Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone has made a lot of people and manufacturers sit up and take notice. It aims to be a market disrupter and innovate to push the market into a more autonomous direction. It was announced nearly three months ago but the good news is that you can finally purchase one.
At this stage only the Black Moon version is available with the Pure White version still a few weeks away. For now, Australians the purchasing of the Essential Phone is made harder by the fact that it is only available in the US and Canada, at this stage. If you have a US connection you can purchase from the Essential website or Best Buy now and receive the black version within days.
The good news is that the Essential Phone will be available for purchase via Amazon on September 1. The Amazon listing has the Black Moon version shipping on the first day of September but has the message “This item has not yet been released” for the white version. The even better news for those here in Australia is the Amazon listing confirms that it DOES ship to Australia. Good news indeed. Without any trickery I was able to get all the way through to the final purchase page using an Australian credit card and an Australian shipping address. The shipping cost of less than $10 also makes it an attractive purchasing option.
The phone DOES support all the required LTE bands for the majority of Australians (some obscure Canberran bands may not be supported) and does promise to be a great device. It has a near bezel-less front with a 5.7 inch display with the front camera cutting into the display itself. The back is a mirrored ceramic backing with titanium side rails to aid it’s durability with drops and there is no headphone jack. There are magnetic pins on the back for their modular accessories, of which only a 360 degree camera is available at this stage. The hardware inside is also impressive with a Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage.
The software is where the Essential Phone both wins and loses. The software is basically fully stock AOSP Android with Essential’s own camera app. Fully stock Android means they will be able to roll out updates etc faster in the future but having their own camera app at this stage gives a sub-premium camera experience. Reviews published this weekend point to a software update that arrived last week improving the low light performance but the camera is still apparently not in the same league as other premium phones. One review went as far as describing the camera update and experience as:
Where before I would have described the low light performance as “a dumpster fire but worse because you can at least see fire in the dark,” now it’s approaching something like respectability
With Andy Rubin in charge most sites are giving the Essential Phone the benefit of the doubt that the camera performance can and will be improved with software updates. For me though it is not enough to make me pull the trigger on the purchase and my advice to anyone looking to purchase one is to wait and see what happens with future camera updates. For those impatient ones (of which I am normally one) you can preorder one now with Amazon and receive it in the first couple of weeks of September.