Essential Gem smartphone: Cheat sheet

The company behind the Essential PH-1 is working on a new form factor for the smartphone. Here's what developers, businesses, and users need to know about the Essential Gem.

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Image: Essential Products via CNET

Although the Essential Phone PH-1 failed to gain much traction, the smartphone did prove that a flagship device with impeccable design and high-end materials doesn't have to break the bank.

When the PH-1 smartphone failed and news broke that Andy Rubin was asked to resign from Google because of a sexual misconduct accusation, it seemed as though Essential was done--but the announcement of a new device indicates that is not the case. The device in question is the Essential Gem. Let's take a closer look at the Essential Gem and see what makes this new smartphone special. This article will be updated when there is more information about Essential's latest smartphone. It is also available as a download, Cheat sheet: Essential Gem smartphone (free PDF).

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What is the Essential Gem smartphone?

Essential has shrugged off the standard phone form factor. While most companies are sticking with the roughly 6" by 3" size, Essential's Gem offers a much taller and skinnier design. At the moment, there are no official specs for the phone chassis, but it appears to be about the size of a standard television remote. 

How will users interact with a device that casts off the current standards of mobile screen real estate? The answer is artificial intelligence (AI). In 2018, Rubin announced he was working on a device that would focus primarily on AI. Rubin said this device would be "a virtual version of you" and that "You can be off enjoying your life, having that dinner, without touching your phone, and you can trust your phone to do things on your behalf."

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With that in mind, the Essential Gem's form factor starts to make perfect sense. Instead of having to tap and type away on a device, the Gem would rely heavily on AI and voice interaction.

If this sounds like the smartphone of the future, you might not be too far off. But will users who are accustomed to tapping and typing be willing to adopt such a radical change?

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What are the Essential Gem's specs?

At the moment, specs for the Gem are quite sparse. What we do know about the phone is:

  • It will be offered in various colorshift variants.

  • It has a physical volume button and fingerprint sensor.

  • In includes a front-facing "punch out" camera.

It is rumored the phone will be powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 chipset. 

Outside of that, it is assumed, the Essential Gem will lean heavily on a default AI-driven assistant even more so than current smartphones. Chances are good the AI assistant will not be Google Assistant, but rather an in-house version of the tool.

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What are the Essential Gem's key features?

The Essential Gem's primary key feature is how users will interact with the device. Instead of the usual method, users will work with the Gem through the AI assistant.

Imagine taking an Android device, stripping it of its keyboard, and requiring users interact with Google Assistant for almost every action or having the AI interact for you. That is not to say the Essential Gem will be without a keyboard--no images have appeared to make me believe otherwise; however, the scant marketing material available clearly indicates the strange form factor alone would preclude users from working on the device in the typical fashion.

So, the Essential Gem could be the first purely AI-driven mobile interface.

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Beyond that, the Essential Gem appears to include a card-driven display,similar to that of the now-defunct Windows phone. With a vertically-scrolling home screen instead of the standard horizontal scroll in nearly every mobile device, users could enjoy a never-ending supply of cards to interact with, though that is unlikely given the Essential Gem's focus on AI.

The Essential's Gem screen size could prove to be a major hurdle. Because of the new shape, chances are users will not be viewing much video with the Essential Gem; this is counter to nearly every modern smartphone that places significant importance on the ability to view media of nearly all types.

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Is the Essential Gem smartphone an ideal device for business users?

The Essential Gem could offer unique benefits for businesses. First off, this isn't a standard device that will have users installing every application in the various app stores. Why? The display won't be terribly kind to many of those apps. Because of this, businesses might not see employees who use the Gem as their primary device spend as much time on social media.

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The second benefit comes by way of the AI-driven interface. With typical smartphones, users must look at the screen and tap away to interact--this has led to an exponential rise in traffic accidents and worse. With the Essential Gem's primary interaction being through AI, chances are this device will lean heavily on voice interaction; if so, employees are less likely to find themselves staring at their screens when they should be staring at the road. That's a win-win for everyone involved.

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What are the Essential Gem's competitors?

At the moment, there is nothing like what the Essential Gem could deliver. Most manufacturers are busy designing and developing smartphones that do not fall too far outside of the mainstream. With that said, many of the newer Android devices tend to lean on AI for interaction. Consider these devices:

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When will the Essential Gem smartphone be available?

There is no information about when the Essential Gem will be available for the public. Essential is still very much in the testing phase for this device, and no word has been given on how long this will take. 

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