Three years after leaving Google, Android creator Andy Rubin is back for revenge – unveiling the all-new, all-premium, and all-disrupting Essential Phone.
Okay, maybe not revenge. But Rubin himself has stated that he’s ready to shake up an industry that is more focused on hindering customers than helping them, and he’s hoping the Phone – the debut release from his post-Google startup, Essential – is just the gadget to do it.
The Essential Phone features some pretty high-end specifications, wrapped up in an extra-durable and aesthetically pleasing titanium body. The device includes a 5.7-inch, ‘edge-to-edge’ Full Display with minimal bezels – giving you more screen and less wasted space.
Specs, features, and modularity
Inside, the Essential Phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, includes 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and features a 3040mAh battery with wireless and quick charging capabilities. In terms of operating system, Rubin’s Phone will run a bloatware-free, ‘pure’ version of Android, without the unnecessary customisation you’ll find from competing manufacturers.
Camera-wise, you’ll get 8-megapixels in front and 13-megapixels in the rear, but what’s really interesting is the modularity that Essential is bringing to its debut smartphone. Phone owners will be able to attach accessories to their device, via a magnetic connector which transfers data wirelessly – a less cumbersome version of the snap-on hardware attempted by the LG G5 and the Moto Z.
So far, there’s only one accessory available for the Essential Phone: a miniaturised 360-degree personal camera. While not ‘essential', it’s certainly cute as heck, and can be added to current Phone orders for an extra $50 USD.
Essential plans to open source its magnetic modular docking system, meaning third parties will be able to build and market their own add-ons for the Phone. In fact, everything about Essential appears to run contrary to the closed-off, branding-focused ecosystems and products popularised by companies such as Apple.
There’s no brand name or logos to be found on the Essential Phone, a move that’s in keeping with Rubin’s philosophy that devices are the owner’s ‘personal property’ and an expression of your identity, not the manufacturer’s.
The company seems to be focused on future-proofing the Phone and its accessories, which could be great news for customers who want to avoid the 12 to 24-month upgrade cycle. Essential is also working on its Home smart-home hub, which will integrate seamlessly with not only the Phone, but also rival digital assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa.
There’s a lot to love so far about the Essential Phone, but the device does have some drawbacks. Unlike many high-end handsets, the Phone isn’t waterproof, and it’s also missing a headphone jack. We also still don’t know that much about the software other than it’s a bloatware-free version Android, although we can expect it will likely feature 7.0 Nougat out-of-the-box.
Also a bummer? So far, the Essential Phone will only be available in the US, with a $699 USD price tag (or $749 USD with the included 360-degree camera). However, as the device will ship unlocked and will support all major Australian LTE bands, you should be able to use it locally, even if it doesn’t officially make its way Down Under.