If you follow the design of a mobile phone, you will be familiar with Essential, an indie manufacturer who swindled the technical press but found no commercial success with his first phone. The company shows off a new concept on Twitter.
While the first Essential phone retained the same basic profile of a modern smartphone and tried innovation with a camera notch and modular add-ons, this "Project GEM" device is a more radical departure, with a much larger and slimmer silhouette. It actually looks like a standard Android phone, if you slide it to 150% height and 50% width in Photoshop.
In less technical terms: if the telephone design was a piece of paper in a kindergarten class, a standard telephone would be a "hamburger" fold. This Essential concept is a "hot dog" fold.
Furthermore, there is not much to say about the hardware. It is a telephone (or perhaps a TV remote control? Hard to say.). It has the standard rounded corners on its super high screen. It has what looks like a cut out camera on the front, a camera with a large bump on the back and a fingerprint reader. It runs what looks like live (if not definitive) software, with a custom user interface that makes more efficient use of that strange screen than unmodified Android. It appears to have multiple interactive panels, in a vague widget-like arrangement, on its long screen. We don't know if Android is being used like the original Essential PH-1, but given the open source flexibility of the operating system, that seems likely.
Assuming there are no major surprises in the hardware, you could be tempted to take it off as an easy way to measure interest, or as a serious product that is a profitable new niche is trying to find. (And of course it can be both.) Many manufacturers are seeking a head start with soft innovations in hardware, such as OnePlus' pop-up cameras to kill the notch in the screen. Sony is trying something similar to this Essential design, but much less extreme, with its extra-long Xperia 1. The Palm brand is excited to try making super-small Android phones like & # 39; secondary & # 39; devices. And all without mentioning more ambitious shifts, such as foldable phones from Samsung, Huawei and others.
But there is a more interesting way to approach this. Let's give Essential the benefit of the doubt and assume that at some point this will become a real product of flesh and blood (um, aluminum and glass?). What problems would a super long, super thin phone solve? This is not one of the radical Nokia designs of the mid-00s, where a company that thought it was invincible created insanely weird things just because it could. This is, I think, a hardware and software team with specific goals, looking for at least some of the ways we deal with the ubiquitous slate phone form factor.
"We've searched for a way to reformulate your perspective on mobile," says the tweet. And it's not the first company trying to shake up a phone market that becomes predictable if not downright boring (in a good way) If Essential wants to shift the standard form factor, it seems that they are trying to do this in a softer way than, for example, the Galaxy Fold or Surface Duo, which is a less exciting goal, but perhaps a more feasible one.
If you are tempted to dismiss this as an orphan greeting from a company that has not gained a foothold in the incredibly competitive market for smartphones, I would suggest that, when the original Galaxy Note came on the market with its "insanely large", "colossal", "gigantic" 5.3 "screen in 2011, it received a similar contempt. The Galaxy Note is one of the best-selling lines in the world and has every manufacturer increasingly larger phone screens on the market, including the normally unswerving Apple. Ignoring seemingly strange design choices is something that manufacturers do at their own risk.
That said, the Galaxy Note had one of the largest technology companies in the world, and even in 2011 it expanded over a growing trend. In comparison, Essential has name recognition among gadget news addicts, and that's about it. If they want to shake up the smartphone market, they have to show how that new form factor can actually benefit users. We will be excited to see what they come up with.