The Nothing launcher has failed to lift off


OPINION: Nothing has unveiled an Android launcher for its operating system, but if this is a sign of things to come, then I am less than optimistic.

Well, it’s here. At a portentous event earlier this year named “The Truth”, it was promised that we’d be able to get our hands on the smartphone software created by start-up brand Nothing before the end of April, and founder Carl Pei has been true to his word with just a couple of days to spare.

At that launch event, expectations were set sky-high for a device that would apparently revolutionise the world of technology as we knew it; a smartphone that would bring something completely different to the market and shake up our apparently turgid technology with a concept completely different to what had come before.

However, instead of this new phone being unveiled, we instead were just given a glimpse of a kind of indecipherable hieroglyph, and a quick look at the new user interface. For many of even the most devoted fans of the start-up company, this seemed underwhelming; but at least they could console themselves with the prospect of trying out this new software for themselves in the not-too-distant future.

That day has now come, and those fans can now indeed install the Nothing user interface and get to grips with it. However, I imagine that for even the most devoted fans, this prospect will turn out to be a bitter pill to swallow rather than the sweet treat they’d been hoping for.

I’ve been putting the launcher to the test on a Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus, and I have to say that my already-low expectations have not been met with this unsatisfying experience. Though we knew from the start, given the brand’s identity, that this would surely be a minimalist affair, essentially all it amounts to is the thinnest of skins over the basic Pixel launcher.

When you’ve installed it, the first thing you’ll be confronted with is the rather strange wallpaper choices; there’s an unholy trinity of options, all seeming to look like dimly-lit objects (a hand, a head, a dog) viewed through textured glass. Then there are some strangely underwhelming sound effects for notification alerts, and a couple of basic widgets for the clock and the weather, which use Nothing’s stripped-down house style of monochrome pixelation.

Finally, and perhaps most substantively, you’ll have the options to rearrange folders to be larger than before, so you that can click straight on the apps; but this just seems to undermine the idea of a folder in the first place, without adding any real substantive utility.

It’s hard to actually believe that a great deal of thought was put into creating this user interface, and even harder to believe that the company’s management considered this to be the ideal appetiser to excite its fanbase for the launch of the Nothing phone (1). Given that at the time of writing it has a lousy 2.8-star rating on the Google Play Store (and that presumably being from the most devoted admirers who rushed to download it straight away), it seems that the fans whose support Nothing relies on may be starting to go cold on the manufacturer before its first phone has even been unveiled.

Following Nothing’s event earlier this year, I expressed some skepticism but urged patience for the new brand, urging myself as much as others to judge it on results rather than on its feather-ruffling rhetoric. But now it’s clear that Nothing’s first foray into the world of smartphones has started with a whimper rather than a bang, and if it continues in this vein then it may not be long before it ends with one too.



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