Andy Rubin's new smartphone: What we know so far

andy rubin
Credit: Joi Ito/Flickr

When you're an Android cofounder, you can probably safely check "create something that has a big impact on the tech sector" off your bucket list.

But it seems that Andy Rubin is not done yet. The Android vet has started a new company, and that company is getting ready to introduce its first new product -- a smartphone that Rubin teased on Twitter. So what do we know about the smartphone, and the company?

In IT Blogwatch, we search for clues. 

So what is going on? Chris Mills shares some background:

Andy Rubin, one of the co-founders of Android and a man who will never...buy a drink in a bar full of developers, is working on something new. His company Essential is known to be working on a premium new smartphone...and in a photo published to Twitter today, we got our first look at the device.

Great, can we see the image? Andy Rubin is happy to comply:

andy rubin tweet

Interesting. But what exactly are we looking at here? Kellex analyzes the photo:

The picture...doesn’t reveal a lot, other than a time, battery meter, and LTE signal that...[look] to be of an Android font. Then you have a power switch (or are there two buttons?), rounded corners, and...pretty minimal bezel. The phone also looks quite small...though previous reports suggested it might have a display 5.5-inches or larger. We’ve also heard that the phone will sport premium materials...and could have some sort of modular aspect.

Beyond what we can see in the image, is there anything else we've learned about the phone? Stephen Hall has some more info:

The screen is said to have 3D Touch-like technology for sensing varying levels of pressure, and there will...reportedly be a proprietary magnetic connector for charging and hardware accessories. It’s said to have metal edges and a ceramic back.
...
Rubin reportedly met with carrier executives -- specifically those from Sprint -- at CES 2017 to talk about the phone, which is said to be...launching sometime in the middle part of this year. It’s expected to start...in the realm of $649.

So that is what we know about the phone, but what do we know about Rubin's new company? Todd Haselton has a few details:

Essential may shake up the smartphone industry and could potentially give Samsung and Apple their first real competitor...when it comes to taking away market share. Industry vets, including Jason Mackenzie, who served as HTC's global vice president...will be Essential's head of sales. Brian Wallace, who worked at Magic Leap, Samsung and Google, will serve as head of marketing. Jason Keats, who served as the lead architect on the iPad and as a senior product designer at Apple, is on board as the head of product architecture.

Seems Rubin has gotten some people who know what they are doing. So are phones going go to be the company's main focus? Mark Gurman and Mark Bergen have heard otherwise:

A platform company designed to tie multiple devices together, Essential is working on a suite of consumer hardware products...In late 2016, the company registered "Essential" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, listing smartphones, tablets, accessories and "computer operating software for mobile phones" among its goods and services...Rubin is convinced A.I. is the next big change to ripple through the technology industry.
...
Essential's engineers are developing a proprietary connector that serves double duty for charging the battery and expanding the phone's functionality over time...The magnetic connector would allow Essential or even third parties to create hardware accessories that add features to the smartphone.

So how are people reacting to the Twitter image? Jason Cipriani has one tip:

I mean, that looks pretty cool. Charge your battery, though.
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