In addition to Andy Rubin, the following Essential officials also took part in the AMA: Linda Jiang, Essential’s Head of Industrial Design; Dave Evans, Essential’s VP of Design; Rebecca Zavin, Essential’s VP of Software; Joe Tate, Essential’s VP of Hardware.
Here’s our list of the 35 most important questions answered by the Android co-founder and his team regarding topics related to their newly launched Essential smartphone.
Q. What are your plans to address the widespread criticism of the PH-1’s camera? What are the challenges and the plans for future software improvements on it?
We are pretty happy with the hardware design of the camera. We are using computational photography to fuse a monochrome and color sensors. That’s the part we’re not too happy about, but luckily it’s software and we’ve already done a number of updates to the app to fix the bug and add features. – andyR
Q. Why is the Camera icon a square in light of Android 7.1’s circular icons? Also, the Essential Phone is a bit bare on software features. Not referring to customization just features. Any plans on adding camera launching gestures or something similar, etc.
You can double tap the power button to launch the camera. We are also looking at adding some other good stuff like fingerprint gestures to pull down the notification shade. Keep your eyes out for updates! -Rebecca
Q. Can we expect Essential PH-1 to be released in Europe? Looking for a new phone and the Essential Phone would be perfect!
Working on it as a priority. -andyR
Tooling for the EU plug for the power adapter is under development now. First shots will be here this month. – Joe
Snap-on Mod Attachments
Q. What other snap-on attachments can we expect to see? Do you have plans to release a dedicated zoom camera attachment/set of prime lens attachments?
We are under development on a number of Click Connector accessories. The first available should be the charging dock. We are also actively developing a high-end audio accessory to support a 3.5mm jack. We are continuing to look at supporting ideas, like cameras. -Joe
Yeah, our head of architecture is in Asia right now getting our high-end audio accessory super dialed. He graciously called me at 3 AM today so we could talk about some specifics for our design… We are working literally around the clock around the globe to get your awesome new things ready. – Dave
Q. Why not include Qi wireless charging in the phone itself? It doesn’t look like the charging coil takes up that much room and the Essential wouldn’t have hurt that much to be a little thicker to accommodate it if necessary. Is the material choice what prevented this from being included?
We are solving this with the charging dock, which is much more “Green” than Qi power as its more efficient and solves the “drop and charge” issue. -Joe
Q. There have been reports of multiple software problems such as touches not registering properly (especially on the edges) and micro stuttering while scrolling. Are you guys working to address those issues? Also what other software issues are being worked on? My touch issues have been fixed with the recent OTA update but others haven’t. Why would that be the case?
We’re happy we were able to address some of your issues! You’ll see performance bug fixes continuing to roll out in our subsequent release. The top performance issue we are pursuing is that UI freeze up that turns out is lock contention in the System UI thread! Now that we’re hot on its trail we should have a fix soon. -Rebecca
Q. What’s the current focus for software issues like touch responsiveness (improved/tweaked palm rejection?) and micro-stuttering when scrolling. (EDIT: scrolling still seems to stutter in the new build.) Is Essential already looking to Android 8 or is Essential still working on 7.1.1?
Fixing as fast as we can. It’s getting better daily.
Also on Guiding Tech
Q. Will this Android O update include Project Treble?
Yes, but some of our HALs will be pass through when we release O. We are committed to doing better and better over time, but we also want to get O to you as soon as possible. -Rebecca
Q. Android 8 and Project Treble status/ETA?
Q. Would Essential consider a Beta OS program similar to Google and OnePlus?
Yes, we want to — it’s on the list.
Q. Will there be sufficient source release to replicate the userspace build as well? Binary redistributables for proprietary QCT or Essential pieces?
This is a tough one but we’re going to take a stab at is part of our Android O support. It might take us a little longer to get there. No promises, but it’s definitely a goal for us too. -Rebecca
Q. Will Essential continue the trend of thinner phones and smaller batteries?
What you really want is better battery life. Would like to know your use case and what you are looking for. Please PM interested in the constraints. – Joe
Essential Phone Case
Q. for those that Want a case, any chance we can get one from you guys? From what I’ve seen, your design team is top notch and I would love to see a case designed by y’all.
We are working closely with several brands to produce cases for our phone, so they’ll be coming from our friends and partners and not from Essential. We play nice with others, so we’re supporting lots of requests from accessory companies!- Linda
Q. how can we participate in a support feedback loop? How can we send bugs and enhancement requests directly to the team and feel like we are part of the product improvement process?
We are going to keep rolling out those updates to you and we are definitely paying attention to your feedback. We’re also working on a plan to support developers. Keep those comments coming! We’ll work on a forum for our website. I want to create a company where the engineers to talk to customers. -andyR
Essential in White
Q. When can we expect white?
White is coming! Pure White ceramic is in build trials now. We’re looking at a few weeks until they’re in boxes and shipping, especially as we fill the manufacturing backlog on Moon Black. – Dave
Lack of Headphone Jack
Q. Why remove the headphone jack?
Headphone jacks are pretty big components and they don’t play nice with all-screen Phone architectures. We studied it very seriously, but fitting a headphone jack into our Phone required trade-offs we were uncomfortable with. We’d have grown a huge “chin” in the display and reduce the battery capacity by 10%, or we’d need a huge headphone bump! We decided it was more important to have a beautiful full-screen display in a thin device with solid battery life. Then we made sure we to build you all a high-quality DAC in a tiny adapter that can elegantly live on your headphones. – Dave
Q. Are there any possibilities to make a transparent ceramic glass? That’s pretty solid.
It is not possible in Zirconia ceramic (what the phone has today), unfortunately. Interesting idea though! – Linda
Q. What devices would you cite as an influence on the Ph-1? The shape of the edges reminds me of the iPhone 4.
We actually designed the device from scratch and did not take influence from other devices. The details are all there for a good reason. Our side walls are straight in order to reduce the amount of visual and physical border around the display. We actually took many, many weeks just to lock on the appropriate corner radius- just round enough to feel approachable and human, but also tight enough to allow for as many pixels in the corners as possible. Hope that helps For us, it was less about taking influences from other devices, but taking influences from meaningful experiences and good human-product interactions.- Linda
Q. Any idea when this device will get fully certified with Verizon?
We have been in the certification process with Verizon and are at the tail end. Could come as soon as tomorrow! These certifications really help enhance our overall quality, so your patience will pay off! – andyR
Q. When can we expect more information and the release of the Essential Home? How will it integrate with the Essential Phone?
I’m particularly excited about the home product. It has the potential to unify all the disparate devices in your home, including your phone! Not quite ready to talk details, but development is going well and we’ll have something to show soon.
Q. When will the essential phone dock be available?
We are planning on having the dock out shortly. Our final prototype build is this month and we will have it available for purchase after we run through reliability testing -Joe
Q. Drop tests have shown the screen to shatter quite easily on the PH-1. Are you taking that into consideration for the next generation phone?
We have performed drop tests to industry standards and have performed as well or better to other devices. We are always looking to improve reliability and test to standards to improve the customer experience. -Joe
Q. is there any plan to support unlocking the bootloader or rooting the phone from the manufacturer level?
You can unlock the bootloader using the directions here: https://source.android.com/source/running
Power + Volume Down to get to fast-boot on your Essential Phone.
Q. So what do you think are going to be the most exciting new developments in smartphone technology in the coming years?
Q. With the new crop of phones slated for release before the holiday season what do you see as the primary points that will allow the Essential Phone to compete?
Design, materials, expandability, stock android, fast updates, open mentality. -andyR
Q. Are the LTE reception problems on the essential phone fixable in software?
We have not heard of reception issues. We tested favorably vs. the competition in the labs. I’ll have someone reach out and get your logs. DM us please – andyR
Would like to understand more about your reception problems so I can get you an answer. As you know, LTE Modems are complex and there are a number of factors that cause reception or coverage. -Joe
Q. People have also been reporting worse cell signal strength than other phones in areas that don’t have the best reception. Would this be fixable on your end?
Coverage is a complex issue. We are always looking for feedback on problem locations so that we can field test to fix issues which are software based. It’s hard to look just at signal strength when comparing phones. For instance, which cell tower is serving you may be different even though you are in the same location with two phones. When we performed field testing sometimes we would score better than reference phones sometimes worse. We are a bit more conservative on signal bars. Which, unfortunately, there is no standard for on mobile devices. But, please let us know the locations and we can take a look -Joe
Advanced RMAs Anyone?
Q. Can Essential offer Advanced RMAs to customers who are willing to have a hold on their credit card?
Good idea. Derek and Nelson will look into this.
Nova Launcher Whitelisted
Q. How can I get my app white listed to use the full screen? – Nova Developer
Hey! Message us directly and we’ll whitelist you today! -Rebecca
For Developers and Manufacturers
Q. What is Essentials stand on custom development? When will kernel sources be released? Will you release factory images like google does with Nexus/Pixel devices? Will we see an SDK for the dual cameras so third party developers can use both rear cameras/360 cameras in their own apps? Android Oreo ETA?
We are excited about supporting 3rd party developers. We’ll be releasing our kernel and factory images in the next few days. Android O will be coming in the next month or two.
Q. Will you guys offer a beta channel like Android?
We’re thinking about it. Upvote if you’d be in! -Rebecca (500 upvotes)
Q. Will Essential support ROMs and custom development by releasing the kernel source code and boot.img? Will Essential support an upgrade program involving trade-ins for a discounted price on newer models?
Yes on ROMs. Not sure about trades-in yet. Startups need usually need to gain traction before that’s financially possible. -andyR
Q. Will Essential release the kernel source for the PH-1? Perhaps even use GitHub to back up Essential’s ethos of the product belonging to those who purchased it?
Q. When do you plan on open sourcing the Essential connector?
We have a reference design almost complete. Once ready, it will be made available to 3rd parties so they can easily integrate our connector into their products. This works for hobbyists as well! -andyR
Q. Will Essential be a developer friendly company and release source or will they just be another Samsung?
That’s why we shipped with an unlockable bootloader! We’ll be posting our kernel source and factory images to our website shortly and working on other ways to support developers. -Rebecca