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Essential plans to expand Phone sales to carriers soon, ship near-stock Android software

Essential is getting a whole lot of attention after it finally announced the Essential Phone with its pretty excellent-looking hardware and unique features. The only issue for those excited about it is that it still isn't actually for sale — there's a "reserve" system in which you can sign up to drop the required $699 for when they finally ship, with no actual guarantee of when that'll be. We also have a limited number of details on how the software works.

Thankfully for us, the company's founder Andy Rubin gave some great hints as to how Essential plans to sell phones in the near future, and what his vision is for the Phone's software in his interview at the Code Conference on May 30 (embedded below).

First off, Rubin says that the plan is to ship out reservations "within 30 days" — now he didn't put his foot down in saying that they will ship out by the end of June, but that's the goal at least. If he is able to accomplish this, that'd be a pretty good sign that Essential can actually make and ship its first hardware in short order. Many phone startups have run into issues with shipping at scale, though, so we won't jump for joy until boxes are actually hitting doorsteps.

'I'm going to try as hard as I can to have a pro-consumer product where you get to decide what's on your phone.'

After being pressed by the interviewer Walt Mossberg, Rubin also expanded on his plans for Essential to move beyond online-only sales and into the typical carrier and retail channels by which roughly two-thirds of smartphones are sold in the U.S. The goal, Rubin says, is to move into carrier and retail partnerships "soon." Though he naturally wasn't able to provide a proper timeline as we can assume negotiations are ongoing, it's still interesting to see Rubin seeing carriers and established retailers as an important part of the Essential Phone's sales. Many other small hardware companies are content — or limited — to just sell directly to consumers online.

As we all know, when you start to get involved with the U.S. carriers that also means conceding some control over your software, and Rubin was ready to fight on that point. His goal with bringing the Essential Phone to carriers is to "try as hard as I can to have a pro-consumer product where you get to decide what's on your phone" — that is, hopefully fight the carriers every lasts bit to keep bloatware (or even hardware) changes from happening as a consolation for the carriers selling the phone.

Essential is aiming to do as little customization as possible to stock Android.

Further to the point of customizing software, Rubin indicated that Essential is aiming to do as little customization as possible to stock Android for the Essential Phone. Outside of "the same amount of Google stuff" other phones have, he sees little value in changing the interface or adding a bunch of apps. We've yet to see exactly what's changed in terms of the software, but it's not entirely surprising that the creator of Android is a fan of shipping a phone with near-stock Android on it.

As these new details about availability, carrier partners and software emerge, it gives us a much better view of what the Essential Phone will be like — and yes, we may even be getting a little more excited to try it for ourselves.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

72 Comments
  • Hopefully they show the middle finger to useless carries if they want to mess with the phone especially Verizon and AT&T. As Andy Rubin says they want to be pro consumer product and people who are buying this want Apple model with no carrier crap anywhere.
  • Useless carriers? Yea, cause a phone without service makes so much sense.
  • They are dumb pipes to me who just provide wireless service. Not to mess with devices.
  • You need the carriers if you want to make significant sales in the US.
  • Sadly. Which is why I'm happy to see OnePlus make doable numbers.
  • I love OnePlus but I've never actually met anyone in the US who's ever owned a OnePlus device.
  • You won't see many since they aren't usable on Verizon or Sprint.
  • True I really hope he can get this phone to carriers without bloatware so there will actually be a phone worth buying I'm really sick of seeing Samsung and Apple rule the smartphone industry but consumers keep buying it so what can you do
  • Google and Apple did.
  • Google and apple are Giants compared to essential. Hopefully it works out that way,but most likely it wouldn't
  • As was brought up in the interview, you really have two duopolies. You have the software duopoly with Android (Google) and iOS (Apple) and then you have the hardware duopoly with Samsung and Apple. They are two different things. It's very ambitious for anyone to think they can crack into either market, but I don't think he's trying to crack the software market just yet (not that he doesn't apparently have plans) since this will be an almost stock version of Android. Hardware on the other hand is certainly feasible. Samsung and Apple combined only control about 40% of the hardware market share. That leaves another 60% to the smaller guys, almost all of which are some version of Android device. Even if he can only claim half of that, 30%, he'd still have more hardware market share than either Samsung or Apple, individually. Realistically, he only has to compete with Samsung on that front since they would be his direct competitor in the Android portion of the market. Thirty percent of the overall market share would be about 35% of the Android hardware market share. If he can come up with a consumer focused flagship device, get it to the carriers without them mucking about with it and driving the update cycle (similar to Apple's model), I think he'd take over the Android side of the hardware business quite rapidly. The piece of the puzzle I'm still trying to figure out is Ambient OS and how it plays into the software side of the business. However, once you control the majority of the hardware market share running a specific software, it's reasonable to assume that you can start to steer the ship on the software side a bit. Compete with a big name like Samsung being difficult is an understatement. If he can come up with a device that's comparable spec wise, but still has some new innovation behind it, it's entirely possible.
  • Side note how easy did that camera pop on and off and the usability of it just seemed to work effortlessly
  • I hope they can get the appeal of relatively clean software out there. It's becoming quite a battle.
  • You don't have to pay anything to get on the reservation list. You choose the color, put your info in, and when it's available they email you to complete the purchase. Similar to how OnePlus did the reservations for the 3, but better in that they'll have the exact phone in stock for you when you go to purchase.
  • Yes, the sentence should be better structured to indicate that you're reserving the opportunity to spend $699, not spending $699 for reserving the phone — I can clarify that.
  • Let's keep it real. I'll put it like this.The Samsung S8 Plus is the "Essential" Android device. Don't be fooled by other's trying to lay claim to the title. If a device doesn't have all the features and the high performance of the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus then it's not worthy of being called "Essential".
  • What's "essential" to you isn't nessisarily essential to others. The s8 Plus fell short in places for me so I traded it like many others did. It's really not all that despite the hype
  • "Many others" lmaoooo. Yea ok
  • Don't get personally offended that there are many people who don't like Samsung's best efforts.
  • There are way more who do, that why Samsung is the company to beat in the Android sphere. They have the capability to manufacture at a very large scale and even bigger advertising, and crazy distribution let alone the fact that more people know the Galaxy brand more than they know Nexus/Pixel brand. Samsung and Apple deliver in almost every country, that's one of the reasons they are becoming more and more unbeatable. Google on the other hand has a very limited footprint with their hardware (which seems silly because they are an even more popular). So for Essential it's going to be an uphill battle, even just to get carriers to agree to distribute without adding bloatware.
  • Not everyone wants bad stuttering Samsung software, returned S8 because of stutters here and there.
  • I think you're confusing the S8s with the S3s.
  • No he is not confused at all, I should know a thing or two about Samlag, I own the Samlag 7,Samlag software has not changed. Andy Rubin feels the same with all these Android phones and the useless bloat on them, the only thing Samlag has going for them is Samlag pay.
  • Never had an issue with my S7 E
  • No I own pretty much every flagship and am sensitive to stutters, frame drops etc on an expensive device with all the latest internals.
  • Should have gotten an exynos version
  • Buttery smooth here.
  • You have no idea what buttery smooth feels like, that feature is not available on the Samlag.
  • It means no lag. Seems pretty straight forward
  • "Keeping it real*, I will say that the S8+ is NOT the essential phone. I had two of them before I returned both. They lagged, the useless curve on the display annoyed me, the color balance was way off (pink), the camera was meh, and the fingerprint reader location was idiotic. No phone is perfect, but the S8+ has too many issues that annoyed me, especially for what they are charging for it. I have a G6 now, and it's a much better phone (IMO).
  • No issues on the 3 S8+'s in my house. It's the best device on the market and will be until the Note 8 drops.
  • Best device on the market 😅😅😅😅😅😅
  • Need to ban carriers from charging for/unlocking tethering too. It's your right to tether without being charged for it.
  • It's not a right.
  • This seems the case of the naked emperor. There is not much of "essential" in this. Great marketing and noise sure but the specs are not that wowing
  • Pro consumer product, but they omit a headphone jack? I consider that an "essential" item on any phone that I purchase, so I'll have to pass on this one.
  • This thing is just as essential as my morning covfefe.
  • Lol. I do like a good covfefe
  • Typical liberal brain dead comment.
  • What are you, like ten years old?
  • Essential to the 4 people that buy pixel phones?
  • ?
  • This phone has to offer something the others aren't. Rubin wants to get rid of built in obsolescence? Guarantee os and security updates for 3 years at a minimum and deliver major os updates within 3 months of Google. I'd willingly overlook wireless charging and water resistance. Other than that, I'm really unsure what you can do that's essential or how it can hope to be a major seller at the $700 price point.
  • It's trying to be so different, but it's an Android Phone! What's the point of putting out simply another Android phone?
    Not that I wouldn't have considered it, if it had come with an SD slot. That's a dealbreaker, especially since they seem to be focused on keeping data local.
  • Did any of you watch the conference, did your hear what the man said, he said exactly how I feel, he walked into a carrier store and he was not happy with any of the Android phones, reason being that they all have too much bloatware on them, which does ruin the Android OS experience. He wants the phone and the OS that it is running to be as clean as possible, the phone is just a stepping stone to his grand ambitious home/industrial automation ecosystem, at the same time you don't need to use his phone to work his autonomous ecosystem, but it helps to have the consumer tie his phone "which is something that everyone uses all day long" to his ecosystem, it is what Samsung and Apple are doing, this is why most Samsung, Apple, Google, Amazon use a certain specific autonomous device that is connected to a large extent to what they use on a daily basis, which is their phone, another reason why Jeff Bezzos at Amazon tried the phone route.
  • Hows the Rubin koolaid today?
    Granted there is a vision in place but this phone is truly just another android phone. Rubin also mentioned that he won't have his own bloat on the phone but stopped short on saying carrier bloat won't be there when it shows up in carrier stores later this summer.
  • And your point is.
  • ...lost on a clown like you.
  • I'm sure your Mom is proud of you
  • What are like 10 years old.
  • The real missed opportunity here was to make a mid ranger pixel. The new 6series chip, 4/6 gigs ram, 128G storage and those bezels..
    That would make it essential, because lets face it, most people are Samsung only. Provide this along side of the "other" options not in the $800 range and you have a real standout.
    ..and I say that because it's lacking certain features in some areas anyways. I would have spend a good week trying to decide between the G6 and this if it were priced the same.
  • This new project of Andy Rubin is not just about a phone, the phone will be an extension to his Grand plan of combining all the AI automation technologies under one umbrella so as to simplify it for the consumer, less clutter per say. Technology has become too fragmented and complicated for the majority of the population, his objective is to streamline the user experience.
  • I won't spend $700 on some person's mobile dream. When it turns into a reality I might. I completely understand the concept. But right now I'm looking at a phone that can't compete very well at the level it's trying to. And I think this would do very well as a midranger IN STORE.
  • for what it's worth, the mid-range segment is getting increasingly crowded and hard to differentiate in.
  • He (it's) is not "competing" very well at this time with the flagship phones anyways.
    It's not that I'm trying to shoot it down by any means, The offering, for the price, makes it a weak contender to the general public.
  • When you say it's not competing what exactly do you mean? It's got the same hardware other flagship phones have inside. It's got a unique look and the "coveted premium" construction. It runs near stock Android, which IMO is a bonus over anything Samsung or LG do. If Apple puts out an iPhone that looks exactly like this tomorrow people will **** bricks and call it the best thing since Jesus Christ gave out fish. But yeah, Apple didn't make this, it can't possibly compete.
  • Plus 1K
  • The design of the phone looks gorgeous. I want to see camera samples. The camera has been my deciding choice for the past few years.
  • What does this phone have that is worth $700 when you can purchase basically the same thing from other manufacturers for like half that price?
  • Seriously 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
  • Nothing. Except a titanium shell that adds no value.
  • Nothing, plus it's vaporware at this point. The guy is going on his name only. Way too expensive to take a chance until the company has some experience under its belt, including sales of a real product, customer service experience, security updates, etc. The Internet is getting way too enamored with this non-product at this point. Sad!
  • Nice but will see what happens once it is actually out. Also the amount of ads on your site is ridiculous. Can't even get to the comments section without it redirecting me telling me I won some gift card. I'm not one for adblockers, but it is going on for this site... C'mon guys..
  • It has become a major issue with most mobile sites nowadays, some sites don't even let you access them if they detect you are running an add blocker, they tell you straight out. I use the mobile Samsung browser which lets you add an add blocker to the browser. I don't use mobile chrome anymore. On a side note sites like this would be dead in the water without add revenue, reason is what services are they actually selling besides technology news, they are not selling any physical product or offer a service.
  • I understand the need for ad revenue but I visit lots of sites and none have the full page ads that completely immobilize a device/direct you to a new page. I'm all for ads, but the ones on this site have gotten unbearable lately. 
  • Not selling any product? I thought they were affiliated with ShopAndroid.com.
  • That's not their bread and butter business.
  • Yes, the Mobile Nations sites are ridiculous...WinCentral takes 45 secs to load with all the crap ware on it.
  • Its nice he is trying to get no carrier-ware on there but will mostly likely fail. Apple was lucky enough to be in a right place and time to get that with AT&T and then get big enough to be able to demand that with everyone.
  • I love the idea of a near-stock Android phone, but to me there are way too many question marks to go all in on this device just yet.
  • Way to much money for a phone that has yet to proven itself in a market that is already saturated.
  • Not waterproof for $700 is hard to swallow. I just was using my phone in the rain. So nice to not worry.