Android creator Andy Rubin is back and aiming to change up the digital assistant and smartphone markets with a pair of new products from his company Essential.
The two new devices, announced today and expected to ship in the summer, according to a report from Wired, are a digital assistant that appears to be similar to Amazon Echo and Google Home called Essential Home, and a new smartphone called the Essential PH-1. The common themes among them are the ability to “play well with others” through open ecosystems, and long lifespans.
Essential’s digital assistant can control music, answer questions and manage tasks, among other things, similar to other digital assistants. It can be activated through voice, touch or even just glancing at it and the device is free of the “boxes, tubes or strange lights” the company says are found in other smart home hubs.
Privacy is another big selling point for Essential Home. The Echo and other digital assistants tend to rely heavily on the cloud, while Essential Home talks to other devices over the in-home network and runs its digital assistant locally on the device.
Unlike the phone, which has a long list of specs on the website, Essential’s website left out a few key details, most obvious among them, price. We reached out to the company, but Essential declined to give a price for the device.
The phone is slick and stripped down on the outside and high-powered at the core. Along with the phone, Essential is releasing several accessories, such as an attachable 360-degree camera and a docking station. The phone runs on Android and starts at $699.
Rubin’s resume rivals that of anyone in tech. Before co-founding Android, which Google acquired in 2005, he worked at Apple spinoff General Magic. There he helped build some of the first internet-connected mobile devices, precursors to smartphones. Another company he co-founded, Danger Inc., went on to build the phone later branded as the Sidekick for T-Mobile.
On his website, Rubin explained some frustrations he hit on during a discussion with a friend one night that led him to start Essential:
As the night went on we inevitably began talking about what we didn’t like about the current state of technology. Less and less choice. More and more unnecessary features cluttering our lives. An increasing sea of products that didn’t work with one another…
And just when I was about to drop another criticism it hit me: I am partly responsible for all of this.
For all the good Android has done to help bring technology to nearly everyone it has also helped create this weird new world where people are forced to fight with the very technology that was supposed to simplify their lives. Was this what we had intended? Was this the best we could do?
I left that night reflecting deeply on what was great and what was frustrating with the current state of technology today. After another long talk with my friend we decided that I needed to start a new kind of company using 21st century methods to build products for the way people want to live in the 21st century.