OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, who left fan-favorite smartphone maker to start his own company “Nothing”, is working on wireless headsets and more with Alphabet support, he confirmed. Pei left OnePlus in late 2020, having helped lead him from a cheap Android smartphone with limited availability, to a relatively well-known brand with multiple ranges and shelf space in U.S. carrier stores.
When Pei announced he was leaving, and later revealed that his new startup would be called Nothing, unsurprising speculation increased. The teasers indicated that they would be more consumer electronics, but the exact nature of the project was uncertain.
Today, however, Pei has revealed more details – including where he is getting his funding from. Formerly known as Google Ventures, Alphabet’s GV venture capital division invested $ 15 million in Nothing, he told Bloomberg. Pei declined to detail the deal, or the valuation of the London-based startup.
As for the products, the first one in the script is a set of wireless headphones. They are due to be released this summer, although it is not Nothing’s only release in 2021. Nor, in fact, Nothing will be just an audio company, despite its initial offering.
“We are building an ecosystem of smart devices,” confirmed Pei. “We will start with simpler products, wireless headsets. We will have several products throughout the year, not just audio products, and eventually we want to build them so that these devices can communicate. “
Alphabet’s Google, of course, already has a foot in the smart audio space. Your Pixel Buds wireless headsets can invoke Google Assistant via a hands-free wake word trigger to control smart home devices, answer questions, handle music playback, and get navigation instructions. Apple does the same with Siri and its line of AirPods, while Amazon has Alexa, which features both headphones and Echo Frames, glasses with an audio focus that allow the virtual assistant to whisper to the user more discreet.
Still, it’s not like other startups don’t try – and struggle – to do the same. Essential, a similarly important company launched by former Android chief Andy Rubin, had bold ambitions not just for a smartphone, but for smart home devices and more. Challenges entering the fiercely competitive phone market, however, along with controversies about Rubin himself effectively ruined the company, and Essential closed in early 2020.