Essential Project GEM Phone: smartphone or remote?

Andy Rubin, co-creator of Android OS and founder of the “Essential Products” brand revealed a very skinny looking device that’s supposed to be a phone.

The Essential Project GEM. (Photo: Essential)

Back in October, the tech community raised their eyebrows at a rather bizarre-looking smartphone revealed by Essential on Twitter. The Essential Project Gem doesn’t look like a traditional smartphone. Instead, it resembles a TV remote, with iconography that could work on a smartwatch instead. Interestingly, Essential claims the Project GEM is in the early testing phase.

The Project GEM has a tall, skinny design, unlike any smartphone we’ve seen thus far. The UI elements also appear to be specifically designed for the tall form factor, with colourful, square-looking tiles. The Project GEM most likely runs Android under the elongated UI design.

The device seems to have a fingerprint sensor on the back, with a single primary camera and what appears to be a flash in the upper left corner. Additionally, it looks the colours on the back shift depending on the viewing angle.

Sadly, due to the Project GEM’s shape, it doesn’t seem users would enjoy watching videos or playing games on the device. Imagine trying to send a text message or replying to an email. That will be a nightmare. It’s just too slim.

However, if a 2018 Bloomberg report has any merit, Essential Products may have figured out a method of interaction. Bloomberg reported that Andy Rubin and his team are working on an AI-based smartphone that “will try to mimic the user and automatically respond to messages on their behalf.” Okay. Interesting.

Customised UI. (Photo: Smartphone Leaks/Essential via Twitter)

It’s exciting to see Andy Rubin and Essential experiment with a new form factor and OS design. Smartphones are mostly the same nowadays. Rectangle slabs are the order of the day with few manufacturers offering meaningful improvements each year.

Though the elongated form factor looks strange at first glance, let’s not forget the bizarre creations of the 2000s. The Nokia 7280 was just as polarising as this prototype device. It seemed Nokia designed the phone as a fashion statement and added phone functionality after.

The Nokia 7280 from 2004. (Photo: GSMArena)

Nokia aside, the Essential Project GEM is indeed a strange one. However, it’s always a good sign when innovators think outside the box and come up with exciting designs. The Project GEM deviates from the oblong shapes dominating the marketplace, even if it looks like a TV remote.