Editor's take: The first smartphone from Carl Pei's Nothing could be unveiled to the public as early as April. Producing a set of earbuds is one thing, but finding success in the cutthroat smartphone industry is a far tougher task. That's especially true today as smartphones have evolved from novelty items to ubiquitous gadgets, with quality devices available across a range of price points.

A source familiar with the company's plans told TechCrunch that Pei met with several key industry executives at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week and showed off a prototype version of the upcoming handset. The publication said it even viewed a photo of Pei meeting with Qualcomm's CEO.

Not a whole lot is known about Nothing's debut phone at this stage, although the source did say it would share a similar design language with the company's first product, a set of semi-transparent earbuds. Those launched for $99 last July to middling reviews, although they do look neat if you are into the see-through look.

In an interview with TechCrunch last year, Pei said they have a lot of products in the pipeline across multiple categories. Unfortunately, he wasn't ready to discuss them publicly at the time.

Several longtime players as well as newcomers including LG and Essential have dropped out of the smartphone race in recent memory. Pei does have experience, though, having co-founded OnePlus with Pete Lau in 2013.