Gem 3Source: Kevin Hoffman

What you need to know

  • Kevin Hoffman, a lead designer at Essential, shared images of upcoming projects.
  • These include the Essential PH3 and Essential GEM, devices the company had been working on for a launch later in 2020.
  • Essential was shuttered in February 2020.

Andy Rubin's Essential was shut down in February 2020, but we still have a chance at seeing what the company was cooking up for a summer launch if all had gone as planned.

Kevin Hoffman, a former Essential designer, shared images of the Essential GEM and Essential PH3, devices which could have launched as the Essential Phone 2 and/or 3 if the company hadn't closed down.

Of the PH3, Hoffman comments:

Essential PH3 was a project I led as a designer in an effort to create an inclusive phone with contemporary tech & aesthetic, at a low price point. The design was constrained to low BOM costs using a preexisting OLED display with defined dimensions, bead-blasted machined aluminum, and 2.5D cover glass.

Noteworthy design detailing is expressed in the back triple camera system: A polished stainless steel camera housing holding a flash module and 3 camera lenses. This exaggerated, bold treatment accentuates a high performance camera story in an age where consumers prioritize phones with exceptional cameras. Additionally, chemical etched back cover glass created further contrast with the camera, and the flat side wall treatment paid homage to the original PH1 Essential phone design language.

Regarding the Gem, Hoffman says:

Noteworthy industrial design features include a 3D molded glass unibody (a manufacturing feat that has never been done before with the help of Corning Glass), a MX resistant coating with striking color effects, and a slim form factor & OLED display that refocuses how we interact with mobile devices.

Hoffman also showed off the canceled Essential PH2, which would have originally launched as the Essential Phone 2.

PH2 was a project I overtook as lead designer during a team reorganization. I contributed to early conceptualization, form & detail iteration, creating visual presentations, collaborating with Chinese vendors and meeting for product builds, CMF/PRD documentation for manufacturing, CMF approvals, etc.

This phone had a semi-round side profile for considered ergonomics and "slim border" look, a dual camera system, SUS321 ultra-fine bead blasted frame, 2.5D front cover glass, matte chemical etched back cover glass, IP68 rating, 84% screen to body ratio, and supported the "Essential click connect" system. Among others, all these features combined for a competitive mobile device (at the time).

All projects look particularly well-considered and premium, at least in terms of design. In an alternate world, the Essential PH3 may have launched as the Essential Phone 2, with the GEM launching as a quirky side-act simar to the Samsung Galaxy Fold. In this world, all we have are the images.

Essential Phone review: One (big) step away from the flagship competition