We have a new contender in the smartphone space. "Essential" is a new OEM that came seemingly out of nowhere, announced by Andy Rubin a mere nine months ago. Rubin is the co-founder and former CEO of Android Inc., a little company that was snatched up by Google in 2005 and went on to build the world's most popular operating system. Rubin left Google, and Essential is his new startup with ambitions in the smartphone and smart home markets. Amazon, Tencent, and Foxconn have already invested in Essential, and the latest round of funding values the company at more than a billion dollars—and this was before it even shipped a product.
With the launch of the "Essential Phone," we finally have that first product: a high-end, $700 smartphone running the operating system Rubin helped create. The phone more or less leaves Android alone, and, with the backing of hardware manufacturer Foxconn, most of the innovation here is in the hardware.