HOW and WHY The Essential Phone Might Just Beat Google Pixel 2 In 2017


Andy Rubin's Essential Phone is an immensely impressive debut Android phone, but can it beat Google's incoming Pixel 2 phones?

I've used the Google Pixel XL for 12 months straight, save for when I tested other handsets. I really dig the Google Pixel and figured I'd probably be getting the Google Pixel 2 as soon as it came out.
Why? Simple: I like Android, I like getting updates as soon as they're ready, and I hate bloatware. Prior to the Pixel, I used Nexus phones. In this respect, I guess I am something of a Google purist.
But Andy Rubin just threw a massive spanner into the mix. The Essential Phone has been rumored for awhile, but since it dropped there has been a huge amount of hype around the handset and I think the reason for this is threefold:
  • The Essential Phone will get Android updates for two years. 
  • The Essential Phone has great specs and it looks brilliant.
  • The Essential Phone will likely cost less than the Google Pixel 2 (and it ships with 128GB of storage as standard).
The first reason is the most important here, as no one else in the space – save for Google – is doing it. Samsung doesn't, neither does LG, OnePlus, Sony or Huawei.
Android fragmentation is now an accepted fact of life inside the Android space and, usually, the only way around it was with a phone made by Google. With the Essential Phone, however, you now have another option. And I'd argue it is a far more attractive option too.
Google has also confirmed, now that Android Oreo is official, that it has been working closely with a number of its partners, including Essential, to get Android Oreo out to handsets before the close of 2017.
"We've been working closely with our partners over the last many months," said Google, "and by the end of this year, hardware makers like Essential, Huawei, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, HMD Global Home of Nokia Phones, Samsung, Sharp, and Sony are scheduled to be launching or upgrading new devices to Android 8.0 Oreo."
Currently, only about 15% of ALL Android phones are running Android Nougat. This figure is stupidly low given just how many Android phones there are in circulation and shows that, despite massive developments in Android's functionality, the issue of fragmentation shows no signs of abating.
The main issue for this is spread; most Android phone makers have too many phones to manage efficiently – it would take too much time and too much resource to create builds of the latest software for all the handset variations.
Essential could make a lot of friends in this context by ensuring its phone – it's only phone – gets updates in a timely, Nexus-style fashion. Nokia has said it wants to do something similar with its Android phones too, so it is nice to see some phone makers finally addressing the issue of fragmentation once and for all.
Like Tesla, Essential is building a business around one, quality product and it is ensuring it works and offers value because it knows this is what savvy shoppers actually want from a phone in 2017.
The idea that you can run a phone, knowing it will get updates for the entire time you own it, that looks good and functions well is not a new idea. This is what Apple built its iPhone business around, so it's no surprise that Essential is taking a leaf from its book.
The Essential Phone is also pretty unique-looking. It's not an iPhone clone, it strives to be different, both in its outer aesthetics and how it works. You get the impression that everything has been checked, checked, and then checked again.
There is no headphone jack (boo hoo), the fingerprint scanner is on the back, and while the camera was apparently a bit squiffy initially, a new update from Essential has fixed most of the problems, though word on the street suggests it's not quite as good as the Google Pixel's setup.
Essential is also being very strict on what gets onto the phone. Bloatware has been kept to an absolute minimum – and this applies even if you buy it via Sprint, which is kind of different and pretty cool.
This is what Google is trying to do with its Pixel phone – make it into an Android iPhone of sorts. And up to now, it was kind of doing it by itself, though it definitely has some competition in the form of the PH-1 now, so the next question is this: can Essential sell more phones than Google?
Potentially. The hype and reaction to the Essential Phone has been largely very positive. The price of the handset is also cheaper than what Google will likely retail its Pixel 2 at (the Essential Phone costs $699) and these factors, combined with the phone's excellent looks and design, could well place it in front of the Pixel 2 later this year.
I know I am extremely tempted by the Essential Phone. It is easily one of the phones I am most excited about testing out. And with a release date scheduled for Q4 in the UK, it looks like I won't have to wait too long before getting my hands on one.