Andy Rubin, co-founder of Android, promised us something big. He did not disappoint. Essential Products just revealed their debut device: the Essential Phone. It’s a 128 GB, Snapdragon 835-powered work of art inside a titanium and ceramic body. Should you care?
The Essential Phone pushes the limits of bezel-less design. The screen pulls up closer to the edges than the LG G6 and even the Samsung Galaxy S8. The front facing camera juts down onto the display where the forehead of the phone would be, and is flanked by the notification bar on either side. It’s a 19:10 aspect ratio, with a 2560 x 1312 QHD display made from Corning Gorilla Glass 5.
The back is made of ceramic, with a titanium body sandwiched in-between. Dual 13MP cameras sit at the top corner – a full colour and a monochromatic pairing like the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus and others. Rubin and company promise a modular future, with accessories that magnetically attach to the back of the phone. Their new 360 camera is the first available at launch.
4 GB of RAM helps complement the octa-core processor, with an Adreno 540 GPU powering video. The Essential Phone has NFC, and wireless charging. Instead of the popular Qi protocol, however, they opted for a “Click” dock that I assume works with the same magnetic connector as the camera. The battery measures in at 3040 mAh, and supports fast charging through the USB-C port.
Let’s address one glaring omission. Following the lead of Apple and others, Essential decided against a 3.5 mm headphone jack and will include a dongle in the box. Yes, headphone jacks may be the past, but they are still very much the present.
Four colours will be available. Black Moon and Polar White can be pre-ordered now, with Stellar Grey and Ocean Depths following after. It isn’t clear yet when devices will start shipping.
The Essential Phone looks absolutely gorgeous. Andy Rubin is clearly putting a lot of emphasis on design. While a midlevel plasticky device may be an easier first entry into the market, this seems like a “go-big-or-go-home” strategy for Rubin’s first foray into the smartphone industry since he left Google. The screen looks great, and the decision to use titanium for the body is both practical and aesthetic.
Here’s the problem though. As just about every other new smartphone maker will tell you, Apple and Samsung are two behemoths that don’t allow for much legitimate competition. Carrier partnerships and cross-promotion pretty much lock out any other party from the mainstream. For example, how many people you know bought a Nextbit Robin? As awesome as the OnePlus 3T is, why would the casual smartphone user buy one unlocked instead of just using an upgrade with their carrier to get the iPhone? Google figured this out, too, putting the Pixel on Verizon.
Maybe this one is different. Maybe it will be a smash hit with Andy Rubin behind it. Maybe people will finally break free from contracts and buy their phones outright directly from manufacturers. Maybe, but not likely.
What do you geeks think? Are you excited for this beautiful new device? If you’re interested, you can reserve yours now!