Essential Phone against competition: What's Andy Rubin's phone about?

By Prasid Banerjee | Updated 31 May 2017
Essential Phone against competition: What's Andy Rubin's phone about?
  • The Essential PH-1 is the first smartphone from Essential Products, but the company doesn't want it to be just another smartphone.

The father of Android thinks his creation isn’t what it was meant to be. He doesn’t like the massive fragmentation in the industry, and he doesn’t think devices interact with each other as well as they should. “For all the good Android has done to help bring technology to nearly everyone it has also helped create this weird new world where people are forced to fight with the very technology that was supposed to simplify their lives,” Andy Rubin wrote in his blog post introducing Essential Products.

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His new company has launched two new devices, called the Phone (PH-1) and the Home. Rubin’s obviously sending a message here, since the products will henceforth be called the Essential Phone and Essential Home. The Essential Home is a device that probably won’t make a big difference for Indian buyers just yet, but the Essential Phone is...well…a phone. We don't yet know whether these are coming to India, but we've sent in a query to Essential about the same.

How does it stack up against the current leaders?

As far as specifications are concerned, the Essential Phone is up there with the best smartphones today. It runs on the Snapdragon 835 and has two 13MP cameras on the back. There’s 4GB RAM and a 5.7 inch QHD display. It’s front camera can shoot 4K videos and it has 128GB internal storage as well. The table below compares the specifications against the Galaxy S8+ (review), LG G6 (review) and iPhone 7 Plus (review).

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The Essential Phone is obviously well matched in terms of specifications, but that’s not what Rubin and his people are really going for. The company has used Titanium and Ceramic, which isn't the first of smartphones, but no one's really committed to these yet. Essential products is trying to make your device stronger than other smartphones, ensuring longevity. This is part of the plan and Rubin's blog post mentioned that users shouldn't have to buy new smartphones every year.

Modularity

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It's surprising how similar Essential Products feels, to Motorola. From what we've seen so far, the Essential Phone is focused on stock Android experiences, with the best marriage of hardware and software possible. the phone is modular to boot, and uses a similar magnetic connector as seen on the Moto Z (review). For now, Essential Products has a 360 camera that attaches next to its primary camera, but more modular accessories have been promised. If modular is the future, Andy Rubin just agreed with that future.

What is the Essential Phone about?

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The goal with Android was to democratise the growing smart ecosystem. The operating system resides on over 80% of the world’s smartphones today. Rubin promises that Essential’s products will always work well with other products. That should mean that Essential Products is envisioning an ecosystem around its products. 

We don’t yet see how the Essential Phone is any different from competing smartphones. Rubin’s company chose a whole new OS (Ambient OS) on the Essential Home, while the Essential Phone runs on Android. That tells you that Rubin and friends do not want to tie you down on their own ecosystem. This was something mentioned in Rubin’s blog post as well, with 

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Google’s products are often hamstrung when used with iPhones and vice versa. It seems Essential Products wants to avoid such issues, aiming at the democracy that Android was always meant for. Will it work? Only time will tell.

 

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Prasid Banerjee
Trying to explain technology to my parents. Failing miserably.
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