If you follow the design of cell phones, you are familiar with Essential, an indie maker that has made the trade press shine, but has not had commercial success with its first phone. The company shows on Twitter a new concept .
While the first Essential Phone maintained the basic profile of a modern smartphone and tried to innovate with a camera-taker and modular add-ons, This "Project GEM" device is a more radical development with a much larger and more powerful one slimmer silhouette. Basically it looks like a standard Android phone if you distort it in Photoshop to 150% height and 50% width.
Put less technically, if the phone design were a piece of paper in a kindergarten classroom, it would be a standard phone a hamburger fold. This essential concept is a "hot dog" fold.
In addition, there is not much to say about the hardware. It's a phone (or maybe a TV remote? Hard to say.) It has the now common rounded corners on its super-high screen. It has something that looks like a cut-out camera on the front, a camera with a big bump on the back and a fingerprint reader. It will run live software (if not final) with a custom UI that uses the oddly shaped screen more efficiently than unmodified Android. It seems to have several interactive panels in a vague widget-like layout on its long screen. We do not know if Android will run like the original Essential PH-1, but given the open source flexibility of the operating system, this is likely.
Assuming that there are no big surprises in the hardware, one might be tempted to see this either as a simple method of measuring interest or as a serious product trying to find a profitable new niche, to reject. (And of course it can be both.) Many manufacturers are looking for an advantage through soft innovations in hardware, such as hardware. For example, pop-up cameras from OnePlus to turn on the screen. Sony is trying something similar to this essential design with its oversized Xperia 1, but far less extreme. The Palm brand was revived to try to make tiny Android phones "secondary" devices. And all without mentioning more ambitious changes, such as the merging of mobile phones from Samsung, Huawei and others.
But there is a more interesting way to achieve this. Let's give Essential the benefit of the doubt and assume that this will eventually become a real product of flesh and blood (um, aluminum and glass?). What problems would a super thin, long phone solve? This is not a radical mid-nineties Nokia design in which a company that felt it was invincible did a weird job just because it could. This is, I think, a hardware and software team with specific goals, trying to redefine at least some of the ways they interact with the ubiquitous slate-phone form factor.
"We were looking for a way to redesign your perspective on the phone," the tweet says. And it's not the first company trying to shake up a phone market that is predictable, if not downright boring (in a good way). If Essential wants to change the default form factor, this seems to be more gentle than trying the Galaxy Fold or Surface Duo, for example. This is a less exciting but perhaps more achievable goal.
If you're tempted to reject this as a "Hail Mary" pass from a company that could not break into the fiercely competitive smartphone market, I'd suggest holding back. Recall that the original Galaxy Note came across with similar disdain in 2011 with its "insanely large", "colossal", "gigantic" 5.3-inch screen. The Galaxy Note is one of the best-selling models in the world and has brought every single manufacturer on ever larger screens, including the normally unwavering Apple. Ignoring seemingly strange design decisions is a threat to manufacturers.
The Galaxy Note had one of the largest technology companies in the world behind it and even expanded in 2011 in a growing trend. In comparison, Essential has a name recognition among Gadget News addicts. If they want to shake up the smartphone market, they need to show how this new form factor actually benefits users. We will be curious about what comes to your mind.