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Andy Rubin wants to disrupt the Apple-Samsung 'duopoly'

The father of Android hopes to use his new startup Essential to inject some new innovation into phones.

WIRED Business Conference Presented By Visa At Spring Studios In New York City
Andy Rubin, onstage at the Wired conference, shows off the Essential Phone.
Brian Ach/Getty Images for Wired

Maybe Apple and Samsung just aren't bringing their A-game anymore.

Andy Rubin, the creator of Google's Android, offered up that fresh critique Wednesday while speaking to reporters at the Wired Business Conference in New York. Rubin's statements come a few days after his new startup introduced a premium-tier phone, called the Essential Phone, which will compete against those two tech heavyweights.

"I think when there's this duopoly with these two guys owning 40 percent of the market, this complacency sets in," Rubin said. "And that's the perfect time to start a company with this. Some people are complacent and it needs to be disrupted."

Apparently, several investors agree with him, with Essential raking in $300 million in new funding, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, putting the startup at a $900 million to $1 billion valuation.

Rubin's big idea with Essential is to make things simpler for customers. He wants to do away with dongles and connectors for his startup's devices and find new ways to get disparate ecosystems -- like iOS, Android and Alexa -- to all work with his company's operating system, Ambient OS, so all your electronics can work together.

"It kind of occurred to us that we need a connector-less future, where you don't have to buy dongles, you don't have to change from a USB-B to a USB-C, and stuff like that," Rubin said, while recounting a visit to a Four Seasons hotel where his room included a Bose speaker with an old 30-pin connector. "So this phone gets us there in an incremental step."

Rubin's startup is also developing a smart speaker, called the Essential Home. He showed the group of reporters an early prototype of the device, which was a thin, circular black touchscreen with some wiring on the back.