Nothing’s Carl Pei has confirmed the upcoming Phone 2 will launch in the US later this year. The CEO and co-founder described the 2023 flagship as “more premium” than the Nothing Phone 1, which Engadget saw as “an impressive debut” in our review.
Pei dropped several tidbits in an interview with Inverse. First, he says the Ear 1 earbuds’ US launch was a barometer for US demand. “We’re really excited about the US market because it’s a big country,” said Pei. “If you look at our earbuds sales, about one-third comes from the US. And by not launching our phone in the US, we’re leaving potentially a third of the volume on the table.” Pei describes the Phone 2’s US launch as Nothing’s top priority this year.
Pei suggests declining smartphone sales indicate the US market is ripe for innovation. “From a business point of view, [Apple and Samsung] shouldn’t go very niche and try something completely different because they might alienate current users. That’s where smaller companies like us can come in and try and do something different. It’s not that we’re smarter or that they can’t, but it just doesn’t make sense for them to do it.” However, although stagnation may play a part, the biggest reasons for the nosedive have likely been supply-chain problems, inflation and an unpredictable economy.
Pei says red tape was the main reason Nothing didn't launch the Phone 1 in the US. American carriers demand Android manufacturers comply with various adaptations and preinstalled apps, which takes significant resources. But the company’s rapid growth and proven ability to move volume has given it leverage. “When you make a smartphone for the US, you need to work with the carriers on certification and adapting some of their features into your OS,” he said. “We didn’t have the resources for that before, and now we do,” Pei adds that Nothing has grown from 200 employees in 2021 to 400 today.
Although Pei doesn’t spill many secrets about the Phone 2, he hints at a higher-end design than its predecessor. “We’re developing a smartphone that’s more premium than the Nothing Phone 1, and software will be a big focus area for us.” However, he stresses that the Phone 1 was also a flagship handset. “Mobile chipsets have really improved over the last seven to nine years. That’s why I want to avoid calling the Phone 2 a flagship because that would mean that the Phone 1 was not a flagship. Within our own portfolio of smartphones, the Phone 1 was very much a flagship in terms of the amount of care we put into the product. That’s why I used the word ‘premium’ [to describe the Phone 2] instead, which signifies that it’s a more premium step up, but it’s still a flagship just like the Phone 1.”