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Money for Nothing, a new kid on the smartphone block

Carl Pei, whose CV includes co-founder of Chinese smartphone manufacturer OnePlus Technology, has wooed big-name investors for his new London-based Nothing company.

According to the Financial Times (paywall applies), the startup – co-founded and led by 32-year-old Pei – secured financing of more than $200 million to launch its much-trailered debut smartphone, dubbed Phone (1). It is expected to go on sale next month.

Nothing backers reportedly include Alphabet's venture capital arm, former Apple designer Tony Fadell, and EQT Ventures.

One of the main design features of Phone (1) is a transparent case, revealing the electronic innards of the device. It is powered by Android-based Nothing OS and "supercharged" by Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform. The design is due to be unveiled tomorrow.

Something new from Nothing

When asked by the Financial Times why Nothing will not fail to make a breakthrough in a smartphone market dominated by just a handful of players – in much the same way as Andy Rubin failed with his Essential startup – Pei indicated he was better prepared.

"I come from a very hardware centric background and [Rubin] comes from a very software centric background," said the Nothing CEO. "People with more credibility than I have tried and failed... they underestimated the complexity of this industry."

Pei added that close similarity in today's smartphone designs has left people "yearning for something new."


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Some Nothing momentum already appears to be building. Last month, the company signed retail distribution agreements with O2 UK and Telekom Deutschland, the former on an exclusive basis. Flipkart, an India e-commerce company, is another distribution partner.

"When we started Nothing we wanted to bring back the excitement we once felt for the tech industry," said Pei at the time. "Joining forces with leading telcos and retailers, we look forward to shaking up the smartphone market together."

Phone (1) is not Nothing's first product. Last August it launched a pair of wireless earbuds that have the same transparent casing.

The Financial Times reports that Nothing has shipped 530,000 units of Ear (1) so far. That helped to "prove to the market that this team can not only design a really beautiful product, but can manufacture and sell it at scale," Pei said.

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—Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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