Andy Rubin, the man behind Google’s Android platform, took the wraps off his new company and its first smartphone, setting lofty goals for the venture.
“For all the good that Android has done, it has also helped create this weird new world where people are forced to fight with the very technology that was supposed to simplify their lives. Was this what we intended? Was this the best we could do?” he pondered.
Called Essential, Rubin is promising an end to “divisive and outdated” closed ecosystems – “we will always play well with others” – and to recognise devices are “your personal property: we won’t force you to have anything on then you don’t want to have”.
While the Essential smartphone offers an impressive feature set, the nature of the mobile market means it offers little which is truly ground breaking.
A stand-out aspect is capacity for Moto Z-style modules, which attach to the device using a magnetic connector and communicate with the smartphone wirelessly. At launch, Essential is offering what it said is the world’s smallest 360-degree camera (pictured, left).
The smartphone also features a dual camera set up, with the company claiming “the world’s thinnest dual camera system built for a phone”. It uses a 13MP RGB/monochrome set-up similar to Huawei’s flagship P9 and P10 devices, rather than opting for different focal lengths as used by some other vendors.
This is paired with an 8MP front camera.
Another belief of the company is “premium materials and craftsmanship shouldn’t just be for the few”, leading to its choice of Titanium for the body: “Unlike aluminium, which is what most phones are made of, Titanium doesn’t scratch, dent or bend. That’s why you won’t find an area for phone cases on our site.”
The device is also completely logo free.
Other features include a 5.7-inch QHD edge-to-edge display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB storage. It runs on a 3040mAh battery with fast charging, and ships with a 27W USB power adaptor, which Qualcomm said provides “incredibly fast recharge times without making compromises to battery safety”.
As with some other recent new smartphones, Essential omits a headphone jack, although a headphone adapter will be in the box.
The Essential phone costs $699, with an introductory bundle including the 360 degree camera priced $749 (full price for the two is $898). While orders are now being taken, reports state it will ship in about a month.
Essential is also readying a smart home product. It is powered by a technology the company tagged “Ambient OS”, which “automatically introduces itself to new and existing devices and helps set them up in no time”.