Andy Rubin made his bones in the mobile industry by co-founding Danger (maker of the Sidekick) and Android, which was acquired by Google and turned into the largest mobile platform on Earth. It’s an impressive pedigree, so everyone was interested when Rubin announced his new hardware startup was going to make an Android phone. The Essential Phone was unveiled in May, and Rubin told everyone it would come out in just a few weeks. Here we are a few months later, and the Essential Phone is finally shipping.
There have been a few false starts after that first unannounced delay. Earlier this month, he announced that the phone was in mass production — but that was cold comfort to people who had already paid for the phone. Consumers who pre-ordered their phones were irked a few weeks ago when Essential began charging cards, but didn’t actually ship the phones.
So, now maybe all is forgiven? The Essential Phone is on its way to buyers, with some scheduled to appear on doorsteps this week. However, it seems those who ordered both the phone and the 360-degree camera accessory are still awaiting shipment confirmation.
It’s easy to get down on Essential for a few delays, but smartphone startups don’t exactly have a good track record for delivering phones on time. For example, OnePlus launched its first two phones with invite systems that made it difficult to order, but that’s the only way the company could keep up. Meanwhile, other companies just can’t get a product out the door. Look at Saygus, which has been promising to ship its now woefully outdated V2 smartphone since early 2015. By comparison, Essential is knocking it out of the park on its first phone launch.
The phone is shipping, but it’s unclear how good or successful it will be. The early reviews have been positive overall, praising the phone’s solid titanium and ceramic build and the wild edge-to-edge display. The software, too, gets high marks, thanks to the unmodified Android UI and no bloatware. The dual camera array is supposed to offer sharper photos than other phones, but reviews point to this as a weak spot for the Essential Phone. Images in low light are noticeably more noisy and dim than other phones in its price range.
A bigger question is how the Essential phone will compete with devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone 8. Sprint is the only carrier selling the Essential Phone directly. The unlocked version of the phone is available for a whopping $700 on Essential’s website. That version works on Sprint, T-Mobile, and ATT. Verizon certification is still pending, so it will probably work if you already have an activated Verizon SIM card. However, don’t take it into a store and expect to be able to activate it on Verizon just yet.