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Bad news: The Nothing Phone 1 isn’t coming to America

America continues to be the toughest smartphone market in the world.

nothing phone 1 smartphone with a parrot perching on top
Image: Nothing

The Nothing Phone 1 is perhaps the most highly-anticipated smartphone of 2022. It’s also — sorry to be the bearer of bad news — unlikely to see a widespread North American release. 

Speaking to PCMag, a Nothing representative said the few devices shipped to the US and Canada will be limited to a handful of community investors as part of a “closed beta.” 

“While we’d love to bring Phone 1 to the entire community around the world, we’re focusing on home markets, including the UK and Europe, where we have strong partnerships with leading local carriers,” a Nothing spokesperson said. 

READ MORE: Nothing opens preorders for its Phone 1, but there’s a catch

As previously reported by KnowTechie, Nothing has inked exclusive deals with several European carriers, including T-Mobile and O2 Virgin Media in the UK and Germany respectively. The company plans to sell the device through FlipKart in India.

In reality, the Nothing Phone 1’s biggest barrier to the North American market is a fundamental lack of carrier compatibility. 

According to PCMag, the Nothing Phone 1 will have “unpredictable” service on T-Mobile and no service whatsoever on Verizon. Using AT&T, VoLTE (voice-over-LTE) is conspicuously absent.

America is the toughest smartphone market

huawei signage
Image: CircleID

American consumers are used to missing out on the biggest smartphone releases. Many leading brands — Xiaomi, Realme, OPPO, and Huawei, to name just a few — avoid the US market entirely. A major factor behind this phenomenon is the heavy sway of carriers in retail channels. 

These brands tend to rely on direct-to-consumer sales. Their value proposition hinges on providing an experience roughly comparable to the leading Samsung flagships, but at a fraction of the cost. 

That approach simply isn’t feasible in a carrier-centric model, where networks take a significant chunk of device revenue as commission, and exert massive influence over the devices themselves, particularly when it comes to bundled software and the cadence of operating system upgrades. 

This situation is fundamentally bad for American consumers, who enjoy less choice than their counterparts in Asia and Europe.

The carrier-dominant model has resulted in a virtual duopoly between Samsung and Apple. As recent Canalys figures show, these two companies account for 76 percent of US smartphone shipments.

Still, the absence of the Nothing Phone 1 will prove bitterly disappointing for many. 

The company said it hasn’t abandoned the North American market entirely. It expressed a desire to launch future smartphones in the region, although didn’t reveal any definitive plans. 

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Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Past work can be found on The Register, Forbes, The Next Web, and Business Insider.

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