LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS AMERICAS 2017: Smartphone start-up Essential aims to bring back “sexy” to the world of consumer technology, president and COO Niccolo de Masi proclaimed, as he slammed Apple and Samsung for making the current landscape “pretty incremental and pretty boring”.

Referring to Apple and Samsung as “the duopoly”, de Masi said Essential’s founder Andy Rubin noticed that the excitement had faded in the past three to four years from consumers with regards to the phones in their pockets, and it was time a company brought “fashion and passion” back to the market.

“Five years ago everyone was really proud of the phone they had in their pocket,” he said. “We would take it out and say this is who I am, this is who I stand for. And then he (Rubin) noticed that faded away as a duopoly was formed. It is a duopoly that has done a great job of maximising profitability but very timid about putting forward rapid paced innovation at the same rate that we used to enjoy.”

360 video supreme to VR
Presenting on the Consumer Engagement keynote, de Masi showed off both the  Essential Phone, which is now available, as well as the company’s 360 degree camera which can be attached to the device.

He said the 360 degree camera “changes everything” with regards to user generated content, as he tipped the technology to see more uptake than the highly-hyped virtual reality (VR), at least for the time being.

“The great thing about 360 video is you don’t have to carry goggles,” he said. “VR is probably five years away from being something in the same way that it is envisioned for gaming, for everything. I’ll bet if I ask for a show of hands of how many people are currently carrying their VR goggles, I will get no hands. This is why 360 video will reign supreme in the next 3-5 years.”

Last month the company confirmed it secured an additional $300 million in funding, with Amazon’s Alexa Fund joining its growing list of backers.

Essential, founded by former Android chief Andy Rubin, has now amassed a $330 million war chest as it embarks on the ambitious goal of taking on Apple and Samsung in the premium smartphone segment.