AirPods Pro have become something of a standard for wireless earbuds, but at £219, they come at a steep cost. Thankfully, a new challenger has appeared in the form of ultra-trendy start-up brand Nothing, which launched its AirPods competitor this week – priced at just £99.
The ear (1) is Nothing’s first product launch but it has already earned lots of attention. It’s aiming to stand out from the crowd not only with the cheaper price point, but also a unique see-through design. The outer casing is completely transparent, revealing some of the buds’ inner workings.
Carl Pei, Nothing’s CEO, described the earbuds as “a breath of fresh air” – and he might know a thing or two, having co-founded Android juggernaut OnePlus at just 24 years old.
The ultralight 4.7g earbuds definitely look stylish, with a red light marking the right ear and white silicon tips. But the specs are impressive, too: with a 11.6mm driver, a full charge will last 5.7 hours of listening time, with the wireless charging case able to hold 34 hours of charge. The wireless charging is Qi compatible and the app has a handy “find my earbud” function (tip: it’s usually down the back of the sofa!).
The buds also boast active noise cancellation in three different modes and tech to make your calls sound sharp even in noisy environments. As is now standard, there’s also Bluetooth connectivity and tap and gesture controls.
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To achieve all this, the team apparently engineered the ear (1) from scratch. Pei told Tech Crunch the transparency was a big sticking point in the design: “It turns out there’s a reason why there aren’t many transparent consumer tech products out there. It’s really, really hard to make it high quality. You need to ensure that everything inside looks just as good as the outside.”
Although pitched as a competitor to Apple’s AirPods range, ear (1) is priced comparably to Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+ (£99) or Google’s Pixel Buds A-Series (£139).
However, Google doesn’t have active noise cancellation, instead using a passive adaptive sound feature. It also lacks wireless charging for the case and achieves slightly less charge time (at five hours). Samsung’s slightly more expensive buds match up better, beating ear (1) with 11 hours of battery time.
Will it win the battle of the buds? Time will tell, but Nothing has a host of tech big names including the founders of Twitch and Reddit, and the inventor of the iPod on side. It also raised $1.5 million through crowdfunding in under a minute back in March.
You’ll be able to get your hands on ear (1) through a limited drop on 31 July, or wait for a wider release on 17 August.