New details on the Essential Phone emerge — and they look positive.
Essential is getting a whole lot of attention after it finally announced the Essential Phone with its pretty excellent-looking hardware and unique features. The only issue for those excited about it is that it still isn’t actually for sale — there’s a “reserve” system in which you can drop the required $699 to get on the list for one when it ships, with no actual guarantee of when that’ll be. We also have a limited number of details on how the software works.
Thankfully for us, the company’s founder Andy Rubin gave some great hints as to how Essential plans to sell phones in the near future, and what his vision is for the Phone’s software in his interview at the Code Conference on May 30 (embedded below).
First off, Rubin says that the plan is to ship out reservations “within 30 days” — now he didn’t put his foot down in saying that they will ship out by the end of June, but that’s the goal at least. If he is able to accomplish this, that’d be a pretty good sign that Essential can actually make and ship its first hardware in short order. Many phone startups have run into issues with shipping at scale, though, so we won’t jump for joy until boxes are actually hitting doorsteps.
‘I’m going to try as hard as I can to have a pro-consumer product where you get to decide what’s on your phone.’
After being pressed by the interviewer Walt Mossberg, Rubin also expanded on his plans for Essential to move beyond online-only sales and into the typical carrier and retail channels by which roughly two-thirds of smartphones are sold in the U.S. The goal, Rubin says, is to move into carrier and retail partnerships “soon.” Though he naturally wasn’t able to provide a proper timeline as we can assume negotiations are ongoing, it’s still interesting to see Rubin seeing carriers and established retailers as an important part of the Essential Phone’s sales. Many other small hardware companies are content — or limited — to just sell directly to consumers online.
As we all know, when you start to get involved with the U.S. carriers that also means conceding some control over your software, and Rubin was ready to fight on that point. His goal with bringing the Essential Phone to carriers is to “try as hard as I can to have a pro-consumer product where you get to decide what’s on your phone” — that is, hopefully fight the carriers every lasts bit to keep bloatware (or even hardware) changes from happening as a consolation for the carriers selling the phone.
Essential is aiming to do as little customization as possible to stock Android.
Further to the point of customizing software, Rubin indicated that Essential is aiming to do as little customization as possible to stock Android for the Essential Phone. Outside of “the same amount of Google stuff” other phones have, he sees little value in changing the interface or adding a bunch of apps. We’ve yet to see exactly what’s changed in terms of the software, but it’s not entirely surprising that the creator of Android is a fan of shipping a phone with near-stock Android on it.
As these new details about availability, carrier partners and software emerge, it gives us a much better view of what the Essential Phone will be like — and yes, we may even be getting a little more excited to try it for ourselves.