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Nothing's Ear 1 earbuds are designed to be seen, and seen through

Nothing's first device is a promise of what's to come from the design-led tech startup.

Nothing's Ear 1 is its first product.

London-based startup Nothing on Tuesday unveiled its first device: a pair of true wireless earbuds it's calling the Ear 1 that feature a novel semitransparent design. Founder and CEO Carl Pei, previously of OnePlus, had already revealed that the earbuds would contain notes of transparency -- something that turned out to be very much the case when the company lifted the lid on its design this week.

Liquid silicon tips sit on the main black-and-white body of each 0.17-ounce (4.7-gram) earbud, attached to which are flat stems with transparent veneers that reveal the microphones, magnets and other inner workings of the device. As we hoped when we posted pictures of the Nothing Ear 1's case last week, one bud has a black dot and one has a red dot -- colors that correspond to markings within the case itself, making it easy for you to pop them into place for charging.

At less than a year old, Nothing joins the likes of Essential, NextBit and Nest in being a company started up by a seasoned consumer tech pro. It's a tough business to get into, but in an interview with CNET earlier this month, Pei said that he believes given that wireless earbuds are a fast-growing market segment, there's room for Nothing to grab a slice of the pie while showing off the company's differentiated design, which is based on not including elements that go beyond the requirements or hiding components away from the naked eye. 


Designed to be seen as well as heard.


It's a strategy that's attracted some big backers, including Nest founder Tony Fadell, as well as co-founder and CEO of Reddit Steven Huffman and GV (formerly Google Ventures), Alphabet's investment arm. Now it's up to Pei and his investors to hope that this bold bet on transparent design pays off, paving the way to the company's next product launch, which is in an entirely separate product category and is slated to take place before the end of 2021.

"We're definitely not going to be an audio brand," said Pei during Tuesday's launch event. "But we figured it was a great place to start."

Now playing: Watch this: Nothing unveils Ear 1 true wireless earbuds

When it comes to sound quality, another key backer has had significant input on fine-tuning the Ear 1's tech. Founding partners Teenage Engineering, a Swedish company known for making high-end, design-led synthesizers, worked on both the software and the hardware to perfect the sound, which is supported by 11.6mm dynamic driver. If you want to tweak the sound yourself, an iOS and Android app will allow you to take a little more control.

Another key feature of the Ear 1 is active noise cancellation, which will be available in two different modes -- light and maximum. You can toggle between these using touch gestures, as well as turning it off completely by switching it off completely.

Other key specs include the following:

  • Clear Voice technology with 3 microphones
  • IPx4 rating, making them sweat- and splash-resistant
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Battery life of 4 hours (buds alone) and 24 hours with case (ANC on), and 5.7 hours (buds alone) and 34 with case (ANC off)
  • Wireless charging case that supports fast charging, including 570-mAh battery
  • Find my buds alarm, controlled by the Ear 1 app

The Ear 1 will be available globally from Nothing's website and retail partners, and will be priced at $99 (£99, which converts to about AU$190). There will be a limited first drop of devices available on July 31 at 6 a.m. PT (9 a.m. ET), with the product going on general sale on Aug. 17.