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

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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.

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