Andy Rubin’s tech startup Essential only released one product before it collapsed, the Essential Phone PH-1, but the company had big ambitions for other devices. The ‘Essential Home’ was designed as something like today’s smart displays, and now a rumored prototype has appeared on eBay.
The prototype, which is selling for $900 on eBay (no auction, surprisingly), is only described as “Essential Inc has never released a single smart speaker prototype.” It has a large round screen, which mirrors the original renders, but the frame is held in place with four pieces of tape. The photos show the device booting into a relatively standard version of Android 8.1 with the security patch level of June 5, 2018.
The Essential Home was originally announced in 2017, alongside the Essential Phone PH-1. It was designed as an all-in-one digital hub, with the functionality of a smart speaker and the ability to control smart home devices with voice commands, a touchscreen or a glance. Essential called it a device “that you’ll be proud to display in your home.” No strange boxes, tubes or lights.
According to a Wired May 2017 interview, Essential Home was going to support Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit, Nest products and other smart home devices. It would also work with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri – it’s unclear if these assistants would have been available on the hub itself, or if it would simply connect to the ecosystems around these assistants. Anyway, none of these features seem to work on this prototype.
Essential closed in 2020, after years of stalled progress on new products and a declining reputation in the tech community (primarily due to allegations of sexual harassment against founder Andy Rubin while working at Google). Many of Essential’s engineers and other staff (minus Rubin) reorganized and founded OSOM, which plans to ship a smartphone later this year.
Going through: 9to5Google