A former employee of Google, and creator of the Android OS, Andy Rubin, unveiled two new products from his new company – a high-end smartphone and a stand-alone virtual assistant.  The “Essential Phone” and “Essential Home” are intended to compete with the products of his former employers, the Pixel and Google Home, as well as those from Apple Samsung.

Currently, the Essential smartphone is available to pre-order in the US and costs $69.  It comes with a 360-degree camera add-on for $50 more.  It’s positioned as a premium device, with an edge-to-edge screen and high-end processor.  Because it’s made from titanium, the device is supposed to be more durable than other Android devices or the iPhone, according to its PR.

The Essential Home is close in size to the Amazon Echo Dot, but more elegant.  At this point, price for the virtual assistant hasn’t yet been disclosed.  Because Google home is being sold for $129, and Amazon Echo is available for $179, it will be difficult to charge much more than $200 without providing clearly superior capabilities.

The Essential Home, unlike the phone, won’t be running on Android.  Instead, it’ll run on a new operating system called Ambient OS.  Just like other comparable devices, it is speech enabled and lets developers use open SDK.  Essential Home is designed to integrate with other smart devices.  According to the website, “Ambient OS automatically introduces itself to new and existing devices and helps set them up in no time.”

In a blog post, Rubin explains that frustration with Android and some personal guilt motivated him to start the new company:

For all the good Android has done to help bring technology to nearly everyone 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?

I left that night reflecting deeply on what was great and what was frustrating with the current state of technology today. After another long talk with my friend we decided that I needed to start a new kind of company using 21st century methods to build products for the way people want to live in the 21st century.

Will these devices live up to the promises?  Will they be able to compete in the market?  We’ll have to wait and see.

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