Today, Andy Rubin and his new company, Essential, took the wraps off what they've been working on for quite some time: The Essential Phone. It's actually just one piece of a bigger puzzle for Rubin and his new company, which want to control everything in your home with a more accessible platform called Ambient OS (and a new smart speaker), but, for the purpose of this article we're just going to focus on the newest smartphone coming to market.
The Essential Phone, which, let's face it, is pretty great branding and will lead to, hopefully, some great marketing, is a typical flagship phone in many regards. It has the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor you'd hope to find, what should be an adequate amount of RAM, plenty of built-in storage (with no microSD card slot, though), and while it lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack, there will be a dongle to help with that right in the box.
Because everyone loves dongles, right?
There are two cameras on the back, and there's a front-facing camera that can record 4K video. The device is sturdy, crafted from titanium and ceramic, and Essential is pretty positive that if you drop it, you'll probably be pretty safe from any major issues. It's running Android and there probably won't be much of an issue with unnecessary built-in software.
But, that last bit, is actually tied to a potentially big issue. Something that Google itself has run into in the past, and other companies that have been trying to make a name for themselves in the United States for years. It's an issue that even Sony has run into as of late. No major wireless carrier support. And it's something that the Essential Phone is facing right out of the gate.
For what it's worth, the Essential Phone does have one important feature: It's unlocked and supports every major wireless carrier in the United States. So you can switch from Verizon to T-Mobile, back to Sprint, and even get some attention from AT&T's cellular network, too. But while that's great for those who prefer that type of feature, it might not mean anything to the "average consumer."
What also might not matter to the average consumer is that Andy Rubin put together a new company to launch a new smartphone, especially because they can't get it from their carrier. Even if they see a commercial for the phone, which one would hope they do eventually, it might not matter if that person can't simply go into their carrier's local store and walk out with it.
Not having a major carrier support a phone is hard work, and while the Essential Phone is fantastic in terms of specs and design, I can't help but wonder if Rubin's desired future, where the Essential Phone is the crux of the smart home of so many people, is one that isn't obtainable.
Is the Essential Phone the smartphone that can break the curse? What do you think? Does Rubin have a hit on its hands, one that general consumers will embrace, or is this another niche handset?