There is a premium segment, around Rs 10,000, and then there is the budget segment around Rs 3,000. And there is nothing in between.

Those were the words of a retailer with whom I was discussing the totally wireless earphone (TWS) market in India earlier this year. According to him, the Indian TWS market was at two extremes – the budget segment (around Rs 3,000), where people wanted to experience the wireless trend at a very low price point, and the premium segment (around Rs 10,000), where people wanted either the AirPods or something close to them or were very sensitive to product and audio quality.

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It is not as if there were no products between these two points – there were several, but people did not really go for them. “Those who are on a tight budget and just want a TWS experience do not like to spend a few thousand extra for a few extra features, while those who have budgets around Rs 6,000 – 7,000 tend to wait for discounts on more expensive models or save a little more,” as per the retailer.

Either super low-end or high-end

And this is not a random assertion. Counterpoint Research’s report on TWS in India in Q1 2021 bore this out. Although the market grew by an astonishing 156 percent, none of the top five TWS brands in the country – Boat, OnePlus, Realme, Ptron, and Noise – had any significant TWS above Rs 5,000. And none of the highest-selling TWS in the country were priced above Rs 3,000 – OnePlus Buds Z (although they did have a special Steve Harrington variant just above Rs 3,000, the general one was Rs 2,999), the Boat AirDopes 131 (Rs 1,299), the Realme Buds Q (Rs 1,999), the Boat AirDopes 381 (Rs 1,999) and Boat AirDopes 121 (Rs 1,299).

It is not as if Apple, Samsung, Jabra, and others did poorly. It is just that their numbers were very small as compared to those at lower price points. And unlike in the mobile phone market, there seemed to be no “mid-segment” in the Indian TWS market – one where users could get some premium features at more affordable prices. Take the example of the smartphone market, a person wanting an AMOLED display, a multiple camera set up with a high megapixel main sensor, stereo speakers, and a good-looking design can go for something like the Redmi Note series. Of course, it is no match for the high-end iPhones and Galaxy S devices, but it brings a high-end flavor to a lower price point.

And that is exactly what the first product from Nothing (Carl Pei’s new venture), the Ear (1) TWS seems to be bringing to the TWS market.

The Redmi Note of the TWS?

As our review revealed, the Ear (1) are definitely not AirPod or Galaxy Bud killers, but they bring a number of features associated with those two worthies to the TWS market at a much, much lower price. You get very sleek and eye-catching design, good audio (not as good as premium but well above budget and close enough to premium levels), usable ANC (again, not premium level but well above the super basic, sham-level ANC we get on low priced TWS), and features like dust and sweat resistance, fast charging, wireless charging, and a sleek companion app that you generally get at higher price points.

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What’s more important, these are not brought with major quality compromises – the Ear (1) will not knock the AirPods off their perch or make Samsung nervous or give Jabra sleepless nights in terms of product quality and performance. Still, they definitely bring a number of features associated with them to a much wider audience. And accompany it with clever marketing to take away the sting of the “cheaper” tag. A person with a Nothing Ear (1) is unlikely to feel that he or she is using an inferior quality product!

Related Read: Nothing Ear (Stick) Review

And that is why we feel that the Ear (1) would well mark the emergence of a proper mid-segment in India’s rapidly growing TWS market – one where one can get some premium features and decent performance at a much lower price. If all things go well, the Nothing Ear (1) could well end up being the Redmi Note of the Indian TWS market. And that could be great news for Indian wireless audio lovers who right now often find themselves between audio that does not rock and really hard place price-wise!

He did not know about the brand when he made the statement, but our retail source was actually right.

There is a premium segment, around Rs 10,000, and then there is the budget segment around Rs 3,000. And there is nothing in between.

Just capitalize the N in “nothing.”

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