‘Essential Phone’ is a Drab Android Device, but ‘Essential Home’ Looks Promising

Essential Home

First of all, we’re sorely disappointed by the fact that the Essential Phone from Android creator is little more than another Android device. We were hoping that the man who helped build what is now the most prolific and omnipresent operating system in the world would do something more than just put a new bottle around what is “essentially” old wine.

That said, let’s take a look at the bottle itself – the hardware around the stock Android that Essential Phone runs on.

Display-wise, the near-zero bezel design is certainly eye-catching, but with an eye-sore of a selfie-camera right in the middle of it all. From the images, it looks like a Cyclops has gotten into the phone and won’t quit staring. This feature seems to be the centerpiece of the display, since everything else is just screen, screen, screen.

Essential Phone Andy Rubin

The flip side has two 13-megapixel camera sensors, a two-tone flash, a pogo pin connector and the fingerprint sensor. To be very honest, pogo connectors look like Count Dracula brought the Essential Phone to the launch event. In his mouth.

On the bright side, it’s quite useful, especially when you have accessories like this 360-degree camera:

Essential Phone Andy Rubin Essential Phone Andy Rubin

As you can see, it’s a variant on the magnetic connectivity for Moto Mods, and we could see several useful accessories for the Essential Phone that take advantage of this.

In terms of other connectivity, there’s a USB-C port at the bottom. There’s also a speaker grille and the nano-SIM tray next to it. Power and volume controls are on the side.

The form factor resembles that of a much older Android model, with the 90-degree corners having just enough of a curve to not make it uncomfortable to hold. The phone itself is not that big considering that it sports a 5.7-inch display, and that’s thanks to the near-zero bezel design that most smartphone manufacturers are going for this year.

Essential Phone Andy Rubin

The build for this phone appears very solid. The titanium that runs around the border is obviously more resilient to damage than the aluminium that is used for most phones today. And Rubin is sticking to his guns about not having a logo to bother with. Not sure how that’s going to go down with the crowd. It could work.

We don’t know much about the internals at this point, but it does run on stock Android, which is a little disappointing. The phones that were on display were prototypes, so the final versions could have few design tweaks before they go into production. However, it will have to be right away because Rubin hopes to start shipping out the first units in the next 30 days.

The phones will retail starting at $699, which puts them in the premium bracket, though not the super-premium one that the $1,000 iPhone 8 will debut in. But with so many models in the premium bracket, the big question is: will smartphone buyers spend that much money on a new brand like Essential Phone, when trusted names like Apple, Samsung, Google, and even Chinese manufacturers like Huawei are offering highly capable devices in the same price range?

As it is, the smartphone market is extremely tight at the moment, and only premium makers are seeing any sort of profits. With more than 90 percent of all smartphone profits going into Apple’s coffers, there’s very little money to be made in the smartphone segment today. And it’s actually been that way for a while – we’re just seeing the effects of it now.

That question certainly needs answering. Andy Rubin might have some solid financial backing for this project, but is it enough muscle to create something sustainable? We’ll know once the Essential Phone has been on the market for a few quarters, but we’re a little skeptical about the company seeing any long-term success in what is literally a market of monsters.

On the other hand, Essential also has a new smart home assistant called Essential Home that plans to take on the smart speaker market comprising Amazon Echo, Google Home and others.

That actually looks like the more promising of the two new products from Essential.

Essential Home Essential Home


Essential Home comes with its own display, and runs Ambient OS, the heart of the unified smart home experience.

The most unique feature of Essential Home, in our opinion, is that much of the AI heavy lifting is done within the device itself. It’s what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella might call an “Intelligent Edge” device, because it sends very little data to the cloud, enhancing the level of privacy and security for the user, while being able to perform a lot of intensive AI tasks without the need for powerful datacenter servers.

What makes Essential Home innately different from Essential Phone is that it addresses a new and growing market, rather than an old and peaking one. Yes, they have to contend with Amazon Echo and Google Home, but this is not a space with tons of big-money tech majors crowding each other for pole position. It is still in its nascent stages of growth, which means there is massive potential for a stand-out product like Essential Home that not only does its own laundry (AI tasks), but also provides a more secure and private experience for the average smart home owner.

This is the product we’ll be tracking rather than the Essential Phone, because it looks a lot more promising in terms of future prospects. Stay tuned for more.

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