I'm Lance Somoza, a professional IT Consultant with over 15 years of industry experience and an obsession for technology. This is my tech soapbox.

Thoughts on new Essential Phone and Home products

As hinted at last week, Andy Rubin’s new startup (Essential) has announced Essential Phone and Essential Home (Amazon Echo/Google Home competitor).

Essential Phone: In a Nutshell

  • Runs Android
  • Body is made of titanium, with a ceramic back.
  • Colors: Black Moon, Stellar Grey, Pure White, and Ocean Depths
  • 128GB of Storage, 4GB of RAM
  • Full Display (takes up most of the front of the phone).
  • Cameras
    • Rear: 13 megapixels, True monochrome mode, 4K video
    • Front: 8 megapixels, 4K video
  • USB-C port for charging and audio (phone comes with a USB-C to headphone jack adapter).
  • No headphone jack.
  • Accessories snap on to the rear corner of the phone via magnetic pogo pins.
    • The first of these accessories is a 360 degree camera ($50 with the phone or $199 by itself).
    • Another accessory announced is a docking station the phone simply rests on to charge.
  • Price: $699 (US only)

The Essential Phone looks pretty, and definitely has a gorgeous display, which is on par with what we’ll see with the upcoming iPhone 8 (latest mock up based on leaks below). The use of titanium and ceramic is really cool, given how strong these materials are. It has been rumored that Apple is testing out ceramic for the iPhone, and they released their first product with ceramic last year (Apple Watch Edition).

Latest mockup of iPhone 8 based on leaks.

128GB of storage should be good for most people, but 4GB of RAM in an Android phone is a little measly.

I’m wondering how well accessories will hold to the magnetic back, or how easily they can be knocked off the phone. Essential’s website says this about it:

Don’t you hate it when you have to buy new dongles, chargers, and accessories every time your phone is upgraded? We do too. So we decided to make this a thing of the past. The magnetic connector with wireless data transfer keeps your phone cord-free, future-proof, and always up-to-date.

I have a couple issues with this. First, Essential provides a USB-C to headphone jack dongle in the box. Sure, you don’t have to buy it separately, but they should own their design choice for not including a headphone jack in the phone instead of being hypocritical for embracing a natural progression of the market (see iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8).

Second, the thought of the magnetic connector keeping your phone future-proof and up-to-date is just BS. It echoes back to the reign of PCs, when eMachine computers would come with those horrid stickers proclaiming “This computer is never obsolete”. You will still have to replace your phone every 1-2 years to get the latest and greatest, not simply snap on accessories for the foreseeable future.

eMachines’s laughable “never obsolete” sticker.

That said, any competition is good for the industry and consumers. Fresh ideas are always welcome and it is clear Andy Rubin has a vision for Essential.

You can reserve an Essential Phone today, but there’s currently no delivery date specified.

Essential Home

Essential Home: In a Nutshell

  • Runs a new OS named Ambient
  • Round touchscreen
  • Covers the basics like: playin music, setting timers, answering questions, and home automation control
  • Proactively alerts you for calendar meetings or events

I’m loving the competition that is heating up in this market. Amazon is the leader by far, but Apple is rumored to be announcing a Siri Smart Speaker at WWDC next week, and Google Home is going to be receiving major updates soon.

Essential Home looks pretty cool. It has a touchscreen like the newly announced Amazon Echo Show. Unlike the Show, however, Essential Home does not appear to have a built-in camera for video calling. I like the first looks we’ve seen of the interface, but more information is needed to really get an idea of how Essential will position itself in this market. They can definitely make a larger impact here than with the Phone.

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