The founder of Android, Andy Rubin, just unveiled his new Android smartphone.
It's called the "Essential Phone PH-1" and is available to preorder now for $699.
That might seem like a steep price, but the Essential smartphone offers many of the high-end specs you'd expect from devices such as Samsung's flagship Galaxy S8. It's equipped with a sharp display that runs from edge-to-edge and takes up almost the entire front of the device, Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM)'s high-end Snapdragon 835 processor camera and what Essential says is "one of the world's best phone cameras." It doesn't have a headphone jack, though, and will instead ship with a dongle in the box.
It's also made out of titanium, instead of aluminum, which Essential says will help the phone survive accidental drops.
It can be outfitted with a $50 360-degree camera accessory — likely for recording content to view back in virtual reality or on social networks — which snaps to the back of the device. There's also a cordless charging mat and docking station, which the phone snaps on to with magnets. This is a modular approach to accessories that we've seen before from companies such as LG and, more successfully, from Motorola Mobility. Essential will likely continue to build and sell other accessories that snap onto the smartphone.
Essential is entering a tough market that's dominated by Apple and Samsung. While the 360-degree camera accessory is compelling and the specs are high-end, there's not a whole lot here that suggests Essential is going to take considerable market share from the iPhone or Galaxy devices.
In a letter posted to Twitter, Andy Rubin explained why he's entering the smartphone market again. "For all the good that Android has done, it has also helped create this weird new world where people are forced to fight with the very technology that was supposed to simplify their lives," Rubin said. "Was this what we had intended? Was this the best we could do? After a long talk with my friend, we decided that I needed to start a new company to build solutions for the way people want to live in the 21st century."
Andy Rubin will discuss the device and his strategy during the Code Conference at 9 p.m. EDT on Tuesday evening.
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