Stronger build, better camera. But is that enough?
RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — Andy Rubin, credited as the father of the Android mobile operating platform, is back at it with a new phone that promises to solve some of the major consumer issues with current smartphones.
Based on a first look, it doesn’ t.
We listened to Rubin speak and spent some time with the Essential phone at the Code conference here. We now have a better idea of what issues Rubin’s new phone is trying to solve than the ones kind of buried on the new Essential website.
Rubin says he wants to “solve consumer problems” with both his new phone, out in June starting at $699, and other products down the line, such as an Amazon Echo-like speaker.
Let us count the ways:
Despite Apple and Samsung having a lock on most smartphone purchases, Rubin told the Code crowd he believed he had a real shot of getting in there and becoming a major player.
“We are financed to go for it, ” he said. “This is a swing for the fences.”
Getting consumers to give up on longtime habits like iPhone and Galaxy use is tough. And based on what Essential has to offer — an Android phone that could be tougher — but not indestructible, dongle free with a slightly larger view and great camera sounds great on paper.
Just ask HTC, Huawei and some of the other companies with some of those features that are trying to do battle with the big guys.
Indeed, the Huawei Mate 9 has a dual camera system from camera pioneer Leica, a 5.9-inch LCD screen and promises a battery that will last two days. The new HTC U11 touts a new way to navigate, by squeezing the phone. It has both the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built into the phone and is waterproof.
So the Essential has its work cut out for it. It’s not the only state of the art phone out there trying to wean consumers away from the big guys. Apple alone sells more than 200 million iPhones annually.
Richard Windsor, an analyst with Edison Research, calls the Essential “another nice looking, easy to use phone….but we can’ t see how it does anything that is not already available. We remain unconvinced with regards to what is special and different about Essential Products and suspect that many consumer electronics buyers will feel the same way.”
To be fair, in the demo, the phone feels and looks like a state-of-the-art machine that actually does do what Rubin promises.
But is that enough?
We look forward to a full, hands-on review when the Essential phone is released.