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Andy Rubin talks Essential Phone camera, 3.5 mm jack accessory, and Android Oreo in AMA

Andy Rubin knows you have a lot of questions about the Essential Phone, which is why he held an AMA on Reddit today to help clear the air on some things.

Published onSeptember 14, 2017

The Essential Phone is certainly one of the most disruptive smartphones to launch this year. With a full-screen display, impressive build quality, bare-bones software, and a somewhat lackluster camera experience, this new device has been on many folks’ minds since it launched a few weeks ago.

The Essential team knows you have a lot of questions about this device, which is why they held an AMA on Reddit earlier today to help clear the air on some things.

Essential Phone review: Maximum hardware, minimum software

Andy Rubin and co. revealed some pretty interesting things during the AMA, especially relating to camera development, when Android Oreo will roll out, when the Essential Phone will be released in Europe, and much more.

There was even some talk about the lack of a headphone jack, and the fact that Essential plans on releasing a high-end audio accessory that will support a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The company also said they couldn’t include a headphone jack with the full-screen design unless the phone sported a “chin” or a big headphone bump.

Anyway, I’ll let you get to reading. Be sure to check out all the questions and answers here — there are some pretty revealing details in some of them.

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?

  • Hi! 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 bug and add features.

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 a 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.

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 3AM 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

Why remove the headphone jack? Some people consider it ‘essential’, what’s your team take on that?

  • 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 tradeoffs we were uncomfortable with. We’d have grow 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 ya’ll a high-quality DAC in a tiny adapter that can elegantly live on your headphones. – Dave

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

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

I know it was stated that a case isn’t needed for this phone, but 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

Can we expect it to be released in Europe?

  • Working on it as a priority. -andyR

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

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.

Hopefully some of your questions about the Essential Phone were answered. If not, what are some of the other questions you have about the Essential Phone? Be sure to speak up in the comments.

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