Other Gem features include a “colorshift” material on the back of the device that appears to change hues depending on the light striking it, which is visually striking but perhaps not a major selling point given the ubiquity of protective cases.

Interestingly, last year Bloomberg reported that Essential was working on a phone designed to have a small screen and powered by an assistant that attempts to perform several functions for the user without manual intervention. Said phone would “require users to interact mainly using voice commands, in concert with Essential’s artificial-intelligence software.” Leaks from XDA Developers last month showed Essential’s new phone had code identifying a “fingerprint walkie talkie” mode speculated to be a way of activating said assistant, in which case perhaps that pit on the back is not a fingerprint sensor at all. Bloomberg noted that Rubin had previously characterized plans for a assistant integration and small screen as a way to fight “addictive” phone use, which sure, whatever.


On the other hand, this new form factor would appear to preclude normal use of many apps, and god only knows how convenient using the keyboard will be. If the primary mode of interaction with the device is intended to be a voice assistant, that could get real annoying—and really privacy-limiting—fast. Then there’s the whole matter of all that detestable behavior attributed to Rubin, which should probably give potential customers pause.