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Essential Phone: This is what the creator of Android thinks a smartphone should be

Update: Release date to be revealed in a week; retailers to include Amazon

Since the end of 2016, it has been known that Android founder Andy Rubin is working on an AI-driven smartphone. His new company is called Essential and its first smartphone will land in the high-end range. Thanks to The Verge, we now know all the major details. The latest news brings the details about the release date and availability of the Essential phone.

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What is Essential?

Andy Rubin was the Senior Vice President of Google’s mobile sector up until 2014. His successor was Sundar Pichai, now the CEO of Google, who was then succeeded in turn by Hiroshi Lockheimer. Rubin was the Android inventor and under his leadership, the OS was installed on billions of devices. Later, he got into robotics at Google, but soon left this area as well to pursue his own interests.

After 2014, Andy Rubin began to work intensely with young startups and, under his tutelage, Playground Global found worldwide success. The focus of the company was on artificial intelligence, robotics and augmented reality. Now, it would like to integrate the innovations that it was able to achieve in a new smartphone, as recently reported by Bloomberg.

With the support of a team of 40 people, made up of former Apple and Google employees, the Android founder has now started a new company called Essential. It will reportedly produce not only smartphones but also smart home hardware, with the high-end smartphone at the center of the ecosystem.

essential phone 1
This is the Essential phone. / © Essential

Essential phone: Price and release date

The high-end Essential phone costs $699 to pre-order on Essential's website. You can get a 360 camera bundled with the phone for $749. The Essential phone is only available in the US for now. An international release will be announced in the future.

The latest news is that Essential Products has gotten a sizable investment from new partners, including Foxconn, Tencent and Amazon, to the tune of $300 million. Niccolo De Masi, the president of Essential, says the release date of the phone will be revealed in about a week. So, those who have pre-ordered can have some fresh hope. And if you haven't pre-ordered yet, you'll be able to get the Essential phone from Best Buy now, and from Amazon in the future. Sprint will be the only carrier in the US to offer the phone.

The Essential phone will be available in several colors and is supposedly quite impact-resistant. Thanks to a video animation that OnLeaks spotted on the Essential website, we are able to have a closer look at the design. 

Essential phone: Standing out from the crowd thanks to its special features

The technical specs alone won't be a massive surprise to many. But if we take a closer look, the Essential phone does seem to pack in a few surprises. First of all, it's worth noting that the manufacturer attempted to get as much display on the front as possible. The body-to-display ration seems to be quite high. If we have a look at the upper segment of the display, we spot a very narrow frame, but within that frame, we can still see an integrated selfie cam (that explains that "incursion" at the top in the middle). 

essential phone front back
Essential phone / © Essential

Andy Rubin graced us with another highlight - a magnetic connector, which Essential wants to make use off to build up its own accessory ecosystem. The first two accessories that Essential has lined up will be the aforementioned 360 camera and a magnetic charger. It's not been revealed yet if and what further functionality lies behind the connector.

essential phone 360 camera
Essential phone with the 360 degree camera / © Essential

Concerning the design and build, Essential has decided to be a bit more exclusive. Apparently the Essential phone will be made of ceramic and titanium - hence the claim to being quite durable and shock resistant. The lack of a visible lack on the device is actually a nice touch - it's lends to a reserved design choice. Speaking of lacking - it seems that the designers also left out a headphone jack.

Essential phone: Watch the official unveiling via live stream with Andy Rubin

If you feel like watching the official unveiling of the Essential phone, Andy Rubin will host a live stream today (May 30, 2017) at 6 PM PT / 9 PM EST.

Essential Phone: software

Artificial intelligence

2017 will be the year of AI and assistants. Rubin realized this, and if you look at progress in the entire tech sector right now, you’d see that Amazon is even a hair further along than Google is in the race to have control over your household. For those who don’t participate right now, they’ll lose an opportunity to get on board. Andy Rubin, a robotics expert, is likely to make Essential a big player in the market. According to the Bloomberg report, Essential will be a "platform company designed to tie multiple devices together" and it is "working on a suite of consumer hardware products, including ones for the mobile and smart home markets". 

The report also mentions that the device could be docked into your home or car using a proprietary connector, making Amazon Echo and Google Home useless, since your smartphone could then function as a central control hub for your smart home gadgets, like stereos and routers. There is still no word on whether the AI of the Essential Phone will be Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or another artificial intelligence.

Will it run Android or something new?

Will this be an Android smartphone or a completely new player on the market? Andy Rubin could have chosen to ditch Android and install a Play Store-compatible spin-off, with a core he can better control. Taking Cyanogen Inc. as an example though, we saw that this approach can end embarrassingly, especially if it is done with the premise of sticking it to Google. In October 2016, about four years after the foundation of Inc, the first Android-deviation Cyanogenmod came to an end. Two months after, the company also closed. Android, without Google, is hardly feasible, especially if you aren’t named Amazon. So, its no surprise that Essential Phone will run Android. This has even been confirmed by none other than Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. 

Essential Phone: Technical specs according to the Essential website

   
Technical Specs Essential Phone
Type Smartphone
Dimensions 141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8 mm
Weight 185 grams
Battery 3,040 mAh
Display size 5.71 inches
Display technology CGS / LTPS
Resolution 1,312 x 2,560 Pixel (19:10)
Front camera 8 MP
Rear camera Dual camera, 13 MP, f / 1.85
Flash LED
Android Version Android, probably 7.0 Nougat
UI unknown
RAM 4 GB
Internal storage 128 GB
Removable storage unknown
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Octa-core with Adreno 540 GPU
Clock speed 2.45 GHz
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, USB Type-C, no headphone jack, Magnetic port, 60 GHz, 6 GBps Wireless Accessory Connector

Essential Phone: camera

Yazhu Ling, ‎Lead Image Quality Engineer at Essential, described the details of the main camera of the new Essential Phone in a post to the company blog. The two main things the firm wanted to accomplish with the camera were avoiding an unsightly camera bump and focusing on capturing quality low-light photos.

essential phone camera sample
Color only (left), monochrome only (middle) and the combined result (right). / © Essential

The dual rear camera of the PH-1 will have one monochrome and one RGB lens. When images taken with each are combined, the result is a better exposed image with less noise. According to Ling, the company plans to continue to tune and perfect the camera until the last possible moment before launch.

Let us know what you think about the Essential Phone in the comments!

Source: The Verge

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  • I just placed my order $699 total for the black variant, should have it within one week.

  • Really bad timing given the Note and iPhone release around the same time

    • The Note will be $1100-$1200 with tax, and it will be full of bloatware and Samlag, I should know, had the S3, S4, Note 4 and using the S7 now, and forget about timely updates, my S7 is still running 7.0 which was just recently updated to by Samsung. The essential is costing me $699 total. They also have a 15 day return policy.

  • Just another very good "flagship" phone, that will be cannibalized for any incremental improvements to the current stable of Apple, Samsung, LG, etc. devices. These are very "in" people who have had a couple of years to review the major players and come up with a stunning alternative and this is it. The most telling thing is how little there is left to do with the hardware "essentials" of the commodity smartphone, that is already much more functional than what 90% of users even know what to do with.

    There is still no use in encrusting the case with rubies and diamonds because the operating system will be out of date in a couple of years (so much for the $17,000 Apple Watch Edition that is now the badge of a capital I fanbois Idiot). I look for some stabilization of software internals that will let smartphone flagships generate real money like the Rolex, Movado, Breitling watches that are pure conspicuous consumption jewelry, without any pretense of better functionality.

  • For a first time release, a world premier I think the price is very high 700.00. A ceramic built phone another first. No headphone jack. What about micro s/d expansion? To me this is a questionable offering!

    • I think for a high quality phone with premium specs with premium build materials and 128GB of high speed storage for $699 is a good price.

  • I will wish the manufacturer all the best ... as I will pass until the 3rd Gen (I did the same with OnePlus)

  • I really really want to like and buy this phone. I have emailed a couple of questions to Essential and received sketchy responses. I currently own 4 original Droid Turbos, family plan on Verizon, and we love them especially for the large battery.
    The battery in the Essential is much smaller and I'm concerned on how long before recharging. The response from Essential was that they have no information on battery charge life.
    My second question is about the ceramic back. Ceramic is an insulator, so heat is a concern for me. Also, ceramic is notoriously brittle. Ceramics may be a great heat shield for the space shuttle, but drop one of the tiles and it breaks into many pieces. After doing some research on ceramics, there are some versions that are far more durable, but Essential only referred me to their website info on the construction.
    Lastly, their titanium edge is forged, not milled. While titanium is extremely hard as any golfer will tell you, forged titanium is slightly porous. That leads me to wonder if there's any water resistance at all. Having fallen into a lake with my Turbo in my pocket, while not a regular occurrence, is still a big concern for me, especially at $700.
    I really want to like this phone, and I guess I'll wait for actual reviews before purchasing.
    The Droid Z Force is not an option. The add-ons are far too large to be practical.

  • John Kerr 2 months ago Link to comment

    I've dreamed of a Titanium phone for years, having gotten acquainted with the metal when Titanium hit the pro and hi-end bicycle market. Once manufactured, the stuff - whether in frames, components or whatever, is very difficult to bend or deform and would be perfect for shrugging off drops that would bend other materials...if the right alloy is chosen. I hope they release a stone washed finish that lets the natural color show.
    It also appears that Andy may release a second version of Glass. With a 6GBs wireless link to the 360 camera already done it would seem that offloading the AR, video and data processing via that link from the Glass v.2 to the smartphone might work well and help eliminate the video bandwidth issues the original Glass had.

  • It's great to see new smartphone brands coming in to the mix with smartphones that can challenge the S8,HTC U11,LG G6.This is their first phone imagine what their second smartphone will be like!

  • The phone is built like a tank, with materials never used in any other phone to date, it comes with the latest hardware, pure stock Android and 7.1.1 out of the box "this is not I have another Samsung phone", a fantastic edge to edge screen with no idiotic curved glass screen, it's 10mm shorter and 5mm narrower than the HTC U11 with a bigger screen. If you are looking for another Chinese/Korean phone made of fragile glass then you have plenty of options to choose from, this phone is different, premium materials without all the garbage that these other manufacturers throw in. Here is the Recode conference with Andy Rubin and Essential and the PH-1 which Walt "the Apple shill" screwed up, but that's another story for another day. I can not post links, so you need to go to YouTube and look up Recode to find the conference with Andy Rubin and Essential.

  • Nickels 2 months ago Link to comment

    Esencial

  • RMDC 2 months ago Link to comment

    If it had wireless charging I might give it a shot. If it had wireless charging and water resistance I would have already pre-ordered one. I'll hold off for now.

    • Reg Joo 2 months ago Link to comment

      Those features definitely should have been included , for $699. Wireless charging, a big loss(if he wants to make ai a big deal, he could have introduced a smart charger function). Water immunity, is nice to have too, but isn't really necessary for me(I said me, not everybody, so no flack). I really take extreme care of my phone, and anything over $400, I show respect for, so water protection is up to me(None of my phones ever got wet). The selfie camera placement isn't a big deal for me, but it should have been put under glass. The flush design is done well though.

    • It has wireless charging.

  • interesting addition to the world of android, very impressive screen to frame ratio, titanium and ceramic could prove to be durable with decent build quality ..
    shame about lack of decent IP rating, and personally I prefer Moto's approach to modular, not too sure I wanna carry the phone with the camera module attached or carry a separate camera module around..

  • Kevin 2 months ago Link to comment

    I was really looking forward to seeing this phone, but I'm feeling a little disappointed...stupid front camera cut into the screen, weird screen aspect ratio, no word on security updates, modular bits...

  • I DON'T KNOW, BUT SOMEHOW YOU CAN TELL THIS PHONE IS GONNA BE...AWESOME!!!

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