Andy Rubin, the co-founder and father of Android OS, has launched a new smartphone and a home speaker under his new company, Essential. Called Essential PH-1, it is a flagship smartphone featuring top-of-the-line hardware and runs Android OS. The smartphone will take on the likes of Android counterparts – such as Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6 and others. Essential has also launched Ambient OS powered intelligent speaker that will take on Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Cortana-powered speakers. There is no doubt, with Essential, Andy Rubin is taking on the Android establishment while trying to make it even better.
The road so far
From working as a robotics engineer in 1980’s to being working as a manufacturing engineer in Apple and finally co-founding Danger Inc. to come up with an internet connected smartphone. In the year 2003, Rubin co-founded Android Inc, which was later acquired by Google. After working on the platform, Google and Open Handset Alliance announced the availability of Android as an open-source platform.
Being open source, manufacturers can build a smartphone based on reference design and with minimum specifications requirement. This also allows manufacturers to bring ideas and innovation to create great products. For most of his tenure, Rubin was the senior vice president in charge of Android until March 2013, when he moved on take new projects at Google. This was when Rubin started managing the robotics division of Boston Dynamics, which was acquired by Google. ALSO READ: Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone with 5.7-inch QHD display, Snapdragon 835 SoC launched: Price, specifications, features
A year later, Rubin left Google to start an incubator called Playground Global for hardware startups. It provides resources, mentorship and funding to start-ups that build hardware devices, specifically the ones that focus on Artificial Intelligence.
The present date
Fast forward to 2017 and Rubin has a new venture, Essential, that has just released new Android smartphone and intelligent home speaker. Yes, it is yet another Android smartphone on the block, but there is something that makes the device and the company’s approach special. Being a flagship smartphone, it is fully loaded with top of the line hardware. ALSO READ: Edge-to-edge display to modular capabilities: Top 5 features of Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone
The smartphone comes with an edge-to-edge 5.7-inch QHD display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 SoC, 4GB of RAM and 128GB storage. The smartphone is priced at $699 (approximately Rs 45,200). In the photography department, the Essential PH-1 also comes with a dual-rear camera setup, featuring a pair of 13-megapixel sensors of aperture f/1.85 – an RGB sensor and a monochrome sensor. Up front, you have an 8-megapixel front-facing camera for selfies and video calling, and it can also record videos in 4K resolution.
Sure, Rubin could have created a completely new operating system for the smartphone altogether, but he went back to Android. It was something that he co-founded, and with Google acquiring Android, the search giant developed the operating system the way it wanted. ALSO READ: Andy Rubin’s Essential Home smart speaker focuses on user privacy; takes on Google Home, Amazon Echo
Rubin, on Essential’s website, mentioned that as smartphones are personal properties of users, the company doesn’t want to force users to have anything they don’t want on their smartphones. He also said, mentioned that closed ecosystems are divisive and outdated, and that the company will play well with others. But it’s not just the software and hardware, the company has also focused on craftsmanship, be it the materials used, or keeping in check with the current era of edge-to-edge displays.
But things don’t end there. Essential has also launched a modular accessory which brings 360-degree camera that can be magnetically snapped on to the smartphone to instantly capture 360-degree photos. And if that wasn’t enough, ‘Home’ the new intelligent speaker with circular display and Ambient OS has also been launched. ALSO READ: Andy Rubin: His journey from founding Danger Inc, creating Android, to the Essential phone
Unlike IoT devices, Essential Home will control devices directly over local network, rather than communicating with Cloud APIs. Also, it will store all the user data locally, whenever it can. The intelligent speaker can also suggest smart home actions, but will let the user decide whether to enable them or not. It will learn from user behaviour and patterns to anticipate what you might want.
Overall, Rubin is using the same operating system that he co-created, but trying to implement things that would appeal and matter to the users. On paper, the Essential PH-1, the 360-degree camera and Home intelligent speaker sounds interesting, but the kind of response it gets from the users remains to be seen.