Essential Products Inc, who is the consumer electronics startup run by Android creator Andy Rubin, has decided to put most projects aside to focus on the development of a new kind of phone that will try to mimic the user and automatically respond to messages on their behalf, according to people that are familiar with the plans.
The company has paused all development plans for home speakers, months after cancelling a different smartphone that had been in the works, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. Sales of an earlier phone were disappointing, and the company is abandoning the effort partly because the product is too similar to others on the market. Essential had considered selling itself this year after a series of setbacks.
The design of this new mobile phone will not be like a standard smartphone. It would have a small screen and will require more user interaction, mainly using voice commands, in concert with Essential's artificial intelligence software. The idea of the product is to book appointments or respond to emails as well as text messages on its own, according to the people who are familiar with the product plans. Users would also be able to make phone calls from the planned device.
If this all sounds a bit too sci-fi like, especially like the movie 'Her'. Rubin would like to capture people's imagination with a product that's truly different from alternatives. The planned device, which hasn’t been previously reported, could be Essential’s last hope to break into a market dominated by Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.
In an interview with Bloomberg last year, Rubin suggested a benevolent incentive for embarking on a project along these lines. "If I can get to the point where your phone is a virtual version of you, you can be off enjoying your life, having that dinner, without touching your phone, and you can trust your phone to do things on your behalf," he said. "I think I can solve part of the addictive behaviour."
However, the concept does face many practical challenges. People who have spent time talking with Siri or Alexa know the limits of a virtual assistant. As a result, Essential expects to market the product as a complement to people's smartphones or as a phone for those who want to spend less time staring at their screens.
Essential is backed by about $300 million, making it Silicon Valley's most ambitious consumer-electronics upstart in years. Essential aims to have a first prototype of the phone finished by the end of the year.
You can watch the review of the Essential phone below.