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Android co-founder has a plan to cure our smartphone addiction

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San Francisco - During a recent outing to a fancy restaurant, Andy Rubin spotted an all-too-familiar tableau: a couple on what seemed to be a first date taking pictures of their food and then losing themselves in their smartphones for the next 10 minutes. Rubin is partly responsible for this antisocial behavior; he helped create Android, which powers 85% of the world’s smartphones.

Rubin acknowledges the downsides to the smartphone revolution he helped unleash and says his new hardware company, Essential, is working on ways to solve the tendency to check one’s phone every five minutes. “We all lived happy lives before we had always-on internet,” he says in an exclusive interview at Playground Global, his Palo Alto, California, incubator.

This week marks the debut of Essential’s first gadget. The Essential Phone is an anomaly: a sleek, premium smartphone not designed by Apple, Samsung or a discount Chinese brand. It has a mirrored ceramic back, titanium edges, a display that covers most the phone’s front and a magnetic connector for a new world of accessories and hardware upgrades that he says will let people hang onto their phones longer.

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