The former Google executive behind the development of the Android mobile operating system has unveiled a new modular smartphone called the Essential, set to be available sometime this summer. Priced starting at $699, the phone is designed to be upgraded with a variety of magnetically snapped-on accessories, including a 360-degree camera and a docking station.
Andy Rubin, who left Google in 2014 to launch the Playground Global tech incubator, announced Essential (pictured above) today in a tweet. He said his goal in coming out with a new type of Android smartphone was to address some of the market's current problems with incompatible technologies, limited choices, and unnecessary features.
'Fighting with Technology'
"I know many people in the media are going to speculate on why I started Essential, so I wanted to take a moment to share the real reason with you," Rubin said in his tweet, which he also posted on his company's blog. He recounted talking with a friend about all the things they didn't like about the current state of the Android smartphone industry, at which point he realized that he was partly responsible for it.
By developing a new kind of Android phone, Rubin said he was hoping to create a simple but well-made device that will "play well with others" and won't quickly become outdated.
"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," Rubin noted. "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."
Titanium and Ceramic Body
In keeping with his company's mission not to force customers to buy devices with features they don't want, Rubin said the Essential was designed to make accessories easy to add and use.
One of the first snap-on accessories that will be available for the Essential is a 360-degree camera designed to be both small and easy to use. Normally priced at $199, the camera is available at an introductory price of $50 when ordered with the smartphone.
The Essential phone features a 5.71-inch almost bezel-free display, similar to the design of the new Samsung Galaxy S8 and a look that's also expected for the next iPhone to be released later this year. Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, with 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, the device combines a Corning Gorilla Glass 5 cover with a titanium body and ceramic back.
Because the Essential doesn't come with a standard headphone jack, it will ship with a Type-C-to-3.5mm headphone adaptor, as well as with a USB-C cable and fast charger. With sensors that include a fingerprint reader, the phone will be unlocked, logo-free and available in four colors: black, gray, white, and a bluish tone dubbed "ocean depths."
Also in the works is a smart-home device called Essential Home. Designed with an ambient OS for automatically connecting with other devices, the Home can be activated by voice, tap, or vision. No details on pricing or availability have been announced yet.
Image credit: Product shots by Google/Android/Essential; iStock/Artist's concept.