Essential reveals Project Gem smartphone with very long, unusual design

Image: Essential (modified by The Verge)

We know next to nothing about the images you’re about to see — except that they don’t look like any phone we’ve ever seen before. The first photos come from Andy Rubin, the controversial mobile industry executive who co-founded Android, left Google amid allegations of sexual misconduct while retaining a huge severance package, and went on to create the Essential Phone. (He also co-created the T-Mobile Sidekick, aka Danger Hiptop, many years ago.)

The photos appear to show an elongated phone with a very, very tall UI composed of card-like apps, but with big buttons that look like they’d be perfectly at home on a smartwatch. It look extremely small in his hands, too. The device has a large button and volume rocker on the right edge and a fingerprint divot around back, below what appears to be a single main camera.

And as you can see, these devices have some decidedly flashy finishes that change color when you view them at different angles — a sea green that shifts to yellow and blue, for example.

An Essential spokesperson confirmed to the The Verge that this is the company’s new phone, adding: “We’ve been working on a new device that’s now in early testing with our team outside the lab. We look forward to sharing more in the near future.”

A couple hours later, Essential tweeted some slightly more official images of the new phone, which it’s calling Project Gem:

The original Essential Phone was known for its flashy design, including a sea green color with gold accents known as Ocean Depths. And in late 2018, Bloomberg reported that Essential was working on a phone with a smaller screen that’d be controlled mostly through voice commands, with an AI assistant automatically performing tasks for you. In December, Essential all but confirmed it was working on a second phone.

If some leaked code snippets spotted by XDA-Developers pan out, the Gem may activate its voice assistant when you tap your finger to that divot around back — the code snippets mention a “fingerprint walkie talkie” mode. They also suggest it runs Android and point at a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 processor, whose midrange performance might make sense for a device that’s designed more as a mobile companion than becoming the digital center of your life.

One XDA-Developers reader also spotted an Essential trademark application for the name “GEM,” suggesting it could potentially be the final name of the device as well.

While we wait for more info, perhaps you’d like to know more about that robot dog that’s lurking in the background of Rubin’s snapshots? That’s the Boston Dynamics Spot — from a company that Andy Rubin helped Google temporarily purchase back in 2013, by the way — and we’ve got an awesome video about Spot that you can watch below.

Update, 9:01 PM ET: Added new images from Essential in a new tweet about the device.


Can’t wait for the portrait videos produced by this phone!

When I first saw the picture of this, I thought it was a new universal remote.

It looks exactly what I imagine a $500 Logitech Harmony remote would look like.

Huge opportunity missed if they don’t put an IR blaster on this thing.

The videos are recorded by the camera and not the display.

Got to give the man props for continuously trying to push the envelope on smart phones.

He should also push it horizontally.

I think literally all of his "envelope pushing" is negated by the fact that he’s a gross piece of garbage, but hey, why care about a sexual harasser when there’s siiiiiiiick phones bro

It is possible to be intrigued by a new device and abhor Rubin’s personal behavior.

It’s so easy for you to discredit somebody just based on accusations? Fake news era.

I think we’ll look back at his actions in 30 years and think… what was all the fuss about. We are not a puritan society with exclusively monogamous simple relationships that pretend finances don’t matter anymore.

If all he was was promiscuous then it would not be an issue. Read the times article, his behavior if true, goes well beyond cheating on his wife.

He was accused of sexual harassment, not promiscuity. Hopefully as a society we’ll have stopped easily dismissing sexual harassment as normal in 30 years (not holding my breath), but let’s be honest about what he’s accused of doing (an accusation that Google found credible after investigation).

So is Trump but he’s president and has an unwaveringly loyal following. Do you even AMERICA, bro??

Yeah because Rubin made this phone entirely by himself, he didn’t have a team of talented people working with him or anything…

Did you say the same things about the iPhone 1 because Jobs was a dick too?

I don’t disagree with your first point, but your comparison is flawed.

I don’t want to get into ‘Asshole Olympics’, so I’ll just leave it at this:

They were both CEOs. Yes they had the final say, but there countless engineers, designers, and researchers working on these products. Some of the comments here are so shortsighted and immature.

I’m just saying, being an asshole is unlikable, sure. But allegations of harassment are a whole lot worse.

Not when it’s a bad push. This is a terrible concept.

As a relatively happy Essential phone user, I can definitely say my time with their company and products will clearly now be short-lived.

Can’t believe this is actually coming true.

this is the greatest year of smartphone design ever

hahaha, remember this? funny to look back and see the iPhone 5 as tiny.

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