Tomorrow tech brand Nothing ships their Ear (2), an updated design of their wireless earbuds. They retail for $150.
The standard tech upgrades (improved voice quality, real-time equalizer adjustments, improved noise canceling, etc.) don't interest me much, but I am smitten by the design aesthetic, particularly that of the transparent case. The designers have managed to shrink it a few millimeters from the original case, and have tweaked the design a bit to embody the brand's fearless techie aesthetic.
Functionally speaking, I think a hinged square case is a terrible idea; pull it out of your pocket and you've got a 3 out of 4 chance of not having it in the correct orientation to flip open (or 7 out of 8 if it's become flipped over in your pocket). And I do wonder what the transparent finish will look like after sharing pocket space with your keys for a few months.
That aside, I find the aesthetics of Nothing's design noteworthy because it reminds me of the old Apple. Not in terms of looks, but in that they were willing to do wildly different things from the competition; the organization empowered the design team; and the design lead had a clear aesthetic vision.
Sadly, those days may be at an end for Apple; have you heard the buzz on their AR headset, which is due to be unveiled in June? Long story short: Five years ago Jony Ive, then still with the company, put together the pitch video for the goggles; development began; Ive has since departed, and no longer even consults for Apple; this year Evans Hankey, who replaced Ive as VP of Industrial Design, also quit; and with the design team now in disarray, the Times reports that "an engineer has been leading development of the device." Is that ever good news?
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Yet another pair of wireless earbuds with non-replaceable batteries. The manufacturing process and or business model for these products just does not make sense in this day and age. If users switching out batteries is too tricky design-wise (really?), then this would be an obvious case for extended producer responsibility. At $100 a pair, Apple charges way too much for replacement batteries, but at least they finally got around to offering the service.
My Nothing Ear (1) has been faultless and I don't mind the transparent case beeing heavily scratched, which I actually thought would be annoying. And isn't it refreshing when a company comes along with their own distinct ideas? Kudos to that!