Android co-founder Andy Rubin’s new company Essential has only released one smartphone so far, and it’s not even available for purchase anymore. But the company still has a stellar track record with releasing monthly security updates and major operating system updates.

So when we learned that Essential’s next mobile device was under development, many folks were intrigued.

Now Andy Rubin has shared some pictures of a “New UI for a radically different formfactor” online and many folks are… confused.

Update: The Essential Twitter account has joined the fun with some additional pictures and (very few) more details.

What we’re looking at appears to be a tall, skinny device running maps, weather, calendar, and ride-sharing applications. One image shows an Uber window atop a calendar appointment, which is above maps and weather apps.

To be fair, Rubin hasn’t actually said that the device he’s holding is the next mobile device from Essential. But if it is, that might explain why the company’s been using words like “mobile device” rather than “phone.” It’s not clear if this is a phone.

Update: According to Essential, it’s called Project Gem, or at least that’s it’s code name. And Essential says it’s “a new device to reframe your perspective on mobile. It’s now in early testing with our team outside the lab.

I have no idea why this device exists, what advantages it might offer over a more traditional phone, or whether it’s running a full-fledged version of Android or something else. It could be some sort of smartphone companion, or remote control, or AI-centric device with an emphasis on voice interaction. Or maybe not.

Whatever it is though, it looks like Essential is considering some colorful (and shiny) color options.



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19 Comments

  1. Given the length and cameras, I’d say this is probably a phone.
    It’s weird, but probably perfectly usable if you’re one of those people who deleted all their social media accounts one day and found themselves feeling a lot better. It could be very frustrating to actually use social media on, however. Maybe that’s the point. It’s got the Essentials of what makes a phone a phone and leaves little room for anything else. But it begs the question, just how Essential is social media? Do you really NEED it? Will people typically shun and hate you if you don’t want to use it? Will doing business become difficult if you don’t?
    Well, if it isn’t, and if the anti social media market is the target demographic, then it better have some built in, verifiable, and guaranteed privacy safeguards.
    On a side note, if that hand is as big as mine, the device is about as long as a galaxy s5, but a little shorter.

    1. Doesn’t need to be necessarily need to be anti-social media as much as just… social media lite. As in, you can still use facebook etc on it if necessary but you probably won’t want to until you use a larger device like a tablet or laptop which you’re more likely to do when you’re actually sat down somewhere. Using an iPhone SE nowadays is like that.

  2. Yes, it does make a lot of sense.
    It could essentially be a smaller remote control, which does everything your phone used to do except act as a web/video browser (and that is really the only thing that demands an uncomfortably-big-for-your-pocket screen on the phone).
    However you can soon offload all those screen-only functions to a pair of video glasses with a massive resolution.
    So a step towards next-gen

    1. I like to use the big-for-my-pocket-screen for reading and note taking. Maybe I’m weird minority.

      1. Yeah, the phone part is easily the least important part of my phone. I like having a computer in my pocket. I’m genuinely looking forward to when folding screen tech is actually good because it’ll mean I can put a tablet in my pocket. I want a bigger screen, not a smaller one.

    2. I think it’s crazy that phones have gotten so big that the idea of carrying a remote control for your phone that’s Essentially a phone itself seems like a good idea. A smartwatch I can understand, since it means you don’t have to fish the phone out to skip a track, make NFC transactions, read a text message, or, you know, check what time it is. That’s handy regardless of phone screen size.
      An accessory phone shaped like this could pair a bit better than a conventional phone with a mini laptop or tablet. Especially if the camera is good.

  3. As someone who likes small phones, I’m wanting it already.
    I’m hope it is narrow not an extension of the current trend for long phones.

  4. I love that shape, but what about the keyboard? Camera seems to be a zoom one? I like this innovation!

    1. At least when held horizontally, they could make it so they keyboard is split, with half the keys on one end of the screen and half the keys on the other.

      1. I used to have a Nokia like that, with a foldable keyboard and keys on both sides of the screen.
        I loved that thing.

  5. I don’t think I can quite imagine what Essential is going for here, but I like to see companies trying new things so I look forward to getting more details on it.

  6. no keyboard?
    I would like sony ux-50 palm or OQO

    Who remember cosmos 1999 , comunicator on top stick.

  7. I actually quite like the design. The colors on the back are nicely vibrant.

    It’s like a modern LG BL40, except without horrible specs.

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