Andy Rubin’s new firm needs to act fast, and deliver a great product, if it’s to avoid being squeezed by the competition.I haven’t written (or, if I’m honest, really thought a whole lot) about the Essential Phone since its announcement. Indeed, most of the hype around the device stems from the fact that it’s the brainchild of Android founder (and namesake) Andy Rubin. It’s obvious, but let’s state it upfront anyway: Tech media and tech enthusiasts probably wouldn’t care about this phone as much were Rubin’s name not attached. The buzz is (at least) as much about the man as it is his phone.
That’s not to say the product itself isn’t interesting. The bezel-less design is eye-catching and futuristic (though sure to become more pedestrian over the next six months). The approach to modular add-ons — using physical connections for power only, and handling data transfer over a high-frequency wireless connection — is smart and forward-thinking.
And it’s always nice to see manufacturers taking a lighter touch when it comes to customizing Android.
The vision around the rest of the product is less clear. It’s a $700 phone launching in 2017 without water resistance. The battery capacity is underwhelming, despite its chunky proportions. The dual camera setup, though interesting, is unproven, and on paper pretty run-of-the-mill.
And assuming it lands sometime in August, the software situation is precarious as well. The Essential Phone will run Nougat out of the box, right as Android O is being finalized. It’ll almost certainly get O, but it’s unclear when that’ll happen. Remember we’ll be just a month or so out from Pixel launch season when the Essential phone does arrive.
Hardware is hard, and delays happen, but the Essential Phone would’ve been a much easier sell back in June (the original target date). As it stands,