Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, is launching a new type of smartphone. Essential Phone combines a unique edge-to-edge display with a modular system for accessories like a 360-degree camera. Essential is even launching a new Amazon Echo competitor with a focus on privacy. Follow along here for all the news on the Essential Phone and more.
Sep 22, 2017
Shortly after launching at Sprint, the Essential Phone has made its way to Best Buy — both online and in stores. A quick check of stock around New York City shows that the unlocked, black Essential Phone is already available at many locations, though supply might vary depending on where you are. The Android smartphone costs $699.99 and is compatible with all major US carriers including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.Read Article >
Essential has been working to improve the device through software updates over the last several weeks; reports indicate that the phone’s software is running much smoother now. But the camera (and the camera app itself) remain weak points that still haven’t been fixed. Plus, the black model is a terrible fingerprint magnet. So even if you’re set on getting one, it might be smartest to wait for the white Essential Phone to similarly make a debut at retail.
Sep 14, 2017
A headphone jack might not have been essential enough to be part of the Essential Phone itself, but the company has confirmed it’s working on a module that includes one. “We are actively developing a high end audio accessory to support a 3.5mm jack,” the Essential team said during a Reddit AMA today.Read Article >
Aside from the 360-degree camera, customers can next expect the charging dock to be released before future modules including the high-end audio device. In a follow-up remark, another Essential employee said ”our head of architecture is in Asia right now getting our high-end audio accessory super dialed. He graciously called me at 3AM today so we could talk about some specifics for our design.”
Sep 13, 2017
The Essential Phone’s reviews might be turning out more mixed than Andy Rubin and his team would’ve wanted, but now it’s time for consumers around the US to see the Android smartphone up close. Sprint has announced that beginning tomorrow, September 14th, the Essential Phone will be available for purchase in all of its retail stores, online, and by phone.Read Article >
So far, the Essential Phone’s “launch” has mostly been the company shipping out orders to customers who’ve purchased it at Essential’s website; the phone hasn’t yet formally launched at retail. Aside from Sprint, Amazon and Best Buy plan to offer the device. I’m not sure Amazon actually knows what’s going on; the listing for the black Essential Phone has gone back and forth on a firm release date and now says it “usually ships within 1 to 2 months.” Best Buy also still shows the device as “coming soon.” Hopefully this Sprint release will get things rolling for other sellers, as well.
Sep 5, 2017
Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone has finally shipped to customers after half a summer’s worth of delays, and that means the teardown experts of iFixit have now had a chance to rip apart the slick slab of titanium and ceramic. The verdict? iFixit gives the Essential Phone a 1 out of 10 on its “repairability” scale, placing it in the company of some of the website’s worst offenders. That score pales in comparison to the iPhone 7 (7), Google Pixel XL (7), or even the Samsung Galaxy S8 (4). Or, in the words of the email that iFixit sent out promoting the teardown post, the phone is “a hot mess.”Read Article >
The Essential Phone was always meant to be a jewel of a device, something that stands at least a few steps away from the iPhones and Samsungs of the world because of its premium fit, finish, and design. But all that meant extra trouble for getting the phone open. After finding basically nothing was accessible by entering the back of the phone, iFixit had to freeze and crack the screen to access its components. “Any attempt at repair is likely to inflict as much damage as it fixes,” the team writes, noting that overuse of adhesives made it difficult to even get inside.
Aug 25, 2017
After a slight delay and subsequent missed targets, the Essential Phone is finally, actually, really, officially shipping to customers. Andy Rubin’s new company just tweeted that those who’ve been charged for the phone should be on the lookout for tracking information to arrive by email sometime today. “We appreciate everyone’s patience,” Essential added.Read Article >
The $700 phone will be going it alone for now — Essential’s 360-degree camera module isn’t yet shipping — and is only available in the glossy black color for these early shipments. The white version is still marked as “coming soon,” and the matte Essential Phone isn’t even listed on the order page yet, so that must still be a ways off.
Aug 14, 2017
Essential, the new phone startup from Android founder Andy Rubin, is now a unicorn, according to reports from Bloomberg columnist Tim Culpan over the weekend. If you’re not up to date on the parlance of Silicon Valley, a unicorn is a company that’s valued at over $1 billion dollars, which is no small feat in today’s market. This title is even more impressive, given that Essential has yet to ship a single device to consumers.Read Article >
According to Culpan, Foxconn's FIH Mobile filing for a $3 million investment in Essential for around 0.25 percent of the fledgling phone company revealed Essential’s new unicorn status with a valuation of around $1.2 billion. Earlier estimates from July had previously pegged Essential’s worth at approximately $997 million, so crossing the $1 billion mark was likely only a matter of time at that point. This is good news for Essential, particularly as the company approaches the launch of its first product.
Aug 9, 2017
It’s been a few weeks since Essential CEO Andy Rubin told us that the Essential Phone would be coming “in a few weeks,” but today the company gave yet another (albeit slightly more specific) timeline, saying it would reveal the release date “in a week.” That’s nearly two months after the company initially said that the phone would begin shipping some time in June.Read Article >
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Essential president Niccolo De Masi also confirmed that the $699 Android device with an edge-to-edge display would be available via major US retailers Best Buy and Amazon. The Essential is expected to launch as a Sprint exclusive, with Telus as its Canada partner and more international carriers to be announced at a later date.
Jul 27, 2017
Android co-founder Andy Rubin’s Essential is poised to ship its flagship smartphone sometime in August, after a somewhat nebulous few weeks in which eager consumers and media organizations alike pestered the company about the unexplained shipping delay. Now, following Rubin’s confirmation last week that the Essential Phone is indeed coming soon, the company has penned a blog post detailing some of the more technical aspects of the phone’s dual-camera photography system.Read Article >
The post, from Essential’s imaging expert Yazhu Ling, is titled, “Getting everything in tune for the perfect picture.” It explains how the team under Ling, who’s worked on the phone’s imaging capabilities nonstop since last October, uses a mix of standard RGB color data and information from a monochromatic version of the same photo to cut down on noise while keeping resolution high.
Jul 10, 2017
Essential, the smartphone maker from Android co-founder Andy Rubin, is staying mum on whether its titular gadget has been delayed. News organizations began pinging the company last week when it was clear Essential missed its 30-day shipping deadline set by Rubin himself at the Code Conference in late May. The company has not appeared to respond to any of these requests, including The Verge’s, leaving pre-order buyers and other interested parties in the dark on the fate of the Android-powered handset.Read Article >
A missed deadline is not that big of a deal, especially not for a company that didn’t publicly exist until just 40 days ago (and from a startup, and not a big-name manufacturer, no less). But Essential’s silence is more worrisome, as it suggests the problem may be more complicated than a simply manufacturing delay.
Jun 1, 2017
Essential, the new hardware outfit from Android co-founder Andy Rubin, may branch out from phones and smart home accessories into Google Glass-like smart frames. An old patent filing, dug up by the folks at Patently Apple and granted prior to its big phone reveal this week, show a concept device shaped like a standard pair of eyeglasses, but with camera and display hardware built in.Read Article >
Much like Snapchat’s Spectacles, this theoretical Essential device would be used to capture eye-level photo and video with a built-in camera. However it would go further, more in the vein of Google’s ill-fated Glass headset, by adding digital information and images to real life scenes with some type of augmented reality tech. The filing describes the device working with prescription lenses, photo sensitive lenses, and standard sunglass lenses. There is also talk of a “dual-mode display,” which would present visual overlays and use an inward facing camera to perform eye tracking.
Playground CEO Andy Rubin, whose new company Essential unveiled a new premium Android smartphone and Amazon Echo competitor today, says his company’s Ambient OS smart home platform will be open source. That means that Rubin, who rose to fame in the tech industry for co-founding Android, essentially wants to apply the same open-source philosophy that made Android the most dominant mobile operating system to the smart home.Read Article >
Given how disparate the smart home landscape is right now, with myriad interoperability standards and wireless platforms trying to marry various devices together, Essential’s Ambient OS does have a massive opportunity here. However, the decision could also mean that the platform ends up as fragmented and splintered as Android is at the moment, leading some consumers to miss out on vital upgrades and advances.
May 31, 2017
Playground and Essential CEO Andy Rubin announced this evening that his new company’s premium Android smartphone, the Essential Phone, will ship within the next 30 days. Rubin made the announcement onstage at Recode’s Code Conference in a conversation with Walt Mossberg, who inquired about Essential’s timeline for getting the device to consumers.Read Article >
The company announced its new phone, alongside a smart home platform called Ambient OS and a new Amazon Echo competitor called Essential Home, earlier today with a splashy website launch and blog post. Essential also opened up a waiting list at the time for anyone to pick out a phone in white or black for $699 with the option of an additional 360-degree camera attachment for $50.
May 30, 2017
The Essential Phone is designed to work on all four major US mobile networks: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. It has the necessary technology inside for compatibility with each. So the $699 debut device from Andy Rubin’s new company, at minimum, should be able to place calls, send texts, and use wireless data. The core smartphone functions are there. Essential’s own support page confirms wide support, pledging that “unlocked Essential Phones bought on Essential.com will work with any carrier.”Read Article >
But the story might be different for “advanced network” features like HD voice, built-in video calling, and so on. Carriers aren’t yet revealing just how well the Essential Phone will work on each of their networks. Performance might not match the network-certified smartphones you’ll find on their retail shelves — and some specific, network-dependent functions might be absent. The Verge has reached out to all four major US wireless providers for comment on what buyers of the Essential Phone can expect when the device ships later this year. AT&T has yet to respond, but I’ll update this story once the company has.
May 30, 2017
Andy Rubin, the man who created Android, has unveiled his Essential Phone today. One of the key new aspects of the Android-powered smartphone is a new modular system designed for additional accessories. Essential’s first accessory is a tiny 360 camera that clips to the rear of the Essential Phone. It’s less than 35 grams in weight, and includes dual 12-megapixel fisheye sensors that can capture 4K 360 video at 30fps.Read Article >
There’s even four microphones for audio capture, and two accessory power pins help keep the camera powered while it’s clipped into the rear of the Essential Phone. Essential is really betting on its 360 camera as a differentiator to the usual Android phones on the market, and the company’s head of optics and imaging, Xiaoyu Miao, believes 360 “changes everything.” In a blog post on the new 360 camera, Miao explains why he thinks the industry has major issues with 360 cameras. “The cameras are bulky and expensive, especially if you want a good one,” explains Miao. "The user experience and workflow for taking a picture and uploading it to your social network is cumbersome.”
Here’s the big question for Andy Rubin, widely known as the father of Android: what’s next? The answer, in part, is that his new company is announcing an entire ecosystem of products that will work together: an intelligent assistant device for you home, a 360 camera, and (of course) a phone. That last one runs Android, which is what you’d expect from any new phone maker.Read Article >
The company he started to make all this is called Essential. In a blog post explaining why it exists, Rubin tells a typical founder story: going out for the night with a friend, talking about the state of technology and how to fix it. Funny thing, though, is that one of the problems he sees with the state of tech today involves the OS he helped create, Android:
May 30, 2017
Android creator Andy Rubin is returning to the smartphone business with his new Essential Phone, and one of its signature features is a modular accessory system that Rubin and co promise will "keep your phone cord-free, future-proof, and always up-to-date." Featuring a pair of magnetic pins on the back of the device, this so-called Click cordless connector will hook up to Essential’s 360-degree camera and its Essential Phone Dock (pictured below).Read Article >
Beyond those two publicized accessories, we’re left guessing as to what additional modules Essential might be planning, or how exactly this physical modularity would assist with keeping the phone up to date. Lacking an onboard headphone jack, the Essential Phone would be a great candidate for an audio accessory that bumps up its headphone-powering capabilities while also adding in that universally compatible port. Another company that’s eschewed a headphone jack in its recent designs is Motorola, and it too has opted for a system of modular extras, which it has dubbed Moto Mods.
May 30, 2017
Essential Home is the new intelligent assistant with round "auto-display" just announced by Andy Rubin's new venture. It can be activated with a question, a tap, or even a "glance," according to Essential, and it's designed to never intrude upon the home. In that way Essential calls it "an entirely new type of product" but it mostly borrows ideas from existing products in an attempt to outdo them.Read Article >
Essential Home lets you control your music, ask general interest questions, set timers, and control your lights — capabilities we’ve seen from Google and Amazon, only Essential promises to do them better, somehow.
The Essential Phone, brought to us by the person who created Android, is finally ready for the spotlight. It’s an incredibly audacious and ambitious project, with an outlandish screen and the beginnings of a modular ecosystem.Read Article >
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.
May 30, 2017
It’s a huge morning of news from Andy Rubin’s Essential: a new Android phone with a unique edge-to-edge display, a modular accessory system, a new 360 camera for that system, and a new intelligent speaker with a huge circular display.Read Article >
But the biggest news of all might be the OS that runs on that speaker. Essential is calling it Ambient OS, and says that the goal is to “activate” your home by understanding the physical layout of your home, its occupants, and the various services and devices available to them. Ambient calls this “activating” your home, and says the Ambient OS is an “API” to all those things in combinations, allowing new kinds of applications to exist on top of them — like flashing your lights when a timer goes off.