Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Essential Phone Release: 5 Things to Know

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The man that invented Android unveiled the Essential PH-1, a new premium smartphone made of titanium and ceramic. The new $699 Android phone is available for pre-order now and is worth a look for anyone considering a high-end phone with a big screen, such as an iPhone 7 Plus, Galaxy S8+, or Pixel XL. What sets the Essential PH-1 apart is that it’s almost all screen on the front and it has some innovative accessories, such as a 360-degree camera.

While the Essential PH-1 is a noteworthy device, the reason so many Android fans are excited about this device is that Andy Rubin, the co-founder of Android, is behind it.

While other manufacturers brag about maxing out the size of the display by getting rid of the bezels on the side of the phones, the Essential PH-1’s display extends up to the top edge of the phone as well. The display curves around the front-facing camera, filling out the space normally reserved for sensors and speakers. It’s the closest thing to a bezel-free phone we’ve seen yet.

The Essential PH-1 has dual rear cameras and a modular design with magnetic pins on the back for a 360-degree camera and other accessories that snap on. The Essential PH-1 is launching in the US first, with 4G LTE support for all major carriers.

Essential Phone Design

Essential is using a high-end titanium frame that’s more durable than the aluminum most smartphone manufacturers use. The same applies to the ceramic finish on the back instead of fragile glass. This combination means it can survive a drop test “without blemish, unlike the aluminum competitor devices,” according to the company.

You’ll still find a familiar rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, power and volume keys on the sides, and a pair of cameras around back. These don’t offer wide-angle or telephoto zoom like Apple and LG, and instead one is a monochrome sensor similar to recent Huawei smartphones. That second sensor takes in more light and colors for improved low-light photography.

The front has reinforced Gorilla Glass 5 that should resist scratches and damage. Then at the bottom is a small bit of bezel where you’ll be able to easily hold the phone without touching the screen and activating apps.

The star of the show is the screen. Coming in at 5.71-inches with a Quad-HD LCD display. As you probably already noticed, there is a hole in the top of the screen for the front-facing camera. Essential tells The Verge most Android phones don’t have anything in the middle of the status bar, so technically it shouldn’t cover any notifications or be a concern for buyers.

You’ll also find a USB Type-C port on the bottom for charging and enjoying music, as there is no 3.5mm jack. Essential will bundle a USB to 3.5mm dongle in the box that works with wired headphones.

Premium phones aren’t hard to find in the Android ecosystem, so the company aims to offer a slew of accessories that connect to the pogo magnetic pins on the back. The 360-degree camera and charging mat are just two of many the company has planned. Andy Rubin claims this will act as a way to upgrade the phone over time, so users won’t have to replace their phone once a year.

You’ll also notice there are no logos on the phone to keep the design elegant and simple.

Essential Phone Specs & Features

With high-end phones from Samsung, Apple and LG the Essential phone will need to pack quite a bunch to get consumers interested, and it does. Here’s a breakdown of the specs and features.

Essential Phone Specifications

  • 5.71-inch 2560 x 1312 LCD Display with a 19:10 aspect ratio (long and skinny screen)

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM

  • 128GB of internal storage

  • 13 Megapixel f/1.8 rear camera, secondary monochrome RGB camera sensor

  • 8MP front camera

  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat

  • 3,040 mAh battery with fast charging

  • Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, USB Type-C, and Powered Pogo Pins

  • Available colors: Black Moon, Stellar Grey, Pure White, Ocean Depths (Teal Green)

In 2017 most flagship phones have water-resistance and a microSD slot for storage expansion, but those are both missing on the Essential PH-1. Not to mention wireless charging only works with the proprietary dock when it’s finally released. That said, it has just about everything else one would want in a flagship smartphone.

Essential Phone Modular Accessories

For accessories, Essential will be offering what they’re calling the world’s smallest personal 360-degrees action camera. This snaps on to the magnetic pins on the back of the phone and works instantly. There’s no setup required for the add-on camera. It uses dual 12MP camera sensors and can record 4k video.

The 360-degree camera will sell for $199, but you can get it for $50 if you pre-order the Essential Phone today.

Shown above is the other accessory, a wireless charging pad that connects to the magnetic pins on the back of the phone. The company has other unique accessories planned and will even allow access to 3rd party manufacturers to create their own.

Essential Phone Release Date & Price

Sadly there’s no mention of an exact release date. The phone is available starting today, May 30th for pre-order and costs $699 with free shipping.

However, buyers will have to order one without seeing anything other than these press photos. There are no reviews or camera comparisons, and we’re not sure how fast software updates will arrive. Coming from Andy Rubin, we’re hopeful it will get updates quick like Nexus and Pixel phones. Everything is still somewhat of a mystery until further notice.

For now, the phone is only available in the United States and will work with all major wireless carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

The two colors available at launch are Black and White, with Gray and Ocean Green being released later.

Those looking for more details can head to the Essential FAQ page. Essential also announced a new smart speaker called the Essential Home, which looks to take on Google Home or Amazon Alexa. We’ll update as soon as we know more.

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