For some reason, it's simply become a fashion, and a feature in itself, to have an elongated piece of plastic on the in-ear. This is usually for several reasons, partly to balance the part in the ear, and partly to avoid the part in the ear becoming huge, as is the case with some Jabra, JBL and B&W models. And then there are just many who prefer to press this little stick, rather than pressing directly on the in-ear part that, well, sits inside the ear.
So now there's the Nothing Ear (Stick), which like their predecessor has a little stick, but now they look a lot more like Apple's competing product, and that's probably more the point, because I have a hard time seeing the big difference otherwise visually, that is, other than the fact that there are no longer silicone tips.
They're nicely made, with a hardcore designed case where the whole cylinder rotates for easy access, sort of a combination of an insulin syringe and a pillbox, but it's cool and it looks super exclusive, just missing the wireless charging. Yes, there's no wireless charging, even though Nothings' introductory product, Ear (1), had it as a key selling point. Odd.
The devices themselves don't take up much space. The tiny 12.6mm device sits in a housing of just 4.4 grams, and the fit is fantastically good. However, instead of putting silicone all around like on the standard model, they just put a hard plastic shell. It works fine though, and they fit great. There is just under 30 hours of battery life in them. I have commuted with them, and I charge them about every three weeks.
Nothing's website is full of quite a lot of nonsense, for example "tech gets in the way too often" followed by " Ear (stick) takes away those walls. This is tech you can't feel. So you can experience everything else." Here I must point out that wireless charging is not the only thing missing, because Nothing has also chosen to drop the active noise reduction, and that's disastrous when you also have no silicone tips and charge just under £80 for the product.
The Ear (Stick) actually sounds pretty reasonable, and it comes with a pretty good app - however, Nothing's own marketing indicates that I could actually get even more features if I used their particular mobile phone, and that kind of "feature" I find silly, it puts me off as a potential buyer as I want what I'm paying for, I shouldn't be forced to change mobile phones to get the full benefit of a pair of in-ears. Practically it looks like their low-latency gaming mode is only supported if using a Nothing Phone, and that may be important to many.
Nothing on the other hand are good about giving up specs, I can clearly see that AAC and SBC are supported and that the device itself is made of plastic at the good end. On the other hand, I'm surprised that AptX has been omitted, especially the Low Latency version, because then you could get a delay of about a quarter of what Nothing's Gaming Mode offers - that is, if you have a Nothing mobile phone. SBC gives less than a quarter the latency of a CD, and AAC is actually worse, and then you might not get LDAC since that's a Sony standard, but at least you'd expect AptX HD in this price range.
The sound is a bit bassy, but otherwise fine and clear, though it unsurprisingly lacks some clarity, and so it's been hard not to notice some connection issues during calls, where there are better alternatives when it comes to call quality.
For everyday music and podcast playback they work acceptably, but I personally can't live without active noise cancellation when living a commuter lifestyle, and if you have children or live in a very noisy home it's probably even worse. At £79.00 it's a very essential feature to lack, especially when there's no passive noise cancellation otherwise, and that's a shame because the design, case, and battery life are good.