Andy Rubin, the co-founder of Android before it became a central part of Google, is eyeing a return to the smartphone market. Instead of making smartphone software, however, Rubin is reportedly interested in developing an Android handset, according to a report today from The Information. The man responsible for co-creating the world's most ubiquitous mobile operating system is trying to recruit people for the new venture, the report adds, but it's unclear whether Rubin would take a leadership role with the new project or simply fund it.
The phone company may be financed through Playground Fund, Rubin's startup incubator he founded this year after departing from Google last fall. Playground has raised around $300 million thus far, and Rubin has been active in the venture capital community since becoming a partner at Redpoint Ventures in April. He's put money toward artificial intelligence and smart home initiatives, but reportedly still sees the Android phone market as a ripe area for new business.
There's an opportunity for Android in the high-end market
The Android market — especially in the low and midrange — has no shortage of newcomers like the Nextbit Robin and OnePlus hoping to carve out a small piece of the market. So if there is an opportunity for Rubin, it might be best found at the high end, where Apple has typically dominated. Google itself has expressed interest in competing with Apple in that space by designing and building its own smartphone components in partnership with chip manufacturers.
Rubin's return to Android would mark another surprise move from the serial entrepreneur. Rubin abruptly left Google's Android division in March 2013, handing it over to fellow executive (and future Google CEO) Sundar Pichai. He then left Google officially in November 2014 after overseeing the company's secretive acquisition of numerous high-profile robotics startups, including quadruped robot designer Boston Dynamics.