The Essential Phone, brought to us by the person who created Android (Andy Rubin), is finally ready for the spotlight. It’s an incredibly audacious and ambitious project, with an outlandish screen.
First, the Android phone basics: the Essential Phone costs $699 with top-of-the-line specs and features. As you can see above, it prominently features an edge-to-edge display that one-ups even the Samsung Galaxy S8 by bringing it all the way to the the top of the phone, wrapping around the front-facing selfie camera.
It’s a unique take on a big screen that makes the phone stand out — and it’s smart, too. Often, the status bar at the top of an Android phone doesn’t fill that middle space with icons, so it’s efficient. The screen does leave some bezel at the bottom of the phone, but nevertheless it’s as close to the whole front of a phone being display as I’ve seen.
Essential is clearly planning on releasing a very well-made phone: the screen looks promising, it has no annoying logos, and it is built with a combination of titanium and ceramic so it can survive a drop test “without blemish, unlike the aluminum competitor devices.” (Those would be Samsung and Apple, if you’re wondering.)
But nice hardware isn’t all that hard to come by on Android phones, so the company is aiming to build an ecosystem of accessories. It starts with a magnetic connector and wireless data transfer. Essential will ship a 360-degree camera that can click in to the top of the phone, and the company will also offer a charging dock. Both connect to the phone with small metal pogo pins. They won’t entirely replace USB for most people, but Essential is clearly hoping that they could someday.
Plus, it’s an all-out flagship phone that is launching first in the United States. It’s got all flagship bells and whistles: the top-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 system chip with 4 gigs of RAM, and a whopping 128GB of on-board storage.
But it’s also different than many flagships in its philosophy: it ships with no junk bloatware, and it does not even have a logo, a welcome change from popular flagships where you often have overwhelming stamps and logos all over the place. The Essential Phone is also a philosophy, one that Andy Rubin himself outlined in these three key principles:
1. Devices are your personal property. We won’t force you to have anything on them you don’t want to have.
2. We will always play well with others. Closed ecosystems are divisive and outdated.
3. Devices shouldn’t become outdated every year. They should evolve with you.
The phone is also made to last. Since it’s a bezel-less design ( The bezel serves to hold the screen in place, and perhaps also reduce unintentional inputs on a touch screen), it’s especially important that the Essential Phone is durable.
To ensure this, the company uses titanium for the body of the device, a material so hard that when you drop the phone on its edge, it does not dent or scratch like aluminum. The back is made of ceramic, a material that is very hard to scratch. In terms of colors, the Essential Phone will be available in black, grey, white and a dual-tone model. Of course, it has gone through drop tests to ensure that it will withstand the damage of an average drop as much as possible.
Here are some of its properties:
But the real magic, the special sauce of the Essential Phone is that it is trying to create something new: a system of accessories and modules. For this, the phone has a magnetic connector in the form of two dots located on the back of the phone, where you can snap additional modules. The handset also comes with a dedicated wireless data transfer connector that supports speeds of up to 6Gbps. The first accessory coming with it is a 360-degree camera that you can magnetically snap to the back of the phone. It comes as a bundle with the phone for just $50 on top of the Essential Phone’s price.
On the back, the Essential has got a dual-camera system. It’s not like the one on the iPhone, though. Here, the secondary camera is monochrome one, that captures much more light, and the output from the regular camera combined with the monochrome picture is combined for a superior end result. Up front, there is an 8-megapixel camera for selfies that shoots 4K videos.
It should also be noted: the Essential Phone does
not have a 3.5mm headset jack, just like the iPhone 7.
Sure, the Essential Phone will have a hard time competing against the iPhones and Galaxies in the world, but it provides something else: a breath of fresh air for those who want something new and something different in a flagship. We for once, can’t wait to try it.