Essential's first phone, the PH-1, was not the runaway success the company was hoping for.
Essential’s first phone, the PH-1, was not the runaway success the company was hoping for.

Image: lili sams/mashable

What will the smartphone of the future look like? 

Foldable phones are holograms are certainly a possibility, but if you’re Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, the killer feature for tomorrow’s phone might be an AI that’s able text for you.

According to Bloomberg, Rubin’s company Essential is reportedly working on a new kind of phone designed to be controlled mostly with your voice.

The phone is said to have a “small screen” and use the company’s AI to “book appointments or respond to emails and text messages on its own.”

In other words, it sounds a lot like Essential’s working on its own version of Google Duplex, which was shown off at Google I/O, and is intended to also help users book appointments and respond to messages on their behalf.

The report claims the phone is still in development, and the company hopes to have a “first prototype” by the end of the year and could introduce it at next year’s CES in January.

A phone designed to be used less

We’re at an awkward technological phase where our phones are more powerful and do more things than ever before. With increasingly larger displays and so much content to consume, it’s no surprise that all of this connectivity has become extremely addictive and harmful to our health.

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Technology has become so pervasive that the very companies that pushed us towards this addiction are now actively coming up with new ways to help curb some of this behavior.

Digital wellness is at the top of everyone’s minds. Features like Screen Time in iOS 12 and the “Wind Down and Do Not Disturb” in Android 9 Pie are steps towards helping us limit our device time.

Of course, there’s still more than can be done towards balancing our digital and real lives. A phone with smaller screen that’s designed not to be touched and swiped is one approach.

Essential wants to use AI to automate the menial things we all spend too much time doing on our devices.

The phone doesn’t sound like it’ll be too watered down that it’d be like using a dumb phone. Instead, it seems like Essential wants to use AI to automate the menial things we all spend too much time doing on our devices.

Just like with Google Duplex, AI that works on your behalf will give you back time you can use to do something productive. So instead of wasting your day sending emails, you can spend that time with your family or friends.

That’s a future I’m totally down for. That said, the time saved using AI to automate phone tasks could also be spent on more time-wasting garbage like watching more YouTube videos or getting deeper into the dark corners of Instagram feeds. 

At the end of the day, developing tech to help us use tech less and regain precious time is mostly bullshit. The only thing that can save us from technology addiction is willpower. If you don’t have the discipline to control yourself, the cycle will repeat itself forever.

There’s also the matter of Essential’s first phone, the PH-1, being a complete failure. Not to mention, the company has yet to ship its Essential Home smart speaker. Essential’s track record isn’t great, but at least it’s still trying. Somebody has to save us from the dangers of texting and walking, right?

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