The team behind Andy Rubin’s Essential is back, but without Rubin. Now called OSOM, it plans to introduce new privacy-focused hardware and software in late 2021.
It all started with two trips to China. The first, in August 2019, brought Jason Keats to Hong Kong just as protesters took over the airport. The head of R&D for the once-buzzy startup Essential Products was there to work on the company’s upcoming Project Gem, an eye-catching new smartphone with an unusual, skinny design. The second was in January. Keats was back in China, finishing up Project Gem a project ultimately doomed by Essential’s controversy-plagued founder.
While Essential is no household name, its founder, Andy Rubin, is revered by smartphone aficionados as “the father of Android.” His reputation drove the quick rise of the startup, but the poor response to its debut handset, the Essential Phone PH-1, and the outcry over Rubin’s sexual misconduct allegations sparked its similarly rapid demise.