When Carl Pei quit OnePlus, the technology company he founded with Pete Lau late last year, there were rumours of discord around the move. Neither of the two ever confirmed reports of things going wrong, though when the technology entrepreneur launched his consumer tech company called Nothing, there was a whiff of it again.
His new venture Nothing has set itself a mission to remove barriers between people and technology to create a seamless digital future, which according to Pei would prove that “the best technology is beautiful, yet natural and intuitive to use. When sufficiently advanced, it should fade into the background and feel like nothing.”
While the media statements were quite simple and straightforward, it was in an interview with The Verge that Carl Pei made a statement that made us sit up. He said Nothing, headquartered in London, would have its R&D department, and also use contract manufacturers to build its devices. “Nothing won’t just re-label somebody else’s products,“ he said.
At first glance, this may sound as a simple statement of intent indicating a focus on high-end R&D, which is only to be expected as Nothing has a bevy of top tech minds investing into it. These include iPod investor Tony Fadell, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and Cred co-founder Kunal Shah.
However, our gadget-watchers believe that Carl Pei’s statement is definitely a dig at his previous company, which has often been accused of borrowing from sister brand Oppo (also a part of the BBK group that owns OnePlus). In fact, OnePlus entered the mid-segment of devices with the OnePlus Nord, clear copies of Oppo devices, at the same time that Carl Pei decided to move on.
In fact, a video by Marques Brownlee had recently provided a list of Oppo and OnePlus devices with similar hardware that included the OnePlus 5 and Oppo R11, and the OnePlus Nord N100 and the Oppo A53. Of course, there is also the question of fast chargers that are similar but sell under different names.
But, this is not all. In the same interview the tech entrepreneur also makes the point that several gadgets look similar. He underscores the point that Nothing would be differentiating itself by using “custom made” components in its product right from the start, which will ensure that the devices won’t resemble those of competitors.
“There’s a reason why a lot of products on the market look quite similar. It’s because they share a lot of the same components and the same building blocks,” he says in the interview with The Verge. This also appears to be an obvious hint at what Pei thinks of the scores of Chinese phones that feed off each other’s components.
OnePlus watchers would have noticed that since the company’s inception, there has whispers about how the brand was connected to other Chinese brands. Many of us wondered how they could launch their first device within barely four months after launching the brand officially?
Of course, all of this could just be hype as Carl Pei has, in the past, provided curiosity by giving away just enough to the media about the upcoming devices of OnePlus. It could be one way of using his previous connect with a known brand to build a new one – not that there is anything that one could fault him with in such a case.