Essential Products Inc., the consumer electronics venture lead by Andy Rubin, Android Co-Founder, is holding-off on other projects to focus on making a new type of mobile device that will imitate the user and automatically reply to texts.
The start-up paused development of its home speaker, months after withdrawing from another smartphone that had been developing, said people who are familiar with the subject but wish to remain anonymous. Revenue generated from an earlier phone was also disappointing and after continuous setbacks, Essential was considered to put up for sale this year.
The prototype of the planned mobile device is not similar to typical phones. It will feature a small screen and requires voice commands for interaction, together with Artificial Intelligence software by Essential. Their aim is to develop a product to automatically make appointments or reply to emails and text messages. Customers can also make phone calls using this device. This mobile device may be considered Essential’s last chance of progressing in the market owned by Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple Inc.
Last year, Rubin said:
“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. I think I can solve part of the addictive behavior.”
Although the concept is innovative, it still comes across different practical challenges. Users who have already been using Alexa or Siri know the constraints of virtual assistants. Thus, Essential believes to sell the device as a counterpart of user’s smartphones or as a phone for those users who don’t like to spend a lot of time tied to screens.
Essential is backed by about $300 million, making it one of Silicon Valley’s most ambitious consumer-electronics ventures in recent years. Last year, the start-up had been troubled by misbehavior accusations at workplace, connecting to Rubin’s period at Google. Rubin denied the accusations and in last November took leave of absence for a short period. In the first six months of this year, Rubin boosted the company for sale and called off the second model of the Essential Phone.
Before Essential decided to pause the production of its home-speaker, it had already lost project’s main engineers due to the differences caused by prospects for releasing such an ambitious device. Rubin thought of it as a single center with its personal voice-command technology that can ask questions from Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant – an achievement that needs the support of these three competitors.
Rubin, who laid the basis of the innovative smartphone business, expects to gain a second act with the latest, AI-dependent device. Essential intends to finish the first design of the phone by the end of this year, an anonymous person having knowledge about its development said. The person further claimed that the start-up may display the device to industry partners by January, in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show – the same place where it announced its original phone last year.