Essential Now Building New Phone, Report Says, With All the AI

Essential wants to make a grand statement after the PH-1 smartphone failed to inspire

Andy Rubin, who helped create the Android operating system that Google acquired in 2005, is said to be working on an AI-powered device meant to fight the smartphone addiction he once helped foster.

Not so fast, because according to a report from Bloomberg, Essential's next phone could be anything but conventional.

Apparently due to this very different approach the phone would be marketed as a product created to complement a user's existing smartphone, or one aimed at people who want to spend less time staring at a phone screen. Meanwhile, the company is said to have abandoned the development of a regular smartphone "because the product is too similar to others on the market" and "sales of an earlier phone were disappointing".

Insiders told Bloomberg that the new phone would book appointments, respond to emails and send texts on its own, and be primarily controlled using voice commands.

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If this all sounds a bit like the sci-fi movie "Her", that's sort of by design.

In an interview with Bloomberg a year ago, Rubin suggested a benevolent incentive for embarking on a project along these lines. "I think I can solve part of the addictive behavior". However, the latest piece of information has hinted that the manufacturer could be working on a second handset, but expect it to be quite different from its first product. Using voice as the main input point not only presents privacy concerns, but it's also a technical challenge around voice recognition that even companies like Google are struggling to master.

One of the sources adds that Essential is aiming to have a prototype of the phone finished by the end of 2018 and may show it off to industry partners at CES 2019 in January.

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