Andy Rubin, the man who created the Android operating system, is planning his next big thing with a new startup called Essential, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Essential will focus on high-end hardware and attempt to differentiate itself from budget-friendly Android products that have flooded the market.
The company is expected to formally announce a significant round of funding from major investors in the coming weeks, according to our source. It’s unclear how much Essential has raised and the deal isn’t final, we’re told.
Bloomberg reports that one of Essential’s first products will be a modular smartphone, which means you’ll be able to clip on accessories like better cameras. In theory, this would extend the life of the product by keeping the hardware up to date. Bloomberg says one prototype of the phone has no bezels around the screen and a large display. It may also be made of ceramic. LG, Motorola, and Google have all experimented with modular smartphones, but none of them really took off. Google canceled its Ara modular smartphone last year.
We’ve also heard the vision of Essential is to create an ecosystem of hardware products, but it will all start with the new smartphone.
A spokesperson for Essential declined to comment.
Rubin is the CEO of Essential, which started in his startup incubator Playground Global, our source says. Rubin worked at Google for several years after selling Android to the company. He eventually stepped down as the head of Android to lead Google’s robotics projects before leaving the company in 2014 to start Playground Global.
Essential’s team includes former Magic Leap executives Brian Wallace and Andy Fouché along with Niccolo De Masi, CEO of Glu Mobile (maker of that famous Kim Kardashian mobile game), and a handful of former Apple and Google employees. (These folks aren’t exactly hiding where they work, either. Just search “Andy Rubin Stealth Startup” on LinkedIn.)