Nothing’s big push into the United States is coming this year

The company planning to make a big splash in the US this year with a new smartphone, but it's a risky bet.

I know I”m a little late on this, but Nothing’s first serious push into the United States can’t go unchecked, if only because of how interesting it could get.

Inverse got the exclusive from Nothing that it plans to greatly expand its reach into the U.S. market starting this year with the Phone (2), a device CEO Carl Pei calls a “more premium” take on the Europe-exclusive £399 Phone (1) from last year. “We’re developing a smartphone that’s more premium than the Nothing Phone (1) and software will be a big focus area for us,” Pei said in his sit down with the publication. “We decided to make the U.S. our No. 1 priority in terms of markets.”

A photo of the Nothing Phone (1) from the back.
Nothing’s first phone, the Phone (1), which recently went on sale in the US as a $299 “beta.” | Photo: Nothing

Why the sudden shift in market strategy? It’s simple: logistically speaking, Nothing couldn’t sell its phones in the U.S. Not only did the company have to figure things out along the way given its infancy, but Pei said that it was necessary to invest the most in building out the business and infrastructure before having a splashy launch Stateside. That way, it could come out swinging.

Right now, it looks like they’re on track for something of that caliber. With Nothing’s investments, it did “almost 10x the revenue last year [in 2022 globally] compared to [2021],” Pei said. “We did more than $200 million USD last year; the first year we did something like $24 million USD. We’re growing quite quickly. We shipped over a million products already.”

You also have to play nice with carriers to have a decent presence in the U.S., which involves a ton of logistics.“When you make a smartphone for the U.S. you need to work with the carriers on certification and adapting some of their features into your OS,” Pei said. “We didn’t have the resources for that before and now we do.”

The Ear (1) headphones, Nothing’s first product, saw a this of its sales come from the U.S., which meant that North American customers are definitely picking up what the company’s laying down. “We’re really excited about the U.S. market because it’s a big country,” Pei said. “If you look at our earbuds sales, about one-third comes from the U.S. And by not launching our phone in the U.S., we’re leaving potentially a third of the volume on the table.”

Obviously, we don’t know anything about the Phone (2) yet beyond the fact it’ll be “more premium” this time around, but it’s interesting that Nothing seems so laser-focused on taking something of a chunk out of the marketshare. Pei believes that consumers are tired and bored of the typical Samsung- and Apple-branded options on the market, and there’s room for a niche company to come in and try something new. It’ll have to be a pretty compelling smartphone, though, since the latest data shows consumers don’t really want to buy new phones.

Interestingly, Pei is very hesitant to call the Phone (2) a flagship since they never referred to the Phone (1) as a flagship, but the phone will clearly be at the top of their lineup.

So, what’s at stake for Nothing when its phones come to the States? That’s really unclear. There’s an obvious level of interest from a sector of smartphone users in the U.S., but it’s hard to say how large that sector is and whether Pei’s company can convince them to switch from whatever device they’re currently using. For those that do switch, Pei is promising to give the Phone (2) a “really fast and smooth experience based on Android now, which aligns with what I look for in software.” In addition, he wants to focus strongly on the quality of the hardware design to convince iPhone owners to buy into Nothing.

It’s gonna take time for Nothing to become the smartphone competitor it wants to be, but Pei is here to play the long game. Whether it’s regarding how the software performs on its phones (“It’s going to take some time; it’s going to be step by step, so we’re not going to see the entire vision unfold immediately.”) or how soon it might open a retail store in the States (“They’re considering a store in the U.S. but are being cautious not to ‘overextend ourselves.'”), Nothing will happily take its time to ensure everything works.

Let’s see how it fairs come late 2023 when the Phone (2) arrives.