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Andy Rubin Puts Essential Up for Sale, Cancels Next Phone (bloomberg.com)
386 points by coloneltcb 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 363 comments

Making mass consumer flagship smartphones and going up against Samsung, Huawei, and Apple is a really tough game, but I'm sure Andy and the team at Essential knew that. I like that there are people who, in the face of giants, pick up the stone.

I'm all for audacity, but I think it's better to have at least a few stones. It surprises me that they only raised enough money for one throw.

I believe there's still a lot of room for innovation in smartphones. But if your whole company is riding on your first product, I think it produces a lot of weird design pressure. You simultaneously want to be low risk and super edgy. While trying integrate a lot of new people, new partners, and (hopefully) new tech. Getting an industry-beater in one go under those conditions seems like winning the lottery.

They spent $100M on the first phone, and $200M left over. They had capital for multiple throws, and even started working on them.

What still puzzles me then is why they didn't keep throwing. Did they really only have one product hypothesis that they thought was worthwhile? What lesson did they learn about phones here that was enough to kill the business? And did they really have to spend $100m to learn whatever that was?

Actually there were a couple of reasons for this:

1. Not falling behind the curve. It seemed they couldn't stick to a deadline because each time they tried to, they would identify a newer cooler hardware feature that "had to be in". Doesn't help to do this when you don't have an established brand.

2. Incestuous hiring practises where it was based on brand name of canditates' school and past companies instead of focussing on indicators of execution and expertise!

3. No sense of urgency. In Andy we Trust!

Ah, interesting. That's a good example of something I think about a lot. Startups mainly focus on testing product hypotheses, but they also test organizational hypotheses, like ones about who to hire, how to organize people, and how to approach the work. This is a good reminder that you need to have enough of your organizational stuff right just to usefully test your product hypotheses.

Their one throw took a notch out of every major smartphone.

Except it didn't, and that's why they are selling the business:


It was a joke. Essential introduced the "notch" in the phone around the camera. And it was a well-designed implementation.

I don't understand how selling 88,000 phones isn't considered a success. That's $44M in revenue, assuming the phones sold for $499 each. For a startup, even one founded by a Google veteran, like Rubin, this seems like a home run for a first product offering.

The comment above says they spent $100M to make that $44M revenue.

Going up against major players typically starts with a massive cost, consider the losses that Tesla is taking on. As per my other comment [0] from the article it's more like $89M in revenue.

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17152056

The phone selling business is not as clear cut as selling oranges at the market. There are deals with carriers and other infrastructure stake holders that cloud the view significantly.

What that means to Essential's bottom line is not clear. It would be difficult to even consider the assumption of the revenue of $44M for them.

>The phone selling business is not as clear cut as selling oranges at the market. There are deals with carriers and other infrastructure stake holders that cloud the view significantly.

My personal experience is a polar opposite of this.

I myself worked with few companies doing private label handsets. It is a near foolproof business.

You go to an ODM, put money first for a respin of a successful product under your brand, then you dump the batch on TaoBao, Aliexpress, and trade companies. This will stably gain you profits in single digits, and at about %15 if you have some luck along with real insight into doing things like that.

Should Andy be more easy on pricing, and also "simply dump the product off an online marketplace," he would've been in black by now.

More proving your point, but from the article:

> The phone’s initial price was $699, the same as an iPhone viewed as a competitor. At that price, the company sold as few as 20,000 units across its website and third-party distribution partners, one of the people said. Last October, Essential lowered the price by $200, which boosted sales. The company has sold at least 150,000 to date, according to the person familiar with the company.

So that's 20,000 * $699 + 150,000 * $499 ~ $89M

That's total sales, but probably not total revenue, in that third-party distribution partners (that is, stores) will take a slice. Possibly a big one given Essential's relatively poor bargaining power.

>assuming the phones sold for $499 each

Except it isn't. Many were sold at heavy discount.

More than 100,000,000 units is a one quarter at Chinese market. How 88,000 is even something to talk about.

It’s one thing to try to enter a difficult market. It’s a complete other to enter a market with an inferior product.

...and overpriced for what it was.

Perhaps if they hadn't hyped it up so much before release, there would have been less disappointment.

> It’s a complete other to enter a market with an inferior product.

It's completely natural and sensible to enter a market with a product that is inferior in some aspects, but has a huge USP, which this phone had.

It's not really his first product, Andy has a ton of experience with all the generations of Sidekicks + Android partnerships(one could argue the G1 was almost a spiritual Sidekick hardware wise).

I wonder if it might be time for him to branch out into a new domain, I feel like there may just be too much common ground that's already been covered before.

Andy Rubin was tasked with heading up Boston Dynamics at Google, who desperately needed leadership and guidance. but he ditched them to go do Essential.

Soon after he left, Alphabet sold BD to Softbank.

You make good points for sure. I wonder how much it takes to bring one phone to market compared to 2 or 3. In other words, how possible/practical is it to try for 2 or 3 bites at the apple compared to simply focusing on getting the first one right enough to keep going.

OnePlus started with one stone and it seems to be doing quite well. I guess the business model is different though.

OnePlus is one of many many brands run by a Chinese electronics behemoth: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBK_Electronics

Key reason for success for OnePlus had been price point. It's enormously popular in 3rd world because you can get specs that used to be 2X expensive from other. If you can keep quality same while reducing price by half, chances are that you are going to be very successful. Chinese company can do that but US company cannot because if they can then there will a Chinese company directly competing with them. Essential understood this and so never wanted to compete on price. You cannot win price war with Chinese company.

OnePlus wasn't an individual company working from scratch, they have immense support from Oppo for R&D.

megy 10 months ago [flagged]

Yes, because if a small company can't successfully make one product, they should instead make 3.

Translated to the standard startup-speak: they should have enough runway for two pivots.

Yes, because they will learn from the failures of the first, and make the second better. Then learn from the failures of the second-system-syndrome and make the third genuinely better.

Which is more likely to succeed, 1 attempt or 3 attempts?

We're talking about a small company here. Sometimes small companies don't have the resources to move forward with a 2nd product if the first one didn't pay off.

Ah, this poor, tiny company that raised only $330m: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/essential-2#section-...

Different [1] is one of my favorite books on how to find a unique niche in crowded markets. It is written by a (brilliant) marketing professor but is useful for product strategy. Also see Blue Ocean Strategy [2] on this topic.

Essential had neither of these approaches.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Different-Escaping-Competitive-Youngm... [2] https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Ocean-Strategy-Expanded-Uncontes...

I disagree. They are pursuing a Blue Ocean strategy but failing in execution as well as suffering from fast followers.

"Essential Phone The most beautiful Android upgrade, ever." is the tagline on their homepage. That's hardly an uncontested product niche (aka Blue Ocean Strategy). Apple dominates "beautiful" phones. Even if you believe the Android carve out (I don't), this is literally what Samsung has been doing for years and Google is doing with Pixel.

Doomed strategy from the start.

Hmd/Nokia succeeded where Essential failed in roughly the same timeframe grabbing a lot of marketshare. So it can be done. Essential fought themselves into a corner with a product that was too expensive and not that remarkable or indeed essential. Wrong strategy and they failed to deliver something to differentiate their products. Nokia took a more simple approach by first covering the low end with attractively priced and relatively well received products. Crucially, by shipping stock android, they took software off the critical path and wowed consumers at the same time by not exposing them to the usual crapware and focusing on hardware quality instead. Then they started doing the same for the mid and high range. It turns out there's a market for well built phones that simply run the latest android.

It's not necessarily a fair comparison given the power of the Nokia brand in the mobile phone industry. Would Essential have gotten as much press as it did if it had gone to the low end? I doubt it.

It's not like it's hard to carve out a niche now that literally every flagship phone is functionally identical. There have been so many novel features that have been tried since the birth of the Android ecosystem that there are bound to be dozens of useful, now-unique features to choose from that only failed to be adopted because the phone they debuted on was fatally flawed in other ways.

In my opinion, there are 3 major features that are immediately obvious, yet always overlooked by OEMs that are such low hanging fruit that I'm constantly amazed that no manufacturer has put them all together. They aren't even all that interesting either, the only reason they haven't caught on is that all the also-ran's have tunnel vision about playing copycat with Samsung and Apple.

1. Battery life. Seriously, we could have phones with 4+ days of battery life if we'd only stopped making them thinner to the point where the rear camera sticks out, effectively ruining the aesthetic of thinness. We've also sacrificed the 3.5mm jack in the pursuit of the most anorexic phones imaginable and all for what? A feeling of awe when we open the box of a new phone which only lasts 10 seconds before we throw it in a case which makes it as thick as an OG Motorola Droid?

2. Stock Android. Stock Android. Stock Android. I will never buy anything but a phone running stock Android (or maybe a dumbphone once Big Brother Google pushes me over the edge). Even the most technically illiterate users recognize that stock Android (whether they know what that means) is vastly superior to the Samsung Galaxy Whatever they just traded in.

3. Durability/Ease of Repair. Modern phones have become less fragile in many ways (waterproofing) but the screens and batteries are still weak points. Glass can never be made shatter-proof and lithium ion batteries will always lose a significant amount of charge capacity after being cycled several hundred times (a fault made worse by fitting a phone with a battery that often requires 2+ charges a day). So how do you fix this? Easy, just make the screens and batteries easy to replace like those of older iPhones. This works directly in conjunction with point #1 as we've been forced to accept bonded screens and sealed back panels as a result of the thinness wars.

Extra Credit: You know how you can get my money as well as the money of everyone I know? Bring back the landscape QWERTY keyboard. There hasn't been a phone since the Droid 2 that could lay claim to being anything more than a lower midrange design. The first company to do all of the above will make waves, I promise you.

“Even the most technically illiterate users recognize that stock Android (whether they know what that means) is vastly superior to the Samsung Galaxy Whatever they just traded in.”

Not even close to reality. Tech savvy users recognise stock android occasionally however when I worked telco sales frequently the thing that got the sale across the line was some kind of gimmicky feature/addition the manufacturer had integrated. The average user couldn’t even tell iOS and Android apart as long as it had the Facebook app installed.

Manufacturers should of course recognise the massive saving to be had by developing only minimal customisation and being able to quickly roll out updates/new features in the latest Android releases.

I guess I should have phrased that as "even the most technologically illiterate users will come to recognize the superior user experience of a phone running stock Android after getting comfortable with it. This effect works regardless of their ability to understand exactly what the reason for the improved user experience is, it's just so immediately apparent they can't help but notice."

You're right in that gimmicks move phones in a retail environment. When a consumer will only give ~1 minute's worth of attention (at best) to each phone in the store, selective pressure rewards flashy gimmicks that leave the greatest immediate impression. The thing is, there is a huge portion of consumers who have moved to buying phones online based on research conducted entirely through online sources. The tech-savvy reviewers who these consumers are likely to come across are always vociferously supportive of any attempt to use stock/stockish Android. That bullet point always gets a favorable mention even if the total sum of the phone's features leads to a poor review. Build a following among those who make informed and objective decisions and eventually you'll get the attention of the retail/tech illiterate consumer.

That's how Samsung managed to become the king of the Android world, the Galaxy S was the first decent phone hardware-wise that could be flashed to stock or custom ROMs that fixed the issues with early versions of Android. The Galaxy S, S II, and Galaxy Nexus became the phones for the tech-savvy Android crowd and their objectively supported recommendations to less savvy friends and family created a sales tsunami that kept rolling long after Samsung abandoned the key feature (making flagship quality phones that were hacker friendly) that led to their success in the first place.

Not really, Samsung was already winning out thanks to their UI and usability over stock Android.

I never knew anyone that would burn custom ROMs on their Samsungs.

Unfortunately this.

Engineers make up a tiny percentage of phone buyers, and a feature list that will excite engineers has very little in common with a list that will make most consumers hand over money.

"2. Stock Android. Stock Android. Stock Android."

How is that differentiating yourself?

"The first company to do all of the above will make waves, I promise you."

I highly doubt it. For one, hardware keyboards are expensive to do right, and they add to the repair costs and warranty costs of the phone. Doing it means either making your phone more expensive (read: Fewer people will buy it) or using cheaper parts elsewhere (read: Most people who claim to want hardware keyboards will complain about this, and then not buy it).

> How is that differentiating yourself?

Cause nobody else does it.

I have two cheep Chinese Android phones and both have stock Android. I'm writing this reply from $49 100g 4GB "myPhone pocket". But I'm not gonna lie, I had to write my own browser to make it usable.

Out of curiosity, what was wrong with the browser it came with ?

To slow, too much memory (when I returned from browser to previous app it was killed for OOM)

Apart from Nokia

My Asus Zenfone 3 has a lot of flaws, but the battery life is awesome. After a day of very heavy usage, I'll still have over 50% battery life. Light usage usually leaves me with 80 to 85%. It makes up for the flawed custom android they put on it. If only it was stock android, as you say.

I've had a Moto x4 Android One (Project Fi) for six months and I am still very impressed with its battery life. Right now it's at 75% after 15 hours of admittedly light use, but even under heavy use it easily lasts a full day. Great phone, especially as a "mid-tier."

I've developed a strong loyalty to Motorola because of this. I've owned several Verizon exclusive models (Droid Turbo, Turbo 2, Z Play Droid) and all have featured incredible real world battery life and stockish Android. I'd kill to have received another one for work even though they are decidedly "mid range" in terms of features and specs. Instead, I've been saddled with a Galaxy S7 which is a complete turd despite its supposed status as a "flagship".

"I've developed a strong loyalty to Motorola because of this. I've owned several Verizon exclusive models (Droid Turbo, Turbo 2, Z Play Droid) and all have featured incredible real world battery life and stockish Android."

Ny past three phones have also been Motorola, because they are basic, well-made devices with close to stock Android. I really hope that Motorola keep differentiating themselves by shipping phones that don't have gimmicks.

I have a Sam S8+ would gladly add a 1/2 inch of depth for a 2 day battery.

I just dumped my s8 because of all the custom Samsung software. Great hardware crapped up with their bullshit. It's like they go out of their way to make an inferior product by adding their garbage software to it.

Surely there’s a case that does this.

If you want stock android, try Android One phones.

I have Xiaomi Mi A1, which is Android One, and it's amazing.

HTC is selling one too, I think. Motorola also maybe

Android One are stock Android phones, and I get updates once a month more or less. It actually delivers on its premise

Also, I think Elemental phone or whatever was the name had stock Android

> HTC is selling one too, I think. Motorola also maybe

The entire Nokia (HMD) line is Android One. With LTS commitments on every android phone they release.

I picked up a cheap Nokia 6 a couple months ago and was pleasantly surprised to see it actually OTA updates with no nonsense and actually works on voLTE.

Mi A1 owner here, very pleased with the phone, especially for the price I paid.

> Battery life.

Nobody but technically inclined users care that much about battery life anymore. For most people, you can throw a rock and hit a phone that has all day battery life. People are used to charging their phones nightly.

People will take a battery life improvement, but it's not a driver. Many manufacturers have slapped in giant batteries or included battery modules, removable back cases that allow for double life batteries. None have caught on, because really. If I have to charge it once a day or twice if I'm using it for games all day or something, then what is the difference? Have a charger at work, a charger at home and a decent phone, and you'll never have a battery life issue. I don't think I've depleted my iPhone X once and I've owned it since day one.

> Stock Android

Another thing nobody but techies care about, and even they are mixed. I know plenty of people who prefer modern TouchWiz, or more likely, simply don't care. Caring about stock Android really only applies to those who spend most of their time in the launcher or OS, which isn't most people. For most, their phone is a gateway to apps, and this goes double for Android phones.

If the primary use of your phone is launching Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Gmail & Facebook, then who the hell cares what the launcher interface is? Most younger and less technical users don't even use the dialer or contacts or other apps people typically leave stock.

> Durability/Ease of Repair

I can't believe people can actually say this with a straight face. Once again, the last thing on people's list. It's far and away a nice to have, not anything that actually influences a purchasing decision for a significant number of people. For those that it does matter to, they'll just slap it in a case anyways. It also requires a boatload of design compromises to make things easier to repair.

> Bring back the landscape QWERTY keyboard

The icing on the cake. I don't know who you know, but seriously, nobody wants a hardware keyboard. Most people under 30 (y'know, the people who buy new phones frequently and use them as primary computers) would actually be significantly slower on a hardware keyboard, regardless of layout.

What you've described is a giant phone, double or triple the size of any other normal between the massive battery, use of durable materials and durable slider mechanism. Nobody wants this. You might, and some of your friends might, but any company that took a run at actually making this phone would have abysmal sales.

You make a ton of assumptions here, all of which smack of someone who hasn't spoken to a normal consumer or someone under 30 in a long time. I suggest hanging around retail for a little bit, because you're in for a rude awakening.

Things people actually care about in a phone, in rough order:

1. OS - This is tied for the next two for number one. Nobody gives a shit about stock Android, but most are pretty set in one camp or the other in regards to iOS v Android at this point. People do switch though, so its not the highest priority for all.

2. Screen Size - Massive consideration. Many want a giant screen, many want a manageable screen, both are pretty set in their ways.

3. Camera - I can't count the number of times people have asked me for a phone recommendation and had this as their number one concern. I put the other two first because they tend to have those decided before speaking to me, so they are typically more important. Camera quality, as subjective as that can be, can really sell a phone.

4. Design - Gasp! Weight, thickness, materials. Actually really important. It may not show up on a spec list, but people do make decisions based on this even if they aren't acutely aware.

5. Price - For many this is the number one factor, but for many it's not even on the list so it's hard to know where to place this one in terms of order.

6. Cool new features - Hugely important, triggers upgrades. The giant OLED screen & FaceID sold plenty of people on the iPhone X. "What can this phone do that my phone can't" is a strong driver of upgrades that aren't required due to a failing/broken phone.

>Nobody but technically inclined users care that much about battery life anymore.

That is very far from the truth. Just look at the scramble around power outlets in all sorts of public places from cafes to trains. People are desperate to recharge their phones.

Stories of phones running out of battery are now as much part of folklore as not having coins for payphones was a few decades back.

Go to any Android or iOS support forum and you will find that battery draining questions are a major category. And it's plain to see that it isn't just techies asking these questions.

Battery is also _the_ limiting factor for the tasks phones are suitable for. CPUs, especially on iPhones, are capable of so much more than what the battery allows.

I never said people don't have issues with battery life. I said it's not a driver for most phone purchases, and I stand by that. Good battery life or better than average is a nice to have.

> Go to any Android or iOS support forum

The average consumer will never post to any support form in their entire lives. /r/iOSbeta was all battery life posts until they were banned because they cluttered up the subreddit, because of course that will be a common issue.

> Battery is also _the_ limiting factor for the tasks phones are suitable for.

But we don't have an answer for that. All GP is suggesting is slapping in a giant battery. That won't solve the problem at all. If someone has a breakthrough solution for multi-day battery life that isn't just "throw in a bigger battery and to hell with design" then that would be a game changer.

However, is it a major driver in purchases? No. Like I said, there have been plenty of "big ass battery" devices, none have been successful, because it's not a significant driver of sales.

Badly written apps and forgetful users won't be solved by larger batteries. It'll just extend the time between incidents slightly.

> The icing on the cake. I don't know who you know, but seriously, nobody wants a hardware keyboard.

Not true. If it were true the Blackberry KeyONE wouldn't have been the moderate success that it was. Clearly TCL believe that QWERTY phones are viable as they've just announced the Blackberry Key2.

My better-half has not one, but two, KeyONEs - one for work, and one for personal use. They are very nice, well built phones with a pretty good spec. If you type stuff all day, then they are a great option.

Your experience is anecdotal. So is mine, and I haven't seen a single hardware keyboard in use -- not a single one, from any manufacturer -- since Nokia N900 was a thing almost ten years ago.

It's not actually. What I didn't say, is that my other half works for a large Law firm. Most of the Partners there (100+) have switched from iPhones to Blackberry KeyONEs as they can actually work on them because of the proper keyboards.

At the end of the day, keyboardless and keyboard phones CAN co-exist. I was just disagreeing that with the point that no-one wants a keyboard phone.

> I was just disagreeing that with the point that no-one wants a keyboard phone.

Perhaps glib. I could have clarified further but "a keyboard phone could carve out a small but somewhat lucrative niche amongst people who refuse to get used to software keyboards, people over 30-40, and people who owned devices that sport hardware keyboards in the past but they are ultimately doomed to irrelevancy in the long run" is less pithy.

I can’t find anything even close to “moderate success” for the KeyOne. Most of the articles I pulled up describe awful sales although Blackberry had an optimistic outlook. Most outlets citing sales numbers say that Blackberry only managed to outperform one company: the now-deceased Essential.

> the Blackberry KeyONE wouldn't have been the moderate success that it was.

Ok, well I come from the land of BlackBerry, and I have seen maybe one person with this phone in the wild. Keep in mind that BlackBerry was still a significant force here until years after it was dead everywhere else.

Just out of curiosity, how old is your better-half? Did they have a hardware keyboard device in the past?

I don't think age has anything to do with it. People either prefer hard keyboards or not. Technology should be an enabler, and allow people to use the device formats they want. Just because 90% of people are now used to touch keyboards, doesn't make the remaining 10% wrong.

i would buy a phone with a good hw based keyboard immediately. I was just thinking tonight, after correcting my 400th mistake, how weird it is we as consumers put up with this inefficient on screen keyboard.

>Another thing nobody but techies care about, and even they are mixed. I know plenty of people who prefer modern TouchWiz, or more likely, simply don't care. Caring about stock Android really only applies to those who spend most of their time in the launcher or OS, which isn't most people. For most, their phone is a gateway to apps, and this goes double for Android phones.

Umm, I want a phone with the latest security updates, since it holds very personal information I don't want it to have unpatched access. Phones with Stock Android - on average - get more updates/faster updates [1] (if at all). Also Stock Android gets rid of manufacturer code which can affect apps, for instance some Huawei phones, on Nougat, have USB-OTG disabled in the skin, accessible otherwise with LOS.

[1] Phones like Pixel, Android One program, Sony, Nokia, OnePlus (https://www.computerworld.com/article/3257607/android/androi...)

I actually based my recommendations off of the most common areas of complaint I come across and specifically the areas the younger set complain about most often.

Battery Life:

You can find someone tethered to a wall outlet in almost any public space these days. The apps which the younger set use most frequently (photo, video, and data heavy social media apps) are also enormous battery hogs. Facebook and Snapchat in particular are the source of more "my phone is on 2%, can I borrow your charger?" requests than anything else.

Durability/Ease of Repair:

Go to any high school or college campus and count the number of phones you see with cracked screens. I can't even count the number of people I know who have been stuck using a phone with a busted screen until they're eligible for an upgrade or able to afford a new one. Back in the days of the iPhone 4, a broken screen was a $50 fix. Now it is a mark of shame that lasts until you buy a new phone because replacing a screen is either not feasible at all or far too expensive to justify (this applies more to phones in the $250-300 range)

Bring back the landscape QWERTY keyboard:

I'll admit this is heavily biased by my curmudgeonliness because I loved my OG Droid and Droid 2, but there's something to be said about a feature that helped those 2 phones rack up huge sales figures but hasn't been seriously tried ever since. In relation to its appeal among the younger set, the amount of horrific typos and "oops, autocorrect screwed that up" I see across all forms of content generated on software keyboards is enormous. People may be "faster" with software keyboards but the speed means nothing when they either butcher their point or have to edit/send a second message to correct their mistakes. Also, the proportion of smartphone users who actually use swipe style predictive input and those who hunt and peck is skewed heavily toward the peckers.

You make good points in relation to camera quality and cost but I see those as inherently "solved" problems in today's smartphone market. There are dozens of phones with great cameras, copying what they're doing is both easy and not a real differentiator. Any feature I neglected to mention can be covered under the heading of "just don't screw it up", there's no excuse for fucking something up when you have dozens of examples of how to do things right. As far as cost is concerned, it's obviously factor #1 these days as the "mid range" is continually eaten away by pressure from unceasingly good budget phones and the "flagship" price point becomes unattainable to startups that can't create an entire supply chain to support the latest whizbang innovations. I still think there's room for a phone like I've described at the $400-500 price point, whether that's achievable with the landscape QWERTY is the real question.

I can't stand the bland Stock Android UI, some of us do like using good looking UIs.

It is like using fvwm instead of Enlightenment.

Hence why many common users always install an Android theme when the phone comes with Stock UI.

I think the closest thing to what you want is a Blackberry keyone, great battery life, nearly stock Android with unobtrusive changes and a great qwerty.

I would have bought/requested one of the Blackberry offerings a long time ago if I could manage landscape keyboards with my large hands. They're just too damned small.

While I agree if you’re going Android make it stock Android comment, I know tech people who prefer Samsung’s software.

Are there still phones being made with stock Android and a headphone jack? That's a big part of durability to me since the USB-C adapters seem to constantly break.

Not sure if it's still made, and it's barely still a phone (it's 4mm total height away from not letting me sit down if I have it in the front pocket of a normal, male jeans), but the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro serves as a nice tall (3:4 [sic]) 80-col (exactly) terminal... In portrait mode, using JuiceSSH, but any reasonable terminal should do the trick. As far as I know they just skipped the budget for a custom firmware, at least for the most part. It doesn't feel branded. The ToF sensor is nice, but the tracking algorithm seems borked, as it often looses registration, leading to shifting artifacts in any scan, and I have not yet found any software that allows the user to only do a very rough recontruction live, and do high quality post processing offline.

Nokia 8, Nokia 6, probably all of the Nokia phones.

I use the Nokia 8. Works great.

Android One phones like Nokia phones and Xiaomi Mi A1


Stock Android + quick updates to every new version, forever, + easy installation of alternative Android distributions.

So Essential then? They shipped updates faster than Google, was close to bone stock, and was project treble compatible for custom roms.

Thanks, Android seems to be getting somewhere with that. https://github.com/phhusson/treble_experimentations/wiki

The Blackview A20 that's listed there is a pretty cheap phone.

They are for sale : )

You mean going up against Samsung, Huawei, and Apple, + Sony, Google, Motorola, LG, Xiaomi, HTC, Microsoft, Nokia, BlackBerry, BLU, ZTE, Kyocera, Alcatel & a bunch of generics. That's tough!

Yeah a genius isn't always motivated by the same success metrics are normal people sometimes they just want to make something amazing even if they know it's a one off because it's not just business it's art.

I like art, and am all for it. But nobody should mistake it for a business.

Want to make a poignant, subtle art-house film? Go for it. Want to make a blockbuster sequel which will be predictably profitable? Go for it. But please don't raise money like you're doing the latter and then do the former. Steve Jobs said, "Real artist ship." And given his record at Apple, I suspect he'd agree that real artists ship things people want.

No one has said it better than Steve Jobs himself:

"We did iTunes because we all love music. We made what we thought was the best jukebox in iTunes. Then we all wanted to carry our whole music libraries around with us. The team worked really hard. And the reason that they worked so hard is because we all wanted one. You know? I mean, the first few hundred customers were us."

"It's not about pop culture, and it's not about fooling people, and it's not about convincing people that they want something they don't. We figure out what we want. And I think we're pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That's what we get paid to do."

Classic Jobs indeed. In the sense that iTunes was originally called SoundJam MP and not done by Apple, but published through Casady & Greene and bought up. But he knew to tell and sell a narrative.

I remember SoundJam pre-acquisition being much more in the Winamp/Audion vein - playlist window + player window. I thought most of the library stuff came after they joined Apple. I would believe that Apple bought them and then suggested how they should build it out further.

Looking at old screenshots on Google seems to agree.

Yup. SoundJam MP was basically a Winamp clone and it became iTunes. The above comment is also ignoring the entire iTunes store was arguably the only hard part about creating iTunes.

In a way, it doesn't matter. "Real artists ship, even if it means stealing" - you could amend it probably.

"Great artists steal." -Picasso

Interestingly, there is no evidence that Picasso said that, and Jobs is the first person on record claiming that he did: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/03/06/artists-steal/

Haha, figures - he probably felt he could use some moral support.

> Yeah a genius isn't always motivated by the same success metrics are normal people sometimes they just want to make something amazing even if they know it's a one off because it's not just business it's art.

Are you calling Andy Rubin a "genius?" I'm familiar with his career, but I'm not familiar with any evidence he is a genius. Care to elaborate? And this is not a dig at him, I just don't perceive him to be a genius.

Art is awesome, and people should definitely make art and take risks, but if you raise investment money on the promise of some sort of return, then what you have there is a business.

Keyboard without comma keys, perhaps?

Probably a MacBook Pro 2016-2017.

I dn't knw what yu're talking abut. I have a MacBk Pr and the keybard wrks just fine.

Not just going up against Samsung, but oppo/OnePlus are tough competition, as well as several other 2nd tier Android manufacturers.

Making a hole in the screen was a bad idea.

In this case it looks like the investors picked up the stone.

>>I like that there are people who, in the face of giants, pick up the stone.

Just upvoting this quote.

David got there first, I believe.

Damn you, down-voting Philistines.

I honestly dont get it. What kind of stone is Google listing?

Sorry just genuinely confused and search returned nothing on google stones ;(

You fell for the “Google knows everything” mantra…

It does, though :) googling "people who, in the face of giants, pick up the stone" returns a bunch of results on David and Goliath.

Oh, I thought it was a search for a new product, the Google Stone. Now that is a product I would buy.

Google Stone: No privacy worries. No recordings. Nothing evil. Just a rock made by Google.


I think it was a reference to David and Goliath.

It is a reference to the stone used to slay Goliath.


PS. cant even ask a genuine question without being downvoted into oblivion; HN became just another reddit :(

No worries :)

Great quote.

Typing this from an Essential.

I'm pretty sad. I've had four Nexuses, a Galaxy S and an iPhone and this is probably my favourite. It's camera-problems are well-known, but I really do think it's the best-designed phone on the market today.

Some high notes:

- the notch predates the iPhone X and looks even better because it's so small. The one on the X is so large, they may as well have not bothered.

- The glass-ceramic-titanium is slippery, but a joy to behold. I love the heavy, blocky feel and love idly flipping it around in my hand (I guess I don't need a fidget spinner). The flat sides also have the advantage letting you leave it straight-up on it's sides (ie for camera shots) while simultaneously being rounded enough to be easy to hold.

- flat, unbranded back and general layout is basically what every phone should have.

- The module extension system is probably the best of all the ones that have been tried. I have the 360 camera and it works great.

- speaking of the camera, I love 360 photos. I kickestarted a failed 360 Camera (Bubl) etc, I used to spend a ton of time making photospheres, their camera was fantastic. I love taking photos with it and people actually like looking at them.

- If they had managed to get rid of the chin and shrank the notch a bit (the status bar is 2x as tall as regular Android because of it) on their second phone, it would have been a perfect.

- Apart form the physical stuff, the updates came fast, the storage was generous (128GB) and the UI was uncluttered.

I hope they get picked up by someone, they have a lot of good stuff going for them.

The notch is smaller because it's just a camera lens. The iPhone X basically has a Kinect in its notch. They're not really directly comparable.

Of course you can compare them! They're both phones with a notch! You can also separately compare their face detection capability. But that doesn't disallow you from saying one notch is smaller than the other.

I think he meant given that the features are not the same, it's hard to compare the physical aspects (and more technically, product specifications) "fairly".

I really don't think anyone was trying to disallow people from saying that one notch is smaller than the other.

Much like comparing an oven to a microwave.

Except if you don't want/use face-unlock, then you're left with a huge useless notch... Other than maybe providing better snapchat filter, all those sensors don't do much. I much prefer just having a fingerprint sensor that's smaller and doesn't cover my screen.

Just out of curiosity, is there a specific reason you don't want to use face unlock?

It's not that I don't want it, it's that I prefer touch unlock. It's faster, more reliable, and I can do it before even taking the phone out of my pocket and at any angle or light condition. In this case, face unlock actually has a downside which is a bigger notch and probably increase in cost, while actually providing a lesser reliable and slower experience. It's basically worse than touch id in every possible way.

Until someone gets into your phone using your finger while you are sleeping. Or muggers steal your phone AND cut off your finger with a cigar cutter so they can unlock it.

Having a PIN is much more secure, as bandits can't use your appendages to get into your phone. I really don't get why people jumped on the bio-metrics bandwagon so quickly. If my Password or PIN gets compromised I can change it. if your fingerprint, or iris gets cloned there's nothing you can do.

Bio-metric security looks cool in movies, but in real life it's an utterly pointless less-secure gimmick.

This kind of shit isn't even close to the threat model that 99% of users care about. If you're the kind of person who needs to worry about Mossad breaking into your phone, you know who you are and you're not using fingerprint unlock.

I have a fine collection of tin foil hats, would you like one?

Seriously though.. Fast Forward 20 years and the Social Media platform that everyone uses has just 'accidentally' leaked 1bn users bio-metric data to a 3rd party. Good luck re-securing your identity after that.

My point is still valid, you can't change your eyeballs, fingers or face if your bio-metrics get leaked.

I think you can add a few .9999s to that.

> Until someone gets into your phone using your finger while you are sleeping. Or muggers steal your phone AND cut off your finger with a cigar cutter so they can unlock it.

If someone malicious has access to me while I'm sleeping I have far greater problems than whatever's on my phone. Same goes for muggers: if I feel threatened I'll happily give my pin away because my integrity is far more important to me than whatever data is on my or my company's device.

If my face fingerprint get cloned the baddies will still need physical access to my phone, which takes us back to my first point: the data in my phone is worth nothing compared to the worth of my physical integrity so it's irrelevant.

I'm comparing face unlock to touch unlock, and you're talking about something entirely different. This is off-topic and an entirely different discussion.

Wait, are you saying its notch is better than the iPhone's? I must confess I haven't considered the possibility that the form and size of the notch could be a differentiator. I thought the notch is a design dead-end if there ever was one, but maybe Apple are on to something; after all Apple sure knows a hell of a lot more about design trade-offs than me.

Typing from an essential, the notch is not really a design plus but more of a compromise to giving the user full emersive experience in phone viewing. It is to get the screen into the rounded corners. The front camera is like saying ... Fine!

Apple does this really well by minimizing the thickness of the notch, filling all four corners with screen, and creating UI concepts that could blissfully integrate the weird screen shape.

I really really really hope this is a dead end we will wake up from.

Right now I feel this is more about everybody copying Apple because let's be honest, this is what many OEMs do ..

Is it really worth not having stereo front facing speakers and having to add a hole on the screen in order to have it kinda cover the whole front of the phone ?

Am I the only one that looks at the front design of the phone once or twice during the first week and then focus on the content, not the slight chrome around it ?

The weird thing about the notch is that it's really obvious that Apple made a compromise due to constraints. They're likely to do some next level technology investment to get rid of it, and it's going to leave their competitors bamboozled once again.

Creating an engineering problem due to ambitious design, then soaking in the industry scorn and praise, then solving that problem with something new and great is Apples wheelhouse. Competitors who don't see this pattern are doomed.

Any examples of this happening earlier?

Once you've experienced it, it's hard to go back to a phone that doesn't have it.

Can you explain why? What benefit does it have? It is there to house a part which they weren't able to place anywhere else? Or is there really something that the notch "does"?

I'm not wild about the notch, but to be fair, the iPhone X is the only phone without any "chin" on the lower bezel which probably gives more of an immersive feel despite the assymetry of the notch at the top.

The Android OEMs are copying the top notch without removing the chin, which doesn't make a lot of sense.

It's very difficult to fill the the bottom corners with screen.


@darkersid : wow, this sounds so weird to me. If anything, this hole in the screen distracts from any immersion and constantly reminds me of the chrome of what I am looking at whereas I usually completely stop noticing the chrome of my phone after one week of use.

Yeah it really is nonintuitive, but it's been my experience. It's almost like seeing the notch there reminds me of the space around it.

Do you have an essential too?

It's the immersiveness of a bezel-less display. It might not affect everyone as strongly, but for me, other phones now feel constricting.

I don't know, Samsung's S6/S7/S8/S9 has had edge-to-edge displays for years as well (in the horizontal dimension at least) without a notch. I'm guessing I need to check-out in a shop for myself.

I find vertical real estate so much more valuable, and just feels more freeing to have that extra space.

I was gonna get one, but no headphone jack :\

or micro SD card support

or replaceable battery.

I also enjoy the same things about the essential phone as you. It looks like Zune has a new friend.

In my mind, Andy Rubin is likely be one of the most unfortunate tech personality I'm aware of.

So here is a guy who grows up dreaming about robots. But instead of doing that he ends up doing startup to make money so he can eventually do robots. He spends best years of his life building phone OS by walking a fine line to clone a work of a genius. And a pretty shitty clone at that. But the guy is so in to robots that he ends up calling this thing "Android" even though its not android. Thing takes off despite being shitty clone because Microsoft had become incompetent to his enormous luck. He becomes rich, powerful and eventually able to demand to get off the shitty clone train to actually do robotics. He goes to GoogleX with essentially carte blank to make his dreams finally come true. The guy goes out and buys up every cool robotics startup out there, spends billions and surrounds himself with some of the best talent on planet. And then he leaves it all to rott. But still... he is ultra rich, can do whatever he wants and he still has some of his productive years left. What does he do? Another phone startup! And again just a clone with minor tweaks at that.

Meh. Looking at his Resume (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Rubin#Career_timeline), he started working on Mobile OS's as far back as 1992. Then he hopped from company to company (founding 2) until the Google Acquisition in 2005, and he didn't get into Robots until 2013.

You don't spend 21 years working in a domain you don't like.

And you don't quit managing Google's robotics division after LESS THAN A YEAR to immediately go back to mobile if robots are your lifelong dream. OK, sure, maybe he didn't like Google's robotics strategy or vision, but he was in a prime position to change it from the inside, and that takes longer than a year.

It sounds much more that Robots is a hobby. But his life goal and passion is Mobile.

Also, discounting his successes as just cloning the work of a genius is silly. Firstly, he has a credible role in the historical progression, as the Danger SideKick was a legitimate leader in the field for a few years.

Secondly, Android to iPhone in the 2010's is Windows to Mac in the 1990's. They democratized the platform to give people the freedom of choice.

There are absolutely people who work on something for 21 years (++) even though they don’t like it. It’s harder to say no to the incredible amounts of cash and promises of future fulfillment.

Although I’d hate to insinuate this is what Rubin did.

Surely a robot needs a 'mobile' OS?

Generally something a cut above the current stereotype of s̥̙̭͘͠m̡̻̤̭͡a҉̵̯̪̼̘̥̠̞r̢̦͎͉̺̤t͈̯̥̳̮̝̼͢phone quality, I would hope.

No one really knows why he left Google. Was he forced to leave silently with support for good optics around his departure by Google or he just left abruptly dropping everything he built till then on his own volition. Execs like him just don't drop everything and leave at once without a good transition plan and thinking things through. No one knows the real story. He had to step down from Essential for a valid reason which they can never disclose in all honesty. All we know is that, it has something to do with the reasons why he left Google. The real reasons for his departure is shrouded in secrecy and probably protected or kept a secret with a lot of legalease...

Edit: A quick google search says he left Google because of misconduct. Inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate.

You really need to post a source when repeating workplace misconduct allegations.

instead of complaining...


Some of us have better things to do than research rumors from every comment on the internet. It is not too much to ask for sources when making certain statements.

I'm not sure what the word 'research' means. Can you look it up for me? I have better things to do.

No fucking way! You are so lame to repeat and continue spreading rumors that have not been asserted. It's because of people like you the #metoo rally will get such a bad reputation and leave people bitter. Get a life.

These are not rumors. Multiple news sources reported the misconduct and Andy had to take a leave of absence from Essential. Andy would have hired a stellar law firm to protect his reputation against defamation, if there was no truth to this. When the credibility he built in his lifetime is at stake, it would be naive assume otherwise.

Edit: I personally admire what he was able to accomplish in mobile but was disappointed when I first heard the new about his mis-conduct. He showed poor judgement, and I didn't expect this of him.

> He spends best years of his life building phone OS by walking a fine line to clone a work of a genius.

You do realize Android was founded as a company in 2003 and acquired by Google in 2005, and the iPhone was unveiled in 2007? Google of course altered the design direction based on the iPhone, but the first prototypes looked more like Blackberries.

> So here is a guy who grows up dreaming about robots.

> He goes to GoogleX with essentially carte blank to make his dreams finally come true. The guy goes out and buys up every cool robotics startup out there, spends billions and surrounds himself with some of the best talent on planet.

Sounds pretty fortunate to me. He got his dream to work with robots. Just because he's more famous for a mobile OS that is on more that 50% of all computing devices [0] doesn't stop the fact that he's still had more opportunity than all the rest of us to work on robotics.

[0]: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/570a5ddfc2ea5138c555f...

You're excluding his co-founding of Danger and the development of the Sidekick, which was way ahead of its time and did a lot more than the original iPhone could do - just without a touchscreen.

To describe his contributions to mobile as a pale shadow of what Steve Jobs was doing is unfair.

> did a lot more than the original iPhone could do

Like what? I had a Sidekick, and I don't remember it doing a "lot more than the original iPhone" at all.

I won't comment on anything else -- I really don't know much about it -- but I will take exception to the "clone" comment.

It is very hard to make a decent copy of a great product. This goes for everything, not just phones. There were many others trying to copy the many great ideas packed into the iphone. Even now, its not obvious.

Consider that even for an android as it currently stands -- a phone where you get the OS from Google, and the parts from various known manufacturers -- there is an enormous difference in quality between the different products. Samsung has dominated other phone makers and in theory they should produce comparable product. (Some do, I am sure.)

The same is true of, say, Windows laptops. Some are amazing and some are unusable. But why? They all us the same OS and the parts come from the same handful of manufacturers?

I'll let more knowledgeable people opine as to what the challenges are, but its not easy.

The dude ended up with hundreds of million with -as you say- a shitty clone. How is he unfortunate?

You can still be stinking rich yet unfulfilled in life. Money isn't everything.

Is Andy unfulfilled? He's wildly successful enough to do anything in the world. I'm kind of shocked how little credit he's getting here.

My comment wasn't necessarily about Andy, more that it's possible to be incredibly wealthy yet not have any feeling of satisfaction or achievement. Getting rich is nice (I'd assume) but I don't think many people feel many life goals are reached by having a big bank balance.

Compared to whom who achieved more, non-money related, goals?

Sorry I don't follow your comment. I see the misunderstanding I left myself open to, I wasn't trying to suggest Andy hasn't achieved anything. Far from it.

Unfortunate? I know is Porsche/Audi car dealer in Palo Alto. Not enough time to buy the latest model apparently one after the other. Is that what you call unfortunate?

There has been one successful model for new entrants into the smartphone market, since the iPhone: start with a low-budget phone, and progressively raise your prices and move to more premium products as you build trust among consumers and retailers. It's what OnePlus did, it's what google did with nexus, it's what Xiaomi and Huawei have been doing.

Andy Rubin thinking he could skip this process and just jump in at the top of the market was pure hubris, and as much as I was hoping to see them succeed, it's a little bit reassuring that they failed. Success takes hard work, and essential skipped a lot of that.

Hi thinking was that people want clean, simple and minimal features and they would be willing to pay price for it (same as what Jobs might have said). But in reality, people buy high end phones for clean, simple and high end features. The problem is that developing last thing takes huge capital and long time. There is no way to compete with top dogs in high end market. If you are a small company, only viable way for you to succeed is keep the prices low and carve out a niche.

Also I am much more willing to ignore issues and quirks on a budget phone if it does what I care about.

If a flagship device came with glaring flaws - even in functionality I rarely use - no way I'm giving them the money unless it's really revolutionary in some other aspect I care about.

So working out initial problems on a budget phone makes sense.

You forgot "target emerging markets", which is an important reason that Xiaomi and Huawei have been successful.

Nexus phones also weren't really successful and weren't intended to be. They were intended to be development devices and for Google to show the direction that they wanted Android to go in. They also didn't build any of them in-house, they were made by HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola, Huawei, and Asus.

Google's real entry into the smartphone market was with the Pixel which was a direct competitor to the iPhone.

Were the Google Nexus phones considered low-budget?

I have owned 10+ phones during the last 10 years, and the Nexus phones were only ones I bought new.

- Nexus 5 was low cost and amazing for the price. I was able to forgive every issue it had. And another international friend also asked me to buy it & ship it to her.

- The 5X was not low cost, but then it could also be bought cheaply through the Google Fi "loophole." I know at least one other person IRL who bought it through the loophole.

What was that loophole, exactly?

Normally the Nexus 5x was $400, but the cost of buying it through the Project Fi and cancel right away was $250. Now the loophole is with the Moto X4.

Well, none of them have been massive successes so I am not sure it is worth comparing them to Essential.

For long, Google has mostly sold nexuses in order to have demonstration devices of what Android could/should be.

Also, they needed dev devices for their engineers working on the next Android version anyway so it made sense to go the extra mile and sell a couple of them as well.

I don't think any of them has ever been low budget (below 200$); some have been middle budgets and some other high. The Nexus 4 has been introduced at 300$ IIRC but it was not the rule by any length.

Of course, the Nexus 4 cost $299 on launch

Generally, yes.

Wonder if this has anything to do with it:

"Former Android Head Left Due To Sexual Misconduct Claims" https://www.channelnews.com.au/former-android-head-left-due-...

"The woman who filed the complaint reportedly worked in the Android division run by Rubin, which would make any personal relationship between the two violate Google policy; the company requires employees to disclose such relationships so that one of them can be moved to another division. Rubin left the Android department in March 2013 to lead Google’s efforts in robotics, but the HR investigation is said to have taken place in 2014. That investigation, according to The Information, concluded that “Rubin’s behavior was improper and showed bad judgement.”" https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/29/16714264/andy-rubin-leav...

This is sad but forseeable as Essential sold poorly. It was a nice phone but it can be hard to establish a new brand right now and differentiate oneself.

The only new brand of smartphone in the last four years I can think of is OnePlus that has had success. OnePlus did this by buying their popularity. By offering a ton of value initially and then raising the price each generation.

While OnePlus (i've owned all OnePlus phones since OP1) is a great example however there is a common misconception that it was "new" at that time. The OnePlus 1 was almost identical to the Oppo Find 7A in specs, price, etc [1]. Also not commonly known, OnePlus was started by an ex-Oppo executive and is actually (majority) owned by Oppo Electronics which is the parent company of Oppo Mobile [2].

Also while price was definitely a huge factor for it's popularity, the main reason IMHO was because it was the first phone that officially supported a popular AOSP at that time - CyanogenMod (now LineageOS [3]) and it even had the logo branded on the back. Almost everyone I knew with a OP1 phone bought it simply for cyanogenmod and how fast/smooth it ran it with no issues. Remember that when OnePlus 1 was first announced in 2014, android phones were well known to be filled with vendor bloatware (Samsung Galaxy S3,S4 anyone?), expensive, became really slow over time and for those of us that wanted custom ROMs, it was relatively painful to flash/root a stable AOSP on any device. OnePlus 1 was the first phone that I had absolutely no issues with having CyanogenMod on it such that I even turned on nightly updates knowing full well that it was tested at least on a OnePlus device.

So yea, I think OnePlus became popular simply because of price and their official support for CyanogenMod which meant a phone with a fast & responsive running android and most importantly, no bloatware.

[1] https://www.gsmarena.com/compare.php3?idPhone1=6214&idPhone2...

[2] https://www.gizchina.com/2014/04/28/oneplus-responds-oppo-co...

[3] https://www.androidauthority.com/cyanogenmod-lineageos-65481...

> Also while price was definitely a huge factor for it's popularity, the main reason IMHO was because it was the first phone that officially supported a popular AOSP at that time - CyanogenMod (now LineageOS [3]) and it even had the logo branded on the back.

Maybe for the tinkering crowd, but I think you vastly overestimate it's importance in becoming a sales hit. I don't have the numbers for how many people flash their phones, but I'd guess less than one in a thousand. They do advance the sales via favorable reviews and recommendations though, I'm sure.

As far as I see, it was simply just the price-quality ratio that made it a success.

It sold moderately well and had fantastic software (up until it was ruined by management decisions...)

I'm not sure how typical I am in this regard, but I was 100% prepared to buy an essential until I found out that it didn't have 3.5mm audio.

I am in the same bucket. I have such a number of 3.5mm devices. A couple of pairs of cheap over-the-ear headphones that I use for running and walking. A few pairs of noise-blocking earbuds: work desk drawer, home desk, normal backpack. A decent pair of headphones.

There is no way I'm replacing all those with much more expensive bluetooth devices, all of which I need to keep charged. And I'm also not buying six dongles or carrying an adapter with me everywhere.

I just don't get the obsession with getting rid of the jack. I'm sure some people don't need it. And I even get it with Apple; they have a strong sleekness bias and it lets them sell more expensive AirPods. But is everybody else just cargo-culting Apple?

All of the big companies know that most people aren't willing to base their purchase on whether or not a phone has a headphone jack, and therefore they don't have much to lose from ditching it. They can use that space for more battery or for whatever else they want to put there. The inside of a modern smartphone is a pretty space constrained place.

Buying 6 dongles would also only cost $54 ($9 each) which isn't a ridiculous price for an accessory in my opinion, especially if you're buying a high end phone that's going to cost you $700+ anyways.

Personally, I just carry one dongle attached to my keychain and keep one in the car. It hasn't been an issue for me yet.

The space argument makes sense in theory, but one very dedicated person added a headphone jack back to his iPhone 7, and it was possible only because there was a suspiciously empty space where the jack used to be:


I'm also not persuaded by the "most people won't base their purchase" argument, as that applies just as well to adding another 5-10% to the battery. Most people don't base their purchase solely on anything. I may have to go by my local phone stores and chat with the staff to see how much this matters in practice to people.

It makes IP68/69 waterproofing standard difficult to achieve. I suspect that is the main driver.

I don't think it does. It just exposes three (4?) contacts. Less than a USB port. There have been plenty of waterproof phones with jacks.

Galaxy S7 and above are IP68 rated and still have a headphone jack. iPhone X is still IP67 w/o a headphone jack.

I was 100% prepared to buy an essential until I saw photos from its camera. What a disappointment.

As a Nexus owner (4, 5, 6, 7), I am 100% willing to compromise in camera quality. However, something has to give. If this phone debuted at $299 or even $349, I suspect we'd be seeing very different results.

It is a shame too because I think the Amazon Fire phone failed for the very same reason.

In hindsight, the ridiculous invite system that one plus had makes sense now. Maybe they were trying to limit the number of phones sold because each one sold at razor thin profits (possibly at a loss after warranty support).

I was 100% prepared to buy (upgrade to) an Essential phone on Sprint until they pulled the deal after massive abuse (people buying for $150, canceling line, and flipping on eBay for $300 profit).

I'm mostly in the same boat: not having a 3.5mm jack is an excluding factor for me. As someone who has multiple headsets, I'm not surrendering to #dongleLyfe until I'm left with no other options. Thankfully the likes of Samsung, LG and OnePlus don't seem to be interested in dropping it.

I would've had a huawei p20 pro right now if that thing carried a 3.5mm jack, as it's one of the very few phones who fills my other requirements.

I would've liked it to have a headphone jack and a screen about an inch smaller. It's a gorgeous phone.

I was 100% prepared to buy an Essential until i found out it was just another mobile phone.

Downvoted for stating the obvious? $100 bazillion needs to be put in perspective.

Damn you, humourless down-voting Philistines.

The Philistines thing worked with the David+Goliath comment tree...not as much here.

It’s debatable whether it worked the first st time! But I am happy that to be guided.

Would you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News?

>This is sad but forseeable as Essential sold poorly. It was a nice phone but it can be hard to establish a new brand right now and differentiate oneself.

I don't think it is, everyone is just too afraid of doing something radically different. Essential phone was just another generic midrange Android phablet at a top end flagship price. Until someone completely throws that paradigm away we will be stuck with the bloated nonsense that smartphones have become. I would give ANYTHING for a 5" phone with capacitive touch e-ink display, 3000mAh battery, and a barebones BSD based OS that did nothing but call, text, take pictures, gps, and text-based web browsing.

ANYTHING? Would you pay 20x the price of a bloated smartphone? In the developed world, that's what it'd cost due to the small market for such a device. Unfortunately, the price point for such a device further reduces the market ... essentially to zero.

not a rhetorical question. Does ANYTHING include 20x cost factor?

I wonder what they do in the developing world. Previous gen bloat-phones or simple flip phones, or something market-specific, closer to what you're asking for.

Why do you think people don't own smartphones in the developing world?

It's really a shame the Yota[1] phone never took off. I'd kill for a e-ink on the back, screen on the front phone with software that was built to take advantage of it.

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2014/2/28/5450258/yotaphone-e-ink-d...

> I would give ANYTHING for a 5" phone with capacitive touch e-ink display, 3000mAh battery, and a barebones BSD based OS that did nothing but call, text, take pictures, gps, and text-based web browsing

Isn't that pretty much exactly what the light phone2 is? https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/light-phone-2-design#/

Not sure if it'll have browsing, but it's got everything else, including an e-ink display, which is probably the hardest feature to comeby in a phone

If you'd give around $300000 it can be done ;) Battery life could be an issue though. Also taking pictures with an e-ink screen won't be a very satisfying experience. Unfortunately I'm not convinced there's much more than a few hundred people worldwide who would pay good money for a "phone" that can't run any popular apps.

And each of those hundred people probably has _one_ additional app that they find essential, that no one else does. It's a brutal market.

Consider building your own. There's nothing stopping you.

I've heard whispers of mini PCIe 3G cards that have "unused" pins that actually offer up a USB device. That's how the USB-to-miniPCIe adapters work.

There are also ARM processors that can operate as USB hosts and run Linux or a BSD.

LiPo batteries are cheap and fun to use. The charging circuits are less fun, but there are probably ways to handle it without too much trouble.

And finally, our good friends at AliExpress or eBay have plenty of SPI-driven e-ink displays and probably a few usable digitizers, although you'll have to combine them yourself.

If you ever actually go through with building this, let me know. I looked into it once but lacked the time to ever finish.

Not quite what you're looking for, but at least somebody trying something different: https://www.unihertz.com/jelly.html

Glad to know others exist that just want a basic device that will last a week without charging without massive bloat and apps I don't care about.

You can get one for <$30, they're called featurephones. The rebooted Nokia 3310 claims one month of (stand by) battery life.

Aggh, sorry...I meant to be agreeing more with the parent comment I replied to. I want all that plus an e-ink screen running freeBSD and some very basic browsing. I don't think old Nokia dumb phones had that.

Feature Phones are still a thing. You can still get such a thing.


There's a whole bunch of phones that do basically what you're looking for.

Just buy a dumb phone. It does exactly what you described.

The market for this is tiny, that's why it doesn't exist.

Agreed, I don't think anyone really wondered why it doesn't exist...kind of one of those expressions that don't translate well to message boards

I'm actually really hoping that Light Phone 2 takes off. Seems that they're making a very smart move to specifically contrast themselves to the addictive functionality sets of other smartphones, and Light Phone 2 seems to be in a good sweet spot.

I bought the OnePlus One when it was released and it was and still is a great phone, however their price point now places their newer offerings with the Samsung S series and Nexus/Pixel devices. It doesn't have enough going for it to warrant paying those prices. If anything it taught me that phone brands I hadn't heard of could compete with the top line ranges. After my OnePlus I tried a bunch of Chinese brands and found Xiaomi to have the best combination of features and price in the market, plus due to their ubiquity they also get plenty of custom ROM options.

> The only new brand of smartphone in the last four years I can think of is OnePlus that has had success. OnePlus did this by buying their popularity. By offering a ton of value initially and then raising the price each generation.

Aren't they a major Chinese brand? Seems like the message here is that you'd better already be big with deep pockets to wade into the smartphone market.

They're propped up by Oppo, but neither company will acknowledge it. Having weight like that behind you is definitely a competitive advantage when trying to enter this market as a new brand.

Their ads were terrible. They talked so much about their lack of bezel but the shots of the phone would display apps or pictures with black bars so you couldn't even tell the screen was nice.

> and its Android software is nearly identical to the stock version running on Google’s Pixel phones, giving it another unique sales proposition.

Is it just me?

Very few Android phones are not full of crappy manufacturer apps. Nexus, Pixel, OnePlus and apparently, Essential are the few exceptions.

So maybe not unique in the literal sense, but a differentiator anyway.

Also Nokia falls into this camp. Bought Nokia 6 for my wife and it seems to be working very nicely.

I bought the PH-1, and have been very happy with it. Their commitment to releasing source code, supporting no bloat, and stock google android (not stock aosp but close enough) made it a real winner in my book. I was looking forward to the PH-2 so I could push my relatives toward it for their upgrade cycles.

With Amazon going full force on the Alexa hardware (1st and 3rd party) but their only attempt at a phone a failure, I wonder if they will try to pickup Essential and go for a Essential Fire Phone-2?

While I love my PH-1 and want the concept to continue, I can't help but feel that this would be a disaster. Amazon would almost surely ruin the stock Android experience by forcing its ugly bloatware on you to ensure that you consume Amazon content and services.

I said this in another thread about the Essential Phone, but I'll say it again: their strategy was 100% bass-ackwards. You can't come in at the high end of the market: that's where the big dogs live with huge advertising budgets, carrier buy-in, and solid R&D for great cameras. You can't compete with that starting from scratch.

You have to be like OnePlus and the other Chinese manufacturers: start by offering a good phone at a good price that undercuts Apple and Samsung's stupidly expensive flagships, then gradually work your way up-market. That kind of disruption strategy is the only way to break into smartphones.

I would argue that the _only_ way you can come in to the phone market is through the high end.

In order to sell at the low end, you need to sell a lot. A new company doesn't have the market share to make a low end phone with almost no margin profitable in any reasonable amount of time.

On top of which, people with the money to buy high end phones are the ones with the money to throw away their perfectly fine phone in order to get the latest and greatest toys, and the ones that want to do so so they can brag that they have this cool phone that not that many people know about.

The main problem was not the price, it was the execution. False promises, late releases, poor support, general lack of transparency. The execution was abysmal, but people were willing to pay the price.

> False promises, late releases, poor support, general lack of transparency.

These aren't a problem at the low end; at the low end, you sell someone a phone for $100, and they get what they get, and you're done.

Where you can differentiate on the low end, as an Android founder, is building something where you put out a new phone every year, but everything is on the same / close enough to the same / software platform, so your quarterly (or whenever) software updates apply equally to all your devices. Get about $20-$50 spendier each phone you make, and by the time you're at the high end, you've earned a reputation for quality phones with frequent software upgrades, and people will pay the premium for your phones.

OTOH, premium phones on firesale clearance works pretty well for me. Fire phone, Nextbit Robin, etc.

You are assuming "low end" means "undifferentiated and low-margin".

That's because it does. You're competing with other OEMs that all have razor thin margins.

I disagree with this. By starting at the low-end, you will never be able to "out-cost" cheap Chinese manufacturers, with their economies of scale. Across all industries - (Apple with the original iPhone, Tesla with the Model S, etc.), the hardware startup value proposition is in the high-end.

You have to create a sustainable, innovative value proposition. That's easier for a startup to do (much harder for a big company to take a "leap"). Essential thought they had one with their "camera" system, but it didn't catch on.

This misunderstands the problem...

Carriers are the main distribution channel for phones. You can’t compete with carrier distro.

I said that in my comment? Carriers control visibility for big, flagship phones, but the Chinese manufacturers still manage to sell decently by marketing their cheaper phones directly to consumers. That's the kind of strategy Essential should have emulated, until they got big enough to start cutting deals with carriers.

again, I don't see how you can draw a comparison between cheap Chinese manufacturers and an SV backed startup. Can you imagine the VC pitch for that? "We want to raise capital so we can make low-margin phones and that Chinese manufacturers can easily undercut".

Chinese manufacturers have more capital and have easier ways to monetize than a small startup. For that matter, Name a Cheap Chinese manufacturer that has been able to break through in the US market? No chinese phone manufacturer has more than 8% of the market in the US.

Essential took their shot at trying to make a value-chain leap. They failed. That's okay. Life moves on, their engineers will be okay, and they'll get more opportunities in the future - but at least they took their shot.

Well, that's what OnePlus did, and it seems to have done fine.

OnePlus is also increasing the price of their phone with each new version and they don't want to be perceived as a cheap brand.

For example, in Canada, the latest Oneplus 6 cost $699 CAD. That's not cheap. Sure, iPhones and Galaxys are more expensive, but I don't know a lot of people who are ready to drop $700 on a phone from a internet-only brand.

They were partnered with Sprint, clearly it just wasn't enough. I think they simply weren't different enough to convince people to leave the more trusted brands. Smart phones have reached that stage of maturity where the new generations offer little change over the older and the market is accordingly reaching a sort of stasis/equilibrium.

Sprint is also the worst carrier to partner with. People buying flagship phones aren't upgrading their on Sprint, they're switching to other networks.

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