to launch its very first smartphone – the Nothing Phone (1) – in July, and yet this week fans have shown they are willing to pay thousands more than its expected price. , after setting up 100 devices. auction before launch.
But why, in an age of rising costs of living and a struggling economy, are people so willing to overpay for what should essentially be a capable mid-range smartphone whose specs and features complete have not been fully published?
One word: hype.
Carl Pei, co-founder and CEO of Nothing has proven to be a master at generating hype for the products he has been involved in, making some of the best phones around the world over the years.
Rising to prominence at Chinese consumer tech giant Oppo before going it alone to build the OnePlus sub-brand from the ground up (with funding from Oppo’s parent brand, BBK Electronics); Pei has shown that he knows how to cultivate a close-knit community that is passionate about the brands he represents and the products those brands make.
The first phones in particular were driven by word of mouth and community interaction – they were flagship smartphones with midrange prices, and they carried out. The One plus one was a surprising surprise at TechRadar when we unboxed it, and subsequent models like the One Plus 3 showed that this brand knew how to evolve a smartphone over time.
The parallels between the launch of the OnePlus One and Nothing Phone (1) are impossible to miss; both being initially made available to fans through an invite-only release model; promote desirability by creating a feeling of exclusivity.
The difference with the Phone Release (1) is that Pei doubled down on this idea of defining the Phone Release as “exclusive”; folding into the auction model that Nothing previously used for its first product, the Ear (1) true wireless Bluetooth headphones too.
The Pei’s Nothing brand has worked hard to achieve the “maximum hype” playbook – leaks mysteriously appear online (although there is no confirmation that this came from inside the company, the leaks were certainly not harmful), seeding a first prototype at ultra-influencer Marques Brownlee to show off the new charging lights (with over five million views and counting), and Pei himself sharing pre-launch bites on Twitter.
StockX (opens in a new tab) (the auction site that Nothing also used for its first product launch) was the stage on which the company served up 100 engraved and serialized units of the unreleased phone (1), allowing eager fans to bid on the little group of devices from June 21.
Despite Geekbench scores before release revealing that the phone (1) will not be as powerful, only powered by a midrange Snapdragon 778G+ chipset (rather than Qualcomm’s new 7 Gen 1 chipset or some form of flagship-class silicon), which didn’t slow the hype train.
Those who were already convinced by the story that Pei and Nothing weaved for the phone (1) have so far shown their support by bidding over $3,000 / £2,500 / AU$4,300 on the site. auctions – far beyond even the most expensive on the market. foldable phones.
Although it may seem like a disproportionate amount of money to spend on any smartphone – not to mention spending so much on what should be a capable mid-range from a brand that currently resides in utter obscurity for most smartphone owners – the willingness of some to spend such sums exemplifies the power of Pei’s brand of special attention – eye-catching, excitement-inducing hype.
Just hop on social media or enter the Nothing is the official Discord server to watch fans enthusiastically dissect every new bit of information and media the company comes up with regarding the phone (1).
As well as serving as a useful tool to increase brand awareness and quickly attract potential buyers, Pei’s desire to build such pressure behind the phone’s July 12 debut appears to be fueled by his own discouragement over the current state of the smartphone market right now; something that – speaking to Engadget in a recent interview – he said it’s a sentiment he shares with many consumers.
“When I talk to consumers, they’re also pretty indifferent,” Pei said. “In focus groups, some consumers said they think smartphone brands intentionally hold back features just to have something to launch for the next iteration, which is not the truth. But if consumers feel that is a sign that they are a little bored.
This is already well documented that Pei not only wants the phone (1) to inject fun back into the market, but also to be intended to serve as a hub for a potential ecosystem of products compatible with Nothing and Nothing.
However, you can’t build an ecosystem without a strong core, which in this case depends on the success of Phone(1) (at least by the company’s own measure), so for a small brand with an unknown name, increasing the the hype and excitement behind it is one of the only things it can do.
But it has to follow that up with a great phone and launches to live up to that hype – the one at the start of the year was short and a little wet, so now we wait… will the Nothing Phone (1) deliver? something new and different, or has the brand just shown how little room there is left to create amazing new smartphones?