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Former Android chief Andy Rubin to release a high-end iPhone competitor this year

Andy Rubin

The smartphone market would look a lot different today were it not for Andy Rubin. An exceptional engineer with a keen eye for knowing where the tech landscape is liable to shift, Rubin famously co-founded Android before the company was acquired by Google in 2005. With Rubin steering the Android ship, Google’s mobile OS quickly became a viable alternative to iOS before eventually becoming the most prevalent mobile OS on the planet.

In late 2014, Rubin left Google and has largely been out of the public eye ever since. While there were rumblings that Rubin was focused on building his own smartphone company, details about the rumored venture were few and far in between.

Now comes word via Bloomberg that Rubin’s smartphone project is not only real, but is impressively ambitious. Not content with releasing a run of the mill smartphone, Rubin is aiming to release an AI-based high-end premium device meant to compete with the iPhone and top-tier Android handsets like the Google Pixel.

Rubin’s new company is called Essential and is currently about 40 people deep, according to the report. In addition to releasing a smartphone, Essential is reportedly also working on developing a variety of other AI oriented consumer electronic products.

A platform company designed to tie multiple devices together, Essential is working on a suite of consumer hardware products, including ones for the mobile and smart home markets, one of the people said.

The centerpiece of the system is a high-end smartphone with a large edge-to-edge screen that lacks a surrounding bezel. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January, Rubin discussed the smartphone with mobile carrier executives, including some from Sprint Corp., people familiar with the talks said.

One prototype of an Essential smartphone currently being worked on is said to sport a screen larger than the iPhone 7 Plus’ 5.5-inch display, albeit with a smaller footprint on account of its edgeless design.

If all goes according to plan, Essential is hoping to have a product available for purchase as early as June of this year.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.