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Circuit Breaker

Essential continues to update its camera with new portrait mode and image improvements

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Too little too late?

Essential has rolled out yet another update to its camera app that adds new features and promises to help alleviate some of the photo issues seen with the Essential Phone. Notably, the update brings a new background-blurring portrait mode like those found on the Pixel 2 and iPhone X, among others. It also fixes some stability issues while improving image quality by reducing JPEG compression and adding exposure compensation to more camera modes.

The camera is seen as the Essential Phone’s weakest feature and the Achilles Heel of the bezel-less device. The company had previously rolled out app and firmware updates to address the camera's shortcomings. We gave the phone an 8 out of 10 in our review while noting the disappointing camera performance on a device positioned at the “premium” end of the smartphone spectrum. The Essential Phone's price was cut to $499 in October, $200 less than its original price, and that number dropped even lower to $399 for Cyber Monday.

Continued updates are a good sign, but fire-sale pricing and the sudden leave of Essential founder and CEO Andy Rubin have to make you question the viability of the fledgling company.