Former Essential employees form OSOM, a tech firm making privacy-centric hardware

Former Essential employees form OSOM, a tech firm making privacy-centric hardware

Many former Essential Products employees have joined a new startup called OSOM, which stands for “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.” The company has secured $5.6 million in funding and will use that money to create products that put an emphasis on privacy.

According to a CNET report, OSOM’s main goal in making consumer hardware is to respect user privacy. That means the company won’t collect any analytical data without explicit user consent. If data is collected, the company will tell users exactly how that data is being used. OSOM founder Jason Keats, who was a former head of R&D at Essential, told CNET that “there will never… [be] a scenario where we have an individual’s data.”

Users will also be able to control what data is shared with third-party apps, although OSOM didn’t make clear how this method of control will be implemented. OSOM has, however, assured potential customers that when a device’s camera or GPS is turned off, they won’t be turned on through software without a user knowing. Some of today’s phones already allow people to do that, but OSOM said its privacy-first features will be easier to use.

As of now, OSOM hasn’t said what kind of products it’s working on, only revealing it has seven or eight in mind. What OSOM won’t do is re-create Essential or release products the former company never finished. However, with so much talent from Essential Products coming to OSOM, it’s very likely there will be at least one phone in the next few years.

Other notable former Essential Products employees at OSOM include Wilson Chan (former head of operations), Wolfgang M. Muller (former VP of Global Sales), Jean-Baptiste Théou (former Principal Software Engineer), and more. It’s a small team consisting of nine full-time employees, but OSOM is planning to expand to 50 by the end of 2021.

According to Keats, he and his team learned a lot from working on the Essential Phone. Keats acknowledged that its one and only smartphone was flawed — it featured buggy software and an underwhelming camera, not to mention it was rushed to market. He’s hoping to avoid a repeat of that, so consumers should expect a much more polished experience.

When OSOM does launch its first product, it will likely run Android. But it’s unclear if the company will ship a smartphone with a customized version of Android lacking Google apps, or simply strengthen Android with improved security and privacy features. Whatever is released, OSOM has assured that it’ll feature premium hardware at an affordable price. We can expect a simultaneous launch in the U.S. and Europe, with plans to launch in parts of Asia, too.

It’s important to note that Andy Rubin, the founder of Essential Products and the center of recent sexual assault allegations, is not involved in OSOM.

“Essential’s our past,” Keats said. “OSOM’s our future. Andy’s not involved in any capacity.”

About author

Brandon Russell
Brandon Russell

Brandon's love of technology can be traced back to his childhood, when he would obsessively watch Back to the Future. Since then he's followed the industry and its many innovations, from handheld consoles to powerful smartphones. He's still waiting on a hoverboard.