Nothing to see here — OnePlus co-founder making AirPods rival

OnePlus Buds
(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has revealed his new consumer tech company, Nothing, will launch wireless earbuds as its first products this summer.

Besides taking on the Apple AirPods and the rest of the best wireless earbuds already on the market, Nothing intends to make its headphones part of an “ecosystem of smart devices.” So expect to see integration with voice assistants, potentially Alexa and/or Google Assistant, should the earbuds successfully launch this year.

Pei left OnePlus in late 2020 to found Nothing, and immediately following the London-based company’s opening in January this year, it was unclear what specifically it would be producing. Now, Pei has told Bloomberg that it will start with wireless earbuds, with a plan to move into wider range of interconnected hardware products.

“We’ll start with simpler products, wireless earbuds,” said Pei. “We’re going to have multiple products throughout the year, not just audio products, and eventually we want to build it so these devices talk to each other.”

Nothing making its debut with wireless earbuds seems like a safe bet on the surface, but there's a ton of competition: from the AirPods to the AirPods Pro, the excellent Jabra Elite 85t and the new Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, there’s no shortage of quality options. But then Pei already has some headphones experience himself, overseeing the OnePlus Buds in 2020.

The suggestion that Nothing's products would "talk to each other" indicates a more direct form of smart integration than you currently get with voice assistant functionality on headphones, which tends to use your phone as an intermediary. We'll have to wait and see for sure, however.

In addition to smart functionality, we’d hope to see Nothing’s earbuds aim to compete with features like active noise-cancelling (ANC), waterproofing and perhaps an equivalent to Apple’s spatial audio. Again, though, no real details have trickled out beyond the fact that Nothing is working on them. If a tentative summer release is planned, it may be some time before we get any official specs.

Apple’s AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2 have also been tipped for a 2021 release date, so this year is already shaping up to be a big one for wireless headphones.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.