Essential Phone: Thoughts?

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

1 Like

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:

Things I dislike about iPhones

  • arbitrary restrictions on what can and can’t be done, which don’t seem to have any sensible reasons for existence other than “it’s opposed to Apple’s business model” – no other browsers; third-party browsers which embed WebKit can’t add to home screen; no NFC access unless you’re Apple Pay; you need to use iTunes or buy Garageband to set a bloody ringtone
  • proprietary communications protocol which Apple won’t properly document, meaning that I can’t reliably copy stuff on and off the phone by cable, and I can’t use wifi or ssh because apps aren’t allowed access to all my stuff
  • when there are problems, Apple’s response is “use iTunes to back up the whole phone and factory reset it”; if you say “there’s no Ubuntu version” the response is “use iCloud to back up the whole phone and factory reset it”; if you say “man, I really don’t wanna do that, especially since it costs money” the response is “well, you lose then”
  • No SD card for you

Essentially, these all boil down to “you will use this device in the way we, Apple, want you to, and if you try to do something we didn’t anticipate or don’t like, we will put in extra work to make that difficult”. I freely admit that I probably trip over these sorts of edge cases more than most people.

Things I dislike about Android phones

  • There is little or no consistency. There’s no strong design direction. Which means that different apps on the same phone, different phones from the same manufacturer, different phones from different manufacturers work in different ways. Try to write a description of for example “how to put the phone in silent mode” or “how to turn off wifi” without asking what the phone make and model are and you’ll find it very difficult indeed for Android phones, and one sentence for iPhones
  • Massive delays in new OS releases, unless you’ve got a Google-branded phone (Nexus or Pixel)
  • To a first approximation, and this is obviously massively subjective, they’re ugly. Apps are ugly; hardware industrial design is ugly. There are exceptions; on the hardware side, my delightful OnePlus X is delightful, for example. And I like Material Design, but it’s largely not been adopted by third-party app developers; some of this is perhaps because it’s seen less as “the Android standard” and more as “what Google apps use”, but some of it is because Android devs tend to reject the idea of complying with someone else’s design and would rather be inconsistent because then they’re not knuckling under to the Man, since if they wanted that they’d be iPhone developers
  • Worrying level of “you really really need a Google account to use this phone” integration. Which is on the one hand a good thing – consistency! – but it means that you get hassled into bits about it if you don’t. I have a Google account, no problem with that, and use it. But, say, Google Game Centre… I never, ever want that. But there is no way of actually turning it off. I have to say “no, don’t sign into it” on every startup of every game that wants it. I want to tell the OS “when a game asks for Game Centre, pretend I said no thanks, and don’t ever show me the popup again”, and I can’t

Essentially, these mostly boil down to “there are fifty different 'Android’s and little consistency between them”.

Things that annoy me about both

  • No removeable battery for you
  • Battery life is bloody shocking
  • They’re all too bloody big apart from the iPhone SE and one weird Sony phone

So, in general, when I get hacked off enough with Android’s lack of consistency and design, I get an iPhone, which solves that problem for me. Then after a while when I get hacked off enough with Apple’s pointless restrictions on the way I’m allowed to use my device, I get an Android phone, which solves that problem for me. Repeat until false.


Very elaborate response!

Come to think of it, I seem to have a similar perspective: Your pro’s and cons seem to be universal, though their priority is different for every individual. I seem to be in the “I want consistency, updates and a small phone”-camp at the moment, Hence iPhone SE. But this could change in the future.
I recently tried Windows Mobile again, but that OS is DOA when you start to do more than place a phone call.

I hope they (Essential) add an Android component to disable touch on some margin around the screen. How the hell are you supposed to hold it with no border ?!?

Just watched:

Interesting to see it. Beautiful looking thing. Still boggles me that it is not waterproof though.

I am excited to see how it does - I like the idea of more pixel-like phones competing with each other.

they said Sprint got the userband on the 404 show.

althou № six is where they’ll shine through

Clip-on accessory: Magnetic card reader. Square plugging into an audio jack was an innovative workaround and I give them credit for figuring out how to make that work. But if they weren’t the only external accessory anyone wants to add to a phone then there would be enough demand for clip-on-accessories to have seen the previous modular phones not just languish away.

I’m not seeing the Essential Phone have a wireless charging solution. Is this actually the case? I for one won’t buy a phone without it.

Please respect our code of conduct which is simple: don't be a dick.