Nothing ear (1) Review: Unique Semi-transparent Design, Clean Sound, Good ANC

  • The Nothing ear (1) TWS earbuds are priced at $99.
  • The earbuds feature ANC and transparency modes.
  • Nothing has put a lot of emphasis on offering a unique design.

The TWS earbuds are one of the fastest growing categories in hearables. As a result, today we have several brands offering TWS across different price points. Even as the market is already saturated, a London-based start-up, Nothing, set up by ex-OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, has chosen TWS as a category to launch its first product, Ear (1).

In Q1 2021, TWS sales were up 44% YoY, where more consumers preferred the mid-range and budget TWS under $100 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, priced at $99, Nothing’s first TWS has carefully chosen its target audience.

The ear (1) has a lot to offer on paper, but how does it perform in day-to-day usage? Here is our review, after using the device for over a month now.

Unique semi-transparent design: A key differentiating factor

Nothing’s unique approach to design and experience starts right from the paper packaging. It features a small sleeve at the bottom that needs to be peeled off to reveal the silver box inside. The box includes the charging case and earbuds, a small, braided USB-C charging cable, and two sets of silicon ear tips (small and large). The medium ones are already on the earbuds.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review in-box contents

Both the earbuds and charging case feature semi-transparent plastic on the outside, and a black-and-white color scheme. The charging case is a square-shaped box featuring a clear plastic base and lid. The battery and circuitry are contained in a white module with earbuds charging pinpoints on the top. The hinge of the lid is solid and has a strong magnet to snap shut when you close it. There is a small LED on the top which indicates charging and pairing modes.

The transparent, black and white design scheme offers a retro look to the Nothing ear (1).

There is a small dimple on the top of the lid, which adds to the design – just in case you want to hold it like a fidget spinner. On the right, you will find a USB-C port for charging, and a small circular button to put the TWS into pairing mode.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review case charging port

A similar design scheme continues for the earbuds. The stem has transparent plastic that shows off the circuit and ICs inside, whereas the buds that protrude are made from glossy white plastic.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review earbuds circuit

Nothing has gone all out to offer a unique design that makes the ear (1) stand out from the crowd.

The stems also have white and red dots on them to indicate left and right buds, respectively. Another interesting design element is the “Nothing ear (1)” branding that is printed in a dot matrix pattern on the stem of each earbud.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review earbuds

“Nothing broke into the top three brands in the premium TWS segment in India in its debut quarter by capturing a 7% share in the segment. Competitive pricing and differentiated design helped the brand gain good mindshare among consumers. But it remains to be seen how well Nothing manages to work around with the ongoing global supply chain constraints,” said senior analyst Anshika Jain, who tracks India’s TWS market at Counterpoint.

Nothing ear (1) specifications, set-up and companion app

  • Driver size:6 mm
  • Weight: Each earbud – 4.7 g, charging case with earbuds – 57.8 g
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, Fast Pair
  • Supported Codecs: SBC, AAC
  • Charging: USB-C, Qi wireless charging
  • Claimed battery life: Up to 34 hours with ANC off, up to 24 hours with ANC on
  • Compatibility: Android 5.1 and above, iOS 11 and above
  • Water resistance: IPX4 splash resistance

Setting up the ear (1) is very simple. On Fast Pair compatible devices (Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and Z Fold 3 in my case), a pop-up to connect appears within seconds of opening the earbuds case. It first directs you to download the companion app from Play Store, while a prompt to pair also appears at the same time. On iPhones, you will have to go to Settings > Bluetooth and manually pair the earbuds.


While you don’t necessarily need the companion app to connect the Ear (1) with your smartphone, it does unlock certain features. First, the app lets you see the battery level of individual earbuds and the case. Second, you can adjust the ANC level between Light and Medium, and switch between preset equalizers.

The Fast Pair feature enables quick pairing of earbuds with a compatible smartphone, and it worked well for me.

Lastly, you can also configure gesture controls for left and right ears – Triple Tap for the previous or next song, and Tap and Hold for enabling or disabling ANC. The earbuds also support swipe gestures, where you slide your finger up or down on the earbud stem to increase or decrease volume.


“The Ear (1) from Nothing is an eye-catching TWS with a unique transparent and undeniably attractive design. As designs of most TWS gadgets are similar, the Ear (1) is a challenging attempt in the market. With a price of $99 and features like ANC and transparency modes, it is expected to outperform second-tier players in the mid- to high-price segments,” said senior analyst Liz Lee, who tracks the global TWS market at Counterpoint.

Performance: Impressive audio quality, effective ANC

Before getting into performance details, I would want to highlight that the earbuds are quite comfortable to wear for long hours. They snugly fit into the ears. For me, the medium silicon tips worked well to get a tight seal, thus offering good passive noise isolation. This is an important factor for any earbud as it also impacts the audio listening experience.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review earbuds fit

My primary device for testing the Nothing ear (1) was the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 but I also switched the usage between the iPhone Xs and Asus ZenBook laptop for conference calls. Switching between devices was easy – simply open the smartphone app and tap connect. But a multi-point connection that automatically switches between devices, like on the Jabra Elite series TWS, could have been better.

On both the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and iPhone Xs, music was streamed via the Apple Music app. While the songs were downloaded in lossless quality, streaming to earbuds via Bluetooth was in compressed AAC encoding. Not to say that it is bad, but support for high-quality aptX or LDAC could have been better. More recently, Nothing announced a partnership with Qualcomm where it will be using Snapdragon chips for its future products. Hopefully, the next TWS product will be able to take advantage of Snapdragon Sound for high-quality wireless audio streaming.

Talking about performance, Teenage Engineering, which is responsible for the audio tuning, has done a good job. While most earbuds in this price range are tuned to be bass heavy, the Ear (1) offers a well-balanced, V-shape audio signature with plenty of punch. The tuning is well suited for a wide variety of music genres that you would like to listen to. You get good low- and mid-range frequency response, but highs can sometimes be a little sharp. Throughout the testing, my equalizer was always set on “Balanced” while ANC was set to “Maximum”.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review earbuds gestures

The Nothing ear (1) offered good instrument details and clear vocals between both voices when listening to STAY by Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber. Even the reverb at the beginning of the song around 0:20 seconds is clearly audible.

Listening to a little offbeat track like Manike Mage Hithe by Chamath Sangeeth, Yohani and Satheeshan was a pleasing experience. The voice is crisp and clear, and around 0:22 seconds, you get a nice thumping bass. I like how the mid frequencies are slightly amplified to offer balanced audio.

The earbuds also offer a very spacious sound with wide soundstaging, something that you can experience while listening to Cymatics by Nigel Stanford. The Ear (1) perfectly picks up every little detail from the track, such as the drums, piano and the low-frequency vibrations that keep the track quite lively as it gets busy.

Balanced sonic signature offers a good listening experience with slightly punchy bass.

Even movie-watching experience on apps like Netflix was good. You get a nice spatial sound when watching movies like San Andreas or The Day After Tomorrow, which have natural calamities like earthquakes and tsunami.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review earbuds drivers

The latency while gaming was not that good. The delay between walking and hearing the footsteps, or firing a bullet and hearing it, at least had close to one second delay, which may not help you in games like Call of Duty: Mobile or PUBG.

The Nothing ear (1) is also good for watching movies and TV shows but not that great when gaming.

Coming to ANC (Active Noise Cancellation), you get two options to choose from – Light and Maximum. If you are sitting in a quieter environment, like a conference room, the Light setting should be sufficient. But in case of noisy places, Maximum does cut out most of the noise effectively, if not all.

During my testing, the air conditioner and ceiling fan noise got reduced to a great extent. However, as I live closer to the highway, I could still hear the noise from vehicles passing by and their honking.

Battery life and call quality is decent

The charging case can be charged both wired (using Type-C) and wirelessly (using Qi-compatible chargers). It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to fully charge the case. The earbuds also feature fast charging, where 15 minutes of charging takes them from empty to 40%, while offering music listening time of a little over one hour. Wireless charging takes around five hours to fully charge the case.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review app interface

Fully charged case and earbuds offer up to a total of 20 hours of battery life.

On a full charge, the earbuds would last about three and a half hours with ANC on, and a little over four hours with ANC off. The case offers about four additional full charges (depending on the usage), taking the total battery life to near 20 hours.

counterpoint nothing ear 1 review case wireless charging

The call quality was good, with decent amount of noise cancellation. My voice was audible to the recipient even when walking next to a busy road or in an open windy environment. However, at times, the voice sounds a little hollow when sitting in an enclosed room.

During my usage, I did come across a persistent issue, which will be an area of improvement for Nothing. Most times, the earbuds don’t disconnect after removing them from the ears. They are still connected after being kept back in the case. Possible areas to look for a fix are the in-ear detection and the charging pins in the case, which should detect their removal from the ear and disconnect them automatically.

Key Takeaways

  • Nothing has ensured that its first TWS makes an impact with a differentiated transparent design.
  • The Ear (1) offers surprisingly good sound quality and ANC in its price segment.
  • Features like Fast Pair and wireless charging make it an attractive option.
  • There are some bugs that Nothing needs to remove with the Ear (1) successor.
  • In the next version, we would love to see support for high-res audio and multi-point connection to switch between devices quickly and automatically.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, Z Flip 3: Unfolding Advanced Foldable Experiences at More Affordable Price Points

  • The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 are the world’s first water-resistant foldables.
  • The Galaxy Watch 4 series has the first smartwatches powered by a 5nm chipset.
  • Counterpoint estimates foldable smartphone shipments to triple in 2021.

Samsung unveiled four new products – Galaxy Z Flip 3, Galaxy Z Fold 3, Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Buds 2 – at its virtual ‘Galaxy Unpacked’ event on Wednesday. Since Samsung has decided to skip the Galaxy Note this year, it is positioning the Galaxy Z Fold 3 not only as the most premium offering but also as a great productivity tool with S Pen support. The new wearables also bring a big leap, both in terms of software and hardware. Here are the key announcements and our analysis from the event.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3: Stylish, Compact & Going Mainstream

Samsung is looking to make the new foldables available at more accessible price points. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 now starts at $999 for the SKU with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. This is an important milestone for Samsung in bringing the Fold experience under $1,000. For context, a third of iPhones sold globally cost over $1,000, allowing Samsung to target these users with a novelty form factors. Carrier discounts and trade-ins can further help reduce the cost, and make the new foldables even more affordable.

counterpoint samsung unpacked galaxy z flip 3
Source – Samsung

Despite the cost reduction, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 does not compromise on the hardware or features. It is the world’s first foldable smartphone to come with an IPX8 rating for water resistance (under 1.5 meters for 30 minutes). Do note that the rating is for freshwater, and not meant for seawater and pools.

Key Features and Specifications

  • Improved toughness with armor aluminum and Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus.
  • Bigger 1.9-inch AMOLED cover screen to display time, weather, notifications, and more.
  • 7-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex display (unfolded) with 120Hz adaptive refresh rate.
  • 5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC paired with 8GB of RAM and 128GB/256GB (UFS 3.1) storage.
  • eSIM, 5G connectivity: Standalone (SA), Non-Standalone (NSA) – Sub-6Ghz, mmWave.
  • Dual 12MP cameras (wide and ultra-wide) on the outside, and a 10MP selfie camera inside.
  • 3,300mAh battery, wireless charging.
  • Side-mounted fingerprint scanner, Knox Security, Android 11 with One UI.
counterpoint samsung galaxy z flip 3 specifications
Source – Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: More Durable, and a Great Productivity Tool

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has more headline features to talk about. Just like the Galaxy Z Flip 3, the Z Fold 3 is also IPX8 rated for water resistance. The price for the 12GB RAM + 256GB storage model starts at $1,799, which is $200 less than the Galaxy Z Fold 2. The foldable smartphone also comes with Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus and armor aluminum frame, making it strong and sturdy. It is also lighter at 271 grams compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 2 that weighs 282 grams.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 overview
Source – Samsung

Samsung is also introducing its first “under-display camera” with the main screen of the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The implementation aims to eliminate the need for having a notch, pop-up camera, or a hole-punch cutout on the display for a cleaner design and better viewing experience. We expect shipments of smartphones with under-display cameras to reach 15 million units in 2022 and 110 million units in 2025.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 under display camera
Source – Samsung

Another important addition to the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the support for S Pen. In association with Wacom, Samsung will be offering two different types of S Pen (sold separately) for the smartphone. The first is the non-Bluetooth Fold Edition with a dedicated button for Air Command support. This will only be compatible with the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

counterpoint samsung unpacked galaxy z fold 3 s pen
Source – Samsung

Samsung will also be selling the S Pen Pro, which will feature Bluetooth connectivity and come with a built-in battery that can be charged using the USB Type-C socket. It will support Air Command and Air Action gestures to let you click photos remotely, and control media and presentations among other features. The S Pen Pro will have a switch to toggle it to use it as a regular S Pen with compatible Galaxy S, Note and Tab models, or with the Z Fold.

counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 s pen pro
Source – Samsung

Key Features and Specifications

  • 2-inch HD+ Dynamic AMOLED screen on the outside with 120Hz Adaptive Refresh Rate.
  • 6-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED, Infinity Flex main screen with 120Hz refresh rate.
  • 5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC, 12GB of RAM, 256GB/512GB storage.
  • eSIM, 5G connectivity: Standalone (SA), Non-Standalone (NSA) – Sub-6Ghz, mmWave.
  • 12MP triple rear cameras – wide, ultra-wide, and 2x telephoto zoom.
  • 10MP front camera on outer screen, 4MP under-display camera on the main screen.
  • Dolby Atmos, stereo speakers.
  • 4,400mAh battery, wireless charging.
counterpoint samsung galaxy z fold 3 specifications
Source – Samsung

On the software front, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 boots Android 11 OS with One UI skin on top. Samsung has also included labs feature in the UI that optimizes all apps for the foldable screen. For quick switching and multi-tasking, the pinned taskbar is now present on the right side of the main screen. Users can also split the screen into two halves, allowing multi-tasking with two apps side-by-side.

Talking about Samsung’s decision to replace the Note with the Z Fold 3, Counterpoint Research VP Neil Shah said, “Samsung’s dual flagship strategy always had a segmented approach, with the S series offering latest and greatest new features, and the Note series focusing on a bigger screen with the S Pen support adding the productivity dimension. However, as the 6-inch and above display size has become a norm, the Note devices have been losing the point of differentiation. Replacing the Note series with a foldable device that has a “novel form-factor”, the most premium big display and S Pen support will help Samsung differentiate itself from competitors and command a premium at the same time.”

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, Watch 4 Classic: Improved Focus on Health and Software Experience

Samsung’s new Galaxy smartwatches bring a generation leap, both in terms of hardware and software. Samsung aims to offer a holistic health experience and more with the new One UI Watch platform and a custom wearable chipset.

There are two smartwatches — the Galaxy Watch 4 with a touch bezel and the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic with the iconic rotating bezel. The Watch 4 (40mm) Bluetooth model starts at $249.99, whereas the Watch 4 Classic (42mm) Bluetooth model starts at $349.99. Samsung will also be selling LTE variants, and other SKUs with 44mm and 46mm dials for the Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic, respectively.

New Powerful and Efficient Chipset

Hardware-wise, both smartwatches are powered by Samsung’s new 5nm W920 processor, which is well ahead of competitors such as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus processor that is fabricated on a 12nm node. The new W920 processor has two Cortex-A55 cores and a Mali G68 GPU, offering a 20% CPU performance boost and 10 times better graphics performance. There is also a dedicated Cortex-M55 low-power display processor for reduced battery consumption during Always-on Display (AOD), and an embedded 4G LTE Cat.4 modem for cellular connectivity.

One UI Watch Platform

Moving to software, Google and Samsung have partnered to merge the best of Android’s Wear OS and Samsung’s Tizen OS to offer a unified platform – One UI Watch. It will enable closer integration between the Galaxy smartwatch and Galaxy smartphones. The new APIs and tools will allow developers to easily build apps for the new smartwatch platform. Google’s Wear OS roughly has around 4% market share whereas Tizen OS has around 8%. Integrating Tizen OS with Wear OS, will help both Google and Samsung to go full force after the 3.5 billion Android user base.

counterpoint galaxy watch 4 one ui
Source – Samsung

Lastly, the integration will also open access to Play Store and more apps, including Google Maps and Google Assistant. Moreover, when you install an app on your smartphone, a compatible smartwatch app will automatically get installed on the smartwatch. Other features include syncing of important settings on the smartwatch, and the ability to control Galaxy Buds TWS features such as ANC mode, battery status, and more.

New and Improved Sensors for Better Health Tracking

Samsung has added a new 3-in-1 BioActive sensor that can track PPG, ECG and Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA). With over 2,400 data points and 98% accuracy, Samsung claims the new sensor can track and calculate skeletal muscle, fat mass, body fat, body water and BMI among other important aspects. There is also an advanced sleep management feature that can track snoring and blood oxygen level while you sleep.

counterpoint samsung galaxy watch 4 bmi
Source – Samsung

Key Specifications

  • 5GB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage for installing apps, saving offline music, photos, and more.
  • 247mAh battery in 40mm (42mm) models, 361mAh battery in 44mm (46mm) models.
  • 40 hours of battery life on a single charge, quick charging feature, and more.
  • eSIM LTE connectivity, Knox Security, NFC Samsung Pay.
  • 5ATM water resistant.
counterpoint samsung galaxy watch 4 specs
Source – Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2: Premium Audio at Affordable Price

The Galaxy Buds 2 are one of the most anticipated TWS to launch this year. Even at a lower price point of $149, the new buds offer key features from the Galaxy Buds Pro. With a dynamic two-way speaker (woofer and tweeter), the new Galaxy Buds 2 offer an active noise cancellation feature using two outer and one inner mic. For those who want to be aware of the surroundings while listening to music, Samsung offers three levels of ambient sound control from the app.

Each earbud comes with a 61mAh battery and the case comes with a 472mAh battery, offering five hours of battery life on a single charge with ANC on, and 20 hours with the case. The fast-pair feature lets you connect the Galaxy Buds 2 with your PC, and a Buds app lets you control ANC and other features right from the computer.

counterpoint samsung buds 2 specifications
Source – Samsung

Counterpoint’s Take on Foldable Smartphones

According to Counterpoint Research’s latest Foldable Smartphone Shipment Forecast, we expect foldable shipments to grow 3x in 2021 and over 10x by 2023. We estimate that Samsung will continue to dominate the foldable smartphone market with a 75% share as its vertical integration controls a bulk of foldable display production.

While it is good to see Samsung making efforts to make foldable smartphones more affordable than before, there are supply constraints as the yield for foldable displays is still not good. Once these supply issues are resolved, we believe the $800-$1,000 price point will be a sweet spot for foldable smartphones over the next couple of years.

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