Is This the Essential Gadget?
The inventor of the Android operating system isn't happy with the current crop of mobile devices that run the software he created. So he's doing something about it. If you like the idea of a phone that evolves, instead of becoming obsolete almost as soon as you turn it on, then continue reading...
What's the Problem With Android?Without googling, can you tell me who invented the Android mobile operating system? If you said, “Andy Rubin,” step up and claim your no-prize. The 50-ish software entrepreneur, venture capitalist, baker, and motorcycle rider co-founded Android, Inc., in October 2003, along with Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White.
Google purchased the company in July, 2005, for a price estimated as “at least $50 million” and, presumably, some very lucrative Google stock grants to Android’s principals. Rubin oversaw the development of Android until 2013, and then dropped out of the tech world. But now he’s back. Rubin just announced his new company, Essential, Inc., which is in the throes of birthing its first two products. Before we get into those, let’s see what Rubin’s vision is.
During a night out with a friend, Rubin realized that Android, and modern tech in general, have become unwieldy, fragmented, and basically as much a pain as a pleasure.
“For all the good Android has done to help bring technology to nearly everyone,” Rubin says, “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?”
The answer to both rhetorical questions is “no,” of course. Rubin spent days following his epiphany thinking hard about what was good and bad about 21st century tech. He founded Essential to do only good (or, at least, not do evil). Rubin developed these guiding principles:
- Devices are your personal property. We won’t force you to have anything on them you don’t want to have.
- We will always play well with others. Closed ecosystems are divisive and outdated.
- Premium materials and true craftsmanship shouldn’t be just for the few.
- Devices shouldn’t become outdated every year. They should evolve with you.
- Technology should assist you so that you can get on with enjoying your life.
- Simple is always better.
The Essential Device Family
That all sounds very nice, but what sort of products do these principles spawn? It may be a bit of a letdown to learn that Essential’s first two products, still in development, are a smartphone and a personal digital assistant (like Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Microsoft Cortana). But both are different from the run of the mill, according to Rubin, and they adhere to his Essential principles.
The Essential PH-1 phone, for example, is encased in durable titanium and ceramic. It's a premium design that surpasses Apple's flagship iPhone 7 and Samsung's latest offering, the Galaxy S8. But the "feature" that caught my attention first was that it's an unlocked phone, and will run on all mobile carriers. Not being locked in to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile is a big deal. And not having a boatload of bloatware that you can't remove is something that will appeal as well.
The PH-1's Gorilla Glass 5.71-inch screen stretches from edge to edge of the phone’s face, and has a resolution of 2560 x 1312 pixels. A minimalist 4 GB of RAM is supplemented by 128 GB of Universal Flash Storage. Sensors include a barometer, accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope.
The operating system will be the latest stock Android, of course. Rubin promises that it will be able to receive operating system updates in a timely manner. That's in contrast to other phones where updates are funneled through the mobile carrier, and can take a year or more to arrive, if ever. The PH-1 phone costs $699 and has no headphone jack. Accessories connect magnetically to the phone’s body; the first add-on is a 360-degree camera that ships with the phone. The docking system will be open source, so other companies can build accessories for the Essential family of devices. Additional specs can be found here.
You can preorder a PH-1 right now, although no release date is given, or just provide an email address to be kept posted on its progress.
The other product is the Essential Home digital assistant, and it’s even more “in development” than the PH-1. The key thing about this device is that most of its functions occur right on the device, not on a distant server. Rubin wants to help you keep your private data private. Another distinction of Essential Home is that you don’t have to tap or even talk to it. Essential’s Mara Segal explains:
“It can take note of your routines and let you know when something feels off or if a light is left on. You can ask Essential Home to play your favorite music and when you start a conversation it will adjust the volume downward so you don’t have to talk over it. When you’re getting ready in the morning, Essential Home can show how long you have until you need to leave and even blink the lights when it is time…” Right now, Essential Home has no price or release date, but you can provide an email address to receive updates.
Are you intrigued by a family of mobile devices that's not tied to Google, Apple, Microsoft, and runs on any mobile carrier? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 2 Jun 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is This the Essential Gadget? (Posted: 2 Jun 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved