The Tech Industry is Always Craving Something Different

Yesterday, I watched a very fascinating industrial design analysis on the Nothing Ear (1) headphones:

These are a new pair of wireless, bluetooth earphones that I hadn’t heard about until recently, but apparently many consumer tech fanatics are really excited about them. Some even placed a $1,400 pre-order for them earlier on without even knowing what they look like or basically anything about them at all.

After watching the design analysis, I was impressed by the “look” and design that went into them. There definitely is something about them that pays homage to the past, but also brings a refreshing, space age energy of its own.

The design is meant to let you see through it, into all of its internal components. This is different from the 90’s where you could see through your devices, but only partially with different colours/textures applied to the plastic. The industrial engineering that went into making the internal parts look aesthetically pleasing from the outside is impressive.

There’s a lot of potential to this design aesthetic and I can see it taking it over the dominant look we’re used to currently with most consumer tech products. Nothing is planning a whole family of consumer devices based on this core design aesthetic they spent time developing.

I wanted to learn more about the design philosophy behind the company, so I watched a recording of the launch event with the CEO and design team:

In the launch event video, I found there were just so many other tiny, but significant things this company was doing to stand out:

Design team making small talk and joking around before the formal interview about the product. They talked about the main benefits/features of the product in a really laid-back conversational way.

It felt very much anti-apple like, more youthful, and a lot less big consumer tech corporate. There was no stock footage of smiling women in a city or interviews with product managers only sharing highly controlled corporate communications messaging (after several edited out takes).

I admired the CEO, Carl Pei, for talking about how technology has stagnated and in the past, it used to be more optimistic and actually inspire people.

I feel like if Steve Jobs was starting a consumer electronics company right now, these are the kinds of things he would be doing to stand out.

Now, to be clear, these earphones seem impressive, but I don’t think they are as revolutionary as the original iPhone event. However, this little bit of a standing out / being different like Nothing is doing was really exciting and refreshing for me.

But really - this event struck some other chord with me … about the importance of being and thinking different. Of course, “think different” is Apple’s slogan that Steve Jobs came up with. Still, it’s amazing how much tech companies can become so homogenous, to the point that you cannot even tell them apart. In the event, Carl went as far as saying that, “most tech companies are sleep walking, instead of innovating” and I really agree with this sentiment. Especially when it comes to mobile phones, most of the tech companies are just running on autopilot and basically printing money.

Watching this event made me realize there’s this whole other, “Apple formula”, we’ve just become so conditioned to for consumer tech products. Once you see this formula, it’s hard to unsee it. This event was a real perspective shift and reminder for me.

Deep down inside, as someone who is into consumer tech, I want something different … I crave it. Something that breaks rules, challenges assumptions, and refines every single way we do things. I think this is part of the nature of the appeal of technology itself - which is really a love for advancement in all its forms.