Ear (stick) join technology company Nothing’s first product, the then $99 true wireless earbuds with active noise canceling.

In July last year, a young consumer technology venture from the mind of OnePlus co-founder and ex-CEO, Carl Pei, dropped their first product. The Nothing ear (1) were a $99 pair of true wireless earbuds, complete with active noise canceling and hype/investments from influencers and the public. Nothing have just released their second pair of earbuds, the Ear (stick).

The TLDR is: while the ear (1) are Nothing’s take on Apple AirPods Pro, the new Ear (stick) are regular AirPods, complete with a cheaper price tag and no rubber tips/ANC. However there are a few bonus features and a weird pricing strategy.

Externally, the Nothing Ear (stick) buds, feature a similar design to the ear (1), with a transparent design, minus the rubber in-ear tips. Both pairs of earbuds are designed to look unique, while not standing out while worn. The new earbuds only come in white, although Nothing initially launched the ear (1) in only white, before releasing a black option later in the year.

Internally, the Nothing Ear (stick) feature custom 12.6mm dynamic drivers and three microphones. Algorithms reduce wind and crowd noise for clear calls. IP54 protects the earbuds from dust, water and sweat. Android and Microsoft users will enjoy quick pairing with Google Fast Pair and Microsoft Swift Pair respectively. Nothing Phone (1) users will also enjoy automatic switching to low lag mode when gaming. Earbud settings are integrated into Phone (1) or available in the Nothing X app on Android and iOS. These include customisable gesture controls, such as play/pause, skip forward/back, answer/reject calls and volume up/down, as well as EQ adjustments, Find My Earbuds and software updates.

The stand out feature from Nothing Ear (stick) and other wireless earbuds is the unique charging case. The cylindrical design twists to open. It’s small enough to slide into a pocket alongside a phone or wallet and will keep the earbuds charged for all-day listening. Without the case, the Ear (stick) give 7 hours on a single charge. With the case, you’ll get up to 29 hours of total listening. These numbers are about on par with the competition. Unfortunately, there’s no wireless charging, but an included USB-C cable for charging when your case dies.

Pricing is an interesting one. When Nothing ear (1) came in last year, they were some of the best ANC earbuds you could grab for $99. However, Nothing raised the price around a month ago to $149. While Carl Pei justified the play as an increase in development efforts, it’s a bold move to announce new ‘cheaper buds’ for the same price that the ‘flagship buds’ were just weeks earlier. That being said, $99 is still fairly competitive, beating any AirPods’ price, providing you don’t need active noise canceling. If you would like a decent pair of earbuds with ANC for around $100, Nothing ear (1) are still being sold on Amazon for the original $99, making the new Ear (stick) a tough sell, unless you hate ANC and love twisty cases.