How Nothing Designed ‘Ear 1s’ to Beat Apple AirPods


Thomas Howard: Once we first began to consider Nothing, there was this concept to ‘personal’ transparency. We’re not going to win the tech race, that’s for positive. But when we wish to also have a likelihood, we have to get actually good at engineering. So let’s simply dispose of the facade, eliminate the whole lot that’s on the outside and switch ourselves to the insides, as a result of that’s what issues. 

From a distance, you get intrigued however issues really feel fairly easy, after which slowly as you begin to take a look at the floor, that’s when the main points of the product reveal themselves. However, then once more, we didn’t actually know what kind of issues transparency would trigger.


TH: The largest factor was the glue to fuse the 2 sides of the clear housing collectively. We now have been by means of many, many, many iterations—even up till final week—to search out the proper stability. In case you do it fallacious, you’ll see glue all the best way across the edge. So it won’t seem clear anymore. As a substitute will probably be subtle. It throws the entire thing off stability.

We tried alternate options to attach, varied varieties of laser welding, ultrasonic welding—issues that may be extra pleasant to the yield, however, in fact, it’s a studying course of for us. It simply wasn’t on the prime of our minds [when we started], however for future merchandise now it’s the very first thing that we take into consideration.

Carl Pei: The yield price for Ear 1s is simply 50 %. We wish to get it to the 90s. We’re bettering day-to-day. 

Is that this why you haven’t opted to make the earbuds or case fully clear? It is simply too exhausting and also you get such a excessive manufacturing failure price?

TH: We set ourselves the problem of showing as a lot of the engineering as potential on Ear 1 and the case. However you must attempt to make merchandise which might be as impartial as potential. They should really feel balanced and never scream “engineering” at you. So we select to obscure, or package deal, some elements, to not detract or distract. That’s why we’ve got this massive white block inside the case. However we did as a lot as we presumably may to make it clear. 

CP: A number of us had been uninspired by shopper tech trying increasingly more the identical. It was  necessary to discover a design language we may persist with. Jesper [Kouthoofd, founder and CEO of Teenage Engineering] confirmed us an image from the Sony museum the place there have been a bunch of merchandise on the wall. You could possibly see a constant imaginative and prescient. Corporations at this time don’t actually have a design imaginative and prescient, they only do no matter is in vogue every quarter. 

The trick is to search out one thing completely different that’s additionally fascinating, however not simply completely different for the sake of it. Pure clear design, the place you see the whole lot on the earbuds and in addition the case, doesn’t fulfill that standards. We wish to make the merchandise accessible to extra folks. It might have been very area of interest if it was totally clear.

Ear 1s vs. AirPods Professional

What’s it with all of the dots? The dot brand. The feel dots on the case. The pink dot on the proper earbud. 

TH: We had been attempting to take away jobs for ourselves that we don’t like. We needed to design a brand. We wished the look to be industrial. So … [Howard pulls out something that looks like a large gun.] That is wonderful, this factor. It’s what they use to mark pipes in industrial environments the place you may’t print on them. It squirts out a type of ink. Nevertheless it’s mainly a dot matrix. We thought, let’s let a machine design the emblem for us. See the place that route takes us. Then we began to make use of that typeface for lots of stuff.


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