Slowly but surely, Carl Pei’s Nothing tech startup is building up an ecosystem of products. First came the Ear (1) wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC), then the Phone (1), and now the Ear (stick) wireless earbuds.
Just like the Ear (1) and Phone (1), the Ear (stick) has a small quirk, Pei tells me on a Zoom call last week. The Ear (1) has a dimple in the charging case that turns it into a fidget spinner and the Phone (1) has its Glyph LED notification system (with a hidden “little elephant” outline) on the rear. And the Ear (stick)? A satisfying click when you twist the lipstick-inspired charging case open to reveal the earbuds. “We call this human warmth,” Pei says.
Compared to the Ear (1), the new Ear (stick) is positioned as a more affordable pair of wireless earbuds — and also an easier way to get into the Nothing ecosystem.
Ear (stick) tech specs
- Driver size: 12.6mm
- Battery life: Up to 7 hours of listening time, 3 hours of talk time, case adds another 22 hours for 29 hours total
- Charging: Up to 2 hours of listening time with 10 minutes
- Water resistance: IP54 sweat-resistant
- Weight: 4.4 grams (per earbud)
Ear (stick) vs. Ear (1)
Aside from the charging case design, there are a few differences between the Ear (stick) and Ear (1). The main one is the Ear (stick)’s lack of any noise cancellation. Pei tells me the Ear (stick) is to regular AirPods as the Ear (1) is to AirPods Pro. Pei gently reminds me that not everyone wants active noise cancellation. Without ANC, the Ear (stick) don’t have in-ear tips.
The second big difference between the Ear (stick) and Ear (1) is the charging case doesn’t support wireless charging — it’s a wired charging affair. USB-C to be exact.
And third, Nothing has swapped out the Ear (1)’s swipe controls for simple press controls. Pei says this change makes it easier to control music, volume, and a voice assistant on the Ear (stick).
If you’re noticing a pattern, you’re not alone: for the lower price, the Ear (stick)’s features are pared back.
I have yet to get my hands (and ears) on the Ear (stick) so I can’t tell you how the wireless earbuds sound, but Pei says Nothing has tuned the audio, optimized the connectivity, and tweaked the microphones so that they sound as good or better than competitors at or above its price point. There’s also a redesigned Nothing app with a customizable EQ for tuning the sound; it looks very Teenage Engineering-inspired.
Price and release date
The Nothing Ear (stick) will retail for $99 when it launches on November 4. Last week, Pei announced a price hike for the Ear (1) from $99 to $149 “due to an increase in costs.” Inflation is causing all consumer goods to increase, but he justified the price increase accordingly:
When we started developing it, we only had 3 engineers. A year later, we have 185. During this time, the Ear (1) has received 15 firmware and tuning updates, and is a completely different product to when we launched it.
Nothing says the Ear (stick) will be available in over 40 countries, including the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
Nothing retail store
In addition to launching the Ear (stick) on November 4, Nothing is opening a retail store in London at 4 Peter Street in Soho “before Christmas.”
The retail store’s location explains a lot about how Pei is marketing the brand. Positioned literally next door to Supreme’s London shop, and with streetwear brands Palace and StockX only a stone’s throw away, Pei tells me their retail proximity places Nothing “in quite a nice spot” to cater to new consumers, especially Gen Z.
Pei says recent data shows three to four times more iOS users switched to the Phone (1) compared to the average Android brand. He says it’s encouraging and “a really good sign that we're doing something different and resonating with young people.”
“We don’t want to be a traditional, old-school consumer electronics or smartphone brand,” Pei says. “We want to be a more culturally relevant brand, a design-led brand.”
Pei tells me that the interior design is inspired by Olivetti typewriter stores; Nothing products will be displayed prominently in the window as a way to invite people in to try them out.