Essential Phone: Thoughts?

@jeremy shared this with me:

Looks like a new smartphone but with the ability to add accessories more easily. It is a nice looking device:


Here it is in bits:



Interesting idea. Thoughts?

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I should add: I really don’t like that items like battery life and water resistance aren’t in the specs yet, but there is a 15 day return period that includes return shipping so I grabbed a pre-order before they sell out and are unavailable for ages. Will keep everyone posted if there’s interest.



It’s a niche handset. I’ll be surprised if it sells more units than the RED Hydrogen One to be honest. Well, maybe not that bad, but I’ll be genuinely surprised if they can meet demand, given the long-standing vapourware reputation Andy Rubin has had for the last couple of years. Have you noticed that only Apple and Samsung are the major handset players left standing? Because they’re the only ones left who can afford to manufacture hundreds of millions of units. Everyone else is just scrabbling for single digit non-Samsung Android market share percentages, if they’re lucky, and given Huawei, Motorola, LG, HTC, Nokia, OnePlus, BlackBerry and Sony are all already in that market share space …

This, to me, smells of a vanity play. Remember, Rubin is the guy who saw Samsung’s modifications to Android as a threat to Android itself. This phone feels a little like a “fuck you” to Samsung, and maybe even Google, given the rumours of his “demotion” from Android to robotics/automation.

And what are the USPs, really? “Oooh, it’s titanium, it’s got a nice screen, the kind that everyone’s releasing/working on right now, oooh, it’s got some sort of weird proprietary magnetic charging/accessory thingy that’ll probably cost a fucking fortune to have more than one of, and oooooh it’s got … um, oh. It’s Android. Again.”

So nothing really special on a software front. And given that it’s a fucking hard-if-not-impossible-to-modify-after-manufacture portable computer, and given that phones aren’t really the kind of thing people “upgrade” in the PC sense, the software is really not going to stand out at all.

“Ooooooh, look at the edge-to-edge wallpaper” … said a bunch of Samsung Galaxy Edge customers as well.

This sounds like a bit too much of a conspiracy theory to me. :slight_smile:

For me the screen is far too big. I’m not really a fan of edge-to-edge displays yet, too easy to accidentally hit the edge of the screen with part of your hand whilst using one-handed. My wife actually gets annoyed using my OnePlus 3 for a similar reason, she accidentally knocks the capacitive buttons at the bottom whilst holding it (she uses an iPhone 7).

Also the plugin module thing is a gimmick that has been tried with the LG G5 and the market didn’t seem to want it.

Can’t really fault the rest of the specs, pretty much standard flagship smartphone specs for the current generation. Maybe could do with more RAM as some are going 6-8GB now (again OnePlus).

I guess the real question is will it continue to get software updates or be abandoned after 1 major OS release like pretty much every other Android phone lately?

Quite possibly.

Last year, Apple made almost 80% of global smartphone profits. They did so with roughly 14% of sales. Samsung accounted for ~20 percent of sales. That leaves a full two thirds of marketshare left. Other manufacturers have figured out how to get marketshare. What they haven’t done is figure out how to make a profit doing so. It appears to me that Essential is attempting to be a premium smartphone manufacturer that appeals to a similar market segment that Apple targets. Will they be successful? It’s anyones guess, but I’d agree the odds are not high. Will someone eventually supplant Apple in a market that is worth $60,000,000,000 and growing? It’s inevitable. Will that someone be a non-Samsung manufacturer with an Android-based product? The chance is not zero; and with the stakes as high as they are, I see why Essential is giving it a shot. (That all said, I think they largely botched this launched, and am curious to see the end product they deliver. If there wasn’t a way to easily get 100% of my money back, I’d not have even considered the purchase.)


I should add, if they are able to execute on the ethos they laid out, then that will be the USP:

The result is Essential, and this is what we believe:

  • Devices are your personal property. We won’t force you to have anything on them you don’t want to have.
  • We will always play well with others. Closed ecosystems are divisive and outdated.
  • Premium materials and true craftsmanship shouldn’t be just for the few.
  • Devices shouldn’t become outdated every year. They should evolve with you.
  • Technology should assist you so that you can get on with enjoying your life.
  • Simple is always better.


I think it would take one killer module for the concept to succeed. We haven’t seen one yet, and I’m not yet convinced we will.

They have explicitly called this issue out. Whether they follow through remains to be seen. It’s definitely an issue in the current Android ecosystem though.



Please do, I think there have been several attempts to make modular smartphones, but none of the attempts have got any traction.

I agree, the edge-to-edge display looks nice

Sounds cool to me as I like to tinker with software

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I do find this trend disturbing. When I bought the Pixel for example, I expected it to receive updates for a longer period of time.

I wonder if this will become a feature in coming handsets where companies will provide updates for longer and longer periods of time (at least security updates).

Probably not until someone asks the 14 year old suburban boy trying their very best to blare Maklemore out of a crap speaker on the bus what they want. I don’t think anyone who can make it happen really wants to see it happen…but there’s the market.

Isn’t that what Blackberry is doing?

And it seems like Nokia is off to a pretty good start too.

Well, yeah, but Rubin probably wants his labour to profit him a bit. :slight_smile: Anyway, a little bit of personality-led vanity in the Android market isn’t necessarily a bad thing; iPhones were unmistakably “the thing that Steve Jobs wanted built” and they did OK. A phone from something other than one more faceless tech corporate behemoth could be the new season’s hot fashion pick. I don’t think it’ll happen, but I think that sort of vibe is what Essential (and indeed RED) are going for; a slight outside-the-mainstream-but-we’re-cool-precisely-because-of-that edge.

I am not sold on modularity. It could be important, but it’s just too nerdy a thing to care about until someone does it right. (Also, “bolt this one thing on the outside” is not being modular.) Immensely annoyingly, “will get Android updates for more than five frigging minutes” is basically also perceived as too nerdy to care about by the market, so nobody competes on it. I wish someone would see this as a place to stake out, but then there are so many other places where the market are over here and a bunch of people seem to be over there. Make a phone the size and screen size of an iPhone 5 (but as high a resolution as you like). Be OK with it being slightly thicker than the thinnest on the market and use the extra space all for battery so you get two days battery life out of it. Promise it’ll get updates for three years. Each of these things seems like a good idea to me and to at least some of the people I talk to; each is completely ignored by the market. Essential may not be solving them either, but having more voices trying is no bad thing.

Details on this are starting to emerge. Essential is guaranteeing two years of full OS updates and three years of security updates. To really differentiate, I think that would have needed to be three and four, respectively.



Totally agree, from a marketing perspective this would be really powerful too - “we believe phones should last, so we provide you with updates and security fixes for twice the time other handset providers do”.

You’re absolutely right on the annoying Android policy of providing updates for 5 minutes. It should be an USP for vendors. Average consumers don’t give anything about that though. Security is something for geeks it seems. Maybe this trend is changing, as Nokia now provides their Android phones with 2 years of updates, and people become more and more aware of the risks they face using unpatched software.

I used to buy Nexi to circumvent the whole update issue. Cheap and around 2 years of updates. But a bad battery and even worse camera, which became more important to me than in the old days.
I find the Pixel too expensive for a mere 18 months of updates.

Luckily Apple decided to reboot the 5S in the form of an SE, which is 4", has decent battery life and a good camera, and probably 5 years of updates. This phone pushed me over to the Apple side of things. I’d rather had an Android, but all these security issue pushed me away…

But back on topic: the Essential phone will be a very small niche, like the Pixels, beautiful screen, unnecessary add-ons and a ludicrous prize.

Well done; size aside, you’ve just described an iPhone SE.

Yup. And I occasionally think about switching to Apple again. But the issues I have with iOS are all solved by Android, and an Android manufacturer could make an iPhone SE-sized device without any software issues… and they aren’t. Drives me nuts.

But I don’t want the Google Play Store app … wait, what, I have to keep it? Awwww.

Good luck with that.

Definitely will never come close to competing with Apple or Samsung then.

They shouldn’t. What shitty Android phones have these guys been buying lately to come to that conclusion? Oh, all of them? Cool.

It should.

Hahaha. Again, good luck with that.

If I may ask, which iOS issues solves Android?

To be clear, I used Android for 7 years, was never a fan of iOS, but since using it for the past year now, I can’t find it lacking anything compared to Android. Very much interested in a different perspective though :slight_smile:

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