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Circuit Breaker

Essential is selling three stunning colors of its smartphone for a limited time

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Six months after launch

Essential is launching three limited-edition colors of its phone, which will go on sale over the next week. Those include two announced at launch — Ocean Depths and Stellar Gray — and one new option, Copper Black.

All three models will be available for $599, which is $100 more than the standard black or white model of the phone. Essential says it’s only making a “small batch” of these new colors because “colored ceramic is extremely difficult to produce consistently.” The company didn’t say how many units will be available of each.

The unique teal and gold Ocean Depths design was first revealed on Essential’s website way back in the spring/summer along with the black, white, and matte Stellar Gray option. The black Essential Phone led the bunch, and it took the company several months to ship a version with a white ceramic back, which does a much better job of hiding fingerprints and smudges.

Ocean Depths will be available to order starting at 3PM ET today. Stellar Gray will launch at that same time on Tuesday, February 20th; and the Copper Black model, which has a copper edge and a split black back, will follow on Thursday, February 22nd.

Essential sold less than 90,000 units of its debut handset in the six months following launch, according to IDC figures — a paltry number when held up next to the iPhones, Samsungs, and even the Pixels of the world. At first, the company’s asking price was a little too high when you factored in the software bugs and very mediocre camera that the Essential Phone shipped with. The $500 price the black and white models are currently being sold for is more sensible.

Andy Rubin’s company has been persistent in rolling out firmware updates designed to help smooth out the Essential Phone’s software performance. But some complaints around jittery scrolling and touchscreen response remain. Some fixes for those issues are included in the Android 8.1 Oreo beta that was released just yesterday.

Essential has also made multiple attempts at further optimizing the camera. This month the company issued a camera app update that has received largely positive feedback among users for eliminating almost all shutter lag and improving HDR shots.

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

My bigger question is where the company’s modular ambitions stand. After all this time, a 360-degree camera remains the lone latch-on accessory that Essential has managed to get out the door. The charging dock that’s been advertised on the Essential website for months isn’t yet available, nor is the hi-fi headphone jack add-on that employees have repeatedly mentioned on Reddit. Essential seems to have some good ideas — but it’s just not executing on them. As another example, the company has remained dead silent about what progress has been made on its home assistant.

The Essential Phone’s dock hasn’t yet shipped despite being advertised on the company’s website for months. How hard can it be to make this thing?

Essential is already at work on its second smartphone, which should be unveiled in late May or early June if the company is aiming to maintain an annual cycle. Andy Rubin and his people seem aware of the missteps made with the PH-1, which is encouraging, but they’ve got a lot to prove the second time around. Not a lot of people have bought this phone. That’s a fact. It’s certainly not a consumer hit. But there’s a passionate community of people who bought into Andy Rubin’s gamble and have stuck with it. Some of those people are probably very excited about something as simple as a new color.