“Nothing shall come of nothing.” As it turns out, that’s not exactly true. William Shakespeare may continue to have a more acute handle on the human condition than any other writer, but he simply can’t be relied on when it comes to the world of consumer electronics.
Nothing is starting to mean something. Yes, the promise the company made when it launched—to do the unconventional, to “disrupt” or to “shake up,” or to otherwise put the frighteners on the incumbent and complacent class-leading brands—may at this point look like so much chin music, given that Nothing’s product portfolio consists of one Android smartphone and (as of right now) two pairs of wireless headphones. Still, it’s hard to argue that Nothing products aren’t simple, attractive and (relatively) affordable. And, in this industry, “mildly interesting” definitely counts for something. So what if opening a brick-and-mortar store in London’s Soho is hardly the most unconventional move for a brand to make? This isn’t the place to dwell on Nothing’s orthodoxy. It’s the new Ear (stick) we’re here for.
Nothing describes the Ear (stick) as a “half-in ear” design. In fact, the broad design, which goes without silicone eartips and instead relies on a carefully ergonomic shape at the business end to keep the earbud in place, is strongly reminiscent of the original Apple AirPod. Apple, of course, is a company that is used to seeing its many and various innovations shamelessly appropriated by less ingenious manufacturers. But, until now, no one has seemed all that keen on copying the design of the AirPod. Almost certainly because its “one size fits no one” design is about as far from the Cupertino company’s finest hour as it’s possible to get.
The point of Ear (stick) is to feel less intrusive than the more usual, more invasive (and, let’s be honest, more secure) in-ear design. A per-earbud weight of just 4.4 grams and dimensions of 30 x 19 x 18 mm certainly suggest they’ll be no kind of burden to wear (as long as they stay in place, of course.)
“Design” is a big part of the Nothing identity. So the Ear (stick) travel in a cylindrical charging case that’s inspired by the cosmetics industry. The top portion, which also houses a USB-C input and a “Bluetooth pairing” button, turns to rotate the earbuds in the barrel in order to make them accessible. The case, like the earbuds themselves, makes liberal use of clear plastic in what Nothing has quickly established as its default aesthetic vocabulary. Nailing a design that looks individual while still being recognisable as “what it is” can’t be easy, and Nothing (as well as Teenage Engineering) is to be applauded for the design job on the Ear (stick) package.
Design will only carry you so far, though. True wireless “half-in” earbuds have a job to do, after all. Happily, Nothing has given the Ear (stick) the sort of technical specification that makes them competitive, in pretty much every respect, with their leading price-comparable rivals.