Nothing teams up with design gods Teenage Engineering for new gadgets

Carl Pei's Nothing just scooped up some top-tier design talent. The Swedish tech company is likely behind the startup's upcoming wireless earbuds.

Teenage Engineering's Pocket Operator
Future Music Magazine/Future/Getty Images

Nothing, the most exciting startup in consumer tech, has some big news to share today: Swedish tech brand Teenage Engineering of OP-1 synthesizer and Pocket Operator fame has signed on as founding partners.

Teenage Engineering's co-founder and CEO Jesper Kouthoofd and vice head of design Thomas Howard have been appointed as Nothing's creative lead and head of design, respectively.

The partnership adds to Nothing's growing roster of talent and investment, backed by Google Ventures and familiar faces like Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, and Product Hunt CEO Josh Buckley.

"I’m really excited to welcome teenage engineering to the growing Nothing family," Nothing CEO and co-founder Carl Pei said in a press release. "They consist of some of the best designers and creatives that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Together, we’ve created a product roadmap that’s unique and true to Nothing’s vision."

Kouthoofd also released a statement on the announcement. "When Carl first told me about Nothing’s vision I remember being super excited thinking about how this would be translated into the design identity of the products. After months of research and development, we are now in a place where I believe we will have something exciting to show to the world."

A very brief history — Nothing is the brainchild of Carl Pei, ex co-founder of OnePlus. Pei left the Chinese tech brand last September and in January announced his new startup Nothing. The tech company is focused on delivering its first smart devices in the first half of 2021. Nothing has teased its first product as being wireless headphones. Whether that's wireless earbuds or over-ear headphones like Surface Headphones 2 or AirPods Max is unclear. Perhaps both.

Nothing recently snapped up the leftovers of Andy Rubin's Essential. Created by Android founder Rubin after he left Google in 2014, Essential failed to catch on. Its first and only phone, the PH-1, was ahead of its time with early features like a titanium construction, magnetic accessory system, and thin bezels paired with a notch. But high pricing and poor management likely led to its shutdown three years later.

Last February, Essential announced it had "no clear path" to deliver products in development to customers. Prior to shutting down, the company had announced a smart speaker with a display and a new skinny phone codenamed Project Gem. Presumably, Nothing now owns Essentials portfolio of patents.

What to expect? — Nothing has not revealed any products yet. Not even a teaser pic. My sources tell me we'll see something very soon. In the meantime, let's look at some of Teenage Engineering and Essential's product designs to get a little inspiration.

The OP-1 synthesizer is arguably Teenage Engineering's most famous product .John B. Carnett/Popular Science/Getty Images
The Pocket Operators are Teenage Engineering's more affordable and playful products, allowing for music creation on the go with a mix of fun.Future Music Magazine/Future/Getty Images
IKEA partnered up with Teenage Engineering in 2020 for a limited edition Frekvens collection including this modular Bluetooth speaker system.IKEA
Teenage Engineering sells wired headphones, the M-1 personal monitor, for $79. Will a similar aesthetic carry over to Nothing audio products?
The Essential PH-1 was ahead of its time. Sadly, its premium price and poor cameras doomed it.Essential
Before Essential closed up shop, it was working on a new skinny phone called Project Gem. These candy-colored phones would have been every different from your typical iPhone or Pixel.
The Essential Home was announced as a privacy-focused smart speaker that would challenge the Amazon Echo. It was never released.Essential