When it comes to smartphones, most of us buy Apple, Samsung, or “whatever phone happened to be on sale and in my budget.” The Essential Phone, created by Andy Rubin, the man who invented Android, is hoping to change that. And it just might.
As exclusively revealed by The Verge, the Essential Phone is, on paper, pretty similar to most other phones internally. It’s $700, uses a Qualcomm 835 processor, has 4GB of RAM, and boasts 128GB of storage in a skinny phone that you can tuck anywhere. But that’s where the similarities with Samsung and Apple end.
To start with, there’s the screen, which shoots right up to the top edge of the device, wrapping around the selfie camera and essentially making the entire front of the phone usable screen area. The phone itself is constructed from titanium and industrial-grade ceramic materials, so it’s built to survive drops and other types of abuse we visit on our smartphones. It’s also designed to be minimalist and stripped down; the phone doesn’t even have a logo on the back. What is does have is a two-camera setup which features both a normal color sensor and a monochrome one that’s designed to improve performance in low light.
And it gets even more “out there”: instead of headphone jacks and USB-C, the Essential Phone uses a magnetic connector and pogo pins to connect a host of modular accessories. The Verge was told that a headphone dongle will be shipping in the box, and for $50 extra on your preorder, you can get a 360-degree camera that clicks into the top. There’s no hint of other accessories being added to the mix just yet, but it seems like the creators want to make the phone more modular and easy to use.
Will this phone make it? It stands out visually, it can compete on price, and that it comes from the mind of Rubin, who laid the groundwork for Android and appears to be shipping the phone he always wanted to see his baby on, is certainly an advantage. But the main question is whether Rubin and Essential can succeed where so many others (the Facebook Phone, the Microsoft Kin) have failed.
Essential is hoping to combat this by planning on launching an entire line of home electronics (a speaker coming) tied together by the the company’s proprietary Ambient OS, which is designed to offer all the benefits of wired devices without the creepiness of Google or Apple listening to everything you say. Will that be enough to make the phone live up to its name? We’ll have to wait and see.