Google Android inventor Andy Rubin offers peek of new smartphone said to be iPhone rival

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To build a smartphone to take on the iPhone and high-end Android devices, it would be nice to have an office full of former Apple and Google engineers.

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And it certainly would be helpful to have invented software for a smartphone operating system yourself.

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Having spent time as a powerful executive at one of the firms targeted for disruption would also be an asset.

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Then you might want to drum up some hype.

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It’s been about 2 1/2 months since a report suggested that Android inventor and former high-profile Google executive Andy Rubin was starting up a hardware company, to be built around a flagship phone.

“Armed with about a 40-person team, filled with recruits from Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Rubin is preparing to announce a new company called Essential and serve as its chief executive officer,” Bloomberg reported Jan. 13, citing anonymous sources.

The “centerpiece” for a planned lineup of Essential products would be a phone “with a large edge-to-edge screen that lacks a surrounding bezel,” according to Bloomberg.

Rubin left his senior vice-president position at Google in November 2014 after nearly a decade with the company.

In November 2015 he registered Essential Products, Inc. with California regulators and late last year the firm registered “Essential” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, naming smartphones, tablets and operating software for mobile phones as products, Bloomberg said.

“While still in the prototyping stage, Rubin’s phone is aimed at the top of the market where Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Alphabet Inc.’s new Pixel reside,” the news outlet reported.

Rubin, who co-created Android software, sold Android to Google in 2005 and then led transformation of the software into the most prevalent smartphone operating system on the planet. He had reportedly suffered a blow earlier this year when SoftBank pulled out of a planned $100 million investment in Essential “partly because of the Japanese investor’s increasingly close relationship with Apple,” the Wall Street Journal reported (paywall).

But if a tantalizing tweet from Rubin on March 27 is any indication, loss of the planned SoftBank funding didn’t kill Essential or its phone.

“I’m really excited about how this is shaping up,” Rubin tweeted above a photo of a phone mostly covered up by a hand. “Eager to get it in more people’s hands… ”

In the photo, only a corner of the phone is shown. It appears to possess a very narrow bezel, although it’s possible that what appears to be a bezel in the photo is an external protector.

Rubin’s tweet quickly drew worldwide attention, from the tech press to the Daily Mail. That online newspaper’s coverage is noteworthy for a sidebar showing, apparently, Rubin’s dog barking at a Google robot.

The phone is expected to hit the market around the middle of this year and cost about as much as an iPhone 7, Bloomberg reported, suggesting a retail price of $649.

Whether the Essential phone runs on Android remains to be seen.

 

Photo: Photo of the corner of a phone, posted on Twitter by Android inventor Andy Rubin (Twitter)

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