Nothing Tech sells itself as a cooler, more rebellious and – crucially – cheaper alternative to Apple. Its Nothing (1) smartphone follows 80 per cent of the Cupertino playbook but then mixes it up with a clear back panel that displays the phone’s innards, as well as using a retro dot matrix font in place of industry-standard Helvetica curves.
The company followed up its debut smartphone with the Nothing Ear (Stick) – it doesn’t use capital letters but that looks weird in print – a pair of smart, compact earbuds.
The first thing you notice is the case, which is a tiny design marvel. The buds sit within a clear cylinder, which protects them from the elements until you rotate the tube, giving you access to the sweet technology within.
The buds themselves consist of a simple white sphere connected to a clear plastic stick (hence the name), which, like the company’s phone, allows you to see the workings within. They fit neatly within your ear but the lack of a rubber seal means there is a lot of noise leakage, which works in both directions, so not ideal for use in a communal office.
The slightly loose fit also means that, while comfortable for extended use, they’re prone to slipping out if you move faster than a brisk walk, so if you’re looking for gym headphones, these are probably not for you.
In terms of sound quality, they’re… okay, with fairly decent mid and high ranges and decidedly tinny bass. You can boost this in the accompanying app (very slick, as you would expect) but that has a knock-on effect on the overall sound quality.
But what makes them a tough product to recommend for a commuter newspaper is the fact they are all but unusable when you’re on the Underground. With no noise cancellation, they are essentially useless to me from the moment the doors close on the Victoria line.
Nothing Tech has a higher-end Ear (2) product that includes noise cancellation, which I’m looking forward to trying but even priced at a reasonable £99 it’s hard to recommend the (Stick) to anyone who plans to work out, commute or use them in an office.