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The top 5 Essential modules we'd love to see

Essential thinks you should attach a 360 camera to their phone's inductive pins, but we think there is a lot more you could do with them.

Published onSeptember 1, 2017

A huge aspect of the Essential Phone is the concept of modularity. Sure, this idea has been adapted time and time again, but outside of OEM’s like Motorola we haven’t seen many companies follow through with their promises of vast selections of module adapters.

Essential is taking a bit of a different stance on these modules, putting the idea of the phone first and offering add-ons that can enhance the experience if the user chooses they want to. But with only one modular adapter released for the handset so far, we’re left dreaming of potential add-ons that could really make the phone shine.

So what are some of our top picks for potential modular add-ons? Stick around as we explore the possibilities.

A new kind of battery case

Because the Essential Phone uses inductive charging pins for its modular connections, it’s possible to create a new kind of battery case that doesn’t need to use the phone’s USB Type-C port. Though it would obviously add a bit of thickness to the device (as every battery case does), you wouldn’t need to obstruct the charging port and could use that for things like USB Type-C headphones or even for charging the phone and case themselves. Though this is just a re-design of an already available technology, having that port available is extremely useful and keeping the charging apparatus on the back of the case could allow the overall footprint to remain more compact.

An official inductive charging dock

The demo units we had the opportunity to play with at Essential’s Playground headquarters were seated on specialized docks with inductive charging pins built in. This made it so we could pick up the devices to play with them and set them right back down to let them keep charging. This was a much better implementation than keeping them plugged in, as it meant we were able to hold the devices properly and turn them around in our hands to check out all the features. Though this obviously wouldn’t work for carrier store use due to potential theft, it is the next best thing to wireless charging if you like setting your phone down and let it charge while you sleep, with no cables involved.

A reactive gaming case

In previous years we’ve seen companies like Motorola release gaming mods for phones like the Moto Z2, which uses an extra separate battery to power the controller while you’re playing. Unfortunately, if the battery died you were pretty much out of luck, as the controller wouldn’t be able to be powered on. With the Essential Phone’s pin connection you could theoretically charge the controller case with the phone itself, enabling extra features like rumble and LED lighting. Though it would probably be nice to have extra battery helping power the case, the idea of an ultra thin controller mod is quite enticing, as you could throw it in a pocket, bag, or just about anywhere.

A more feature-packed VR headset

Phone-based VR headsets are cool, but the only mainstream option that uses power to add additional functionality is the Samsung Gear VR. This gives the user access to things like touch functionality, though there are quite a few other features Samsung has not added to its popular headset. Providing power to a VR headset gives access to things like built-in headphones or specialized lights, which could help to take Essential’s own option to the next level. There are also a surprisingly high number of magnets present in the Essential Phone to hold the modular adapters in place, so this headset could easily align the screen just as Google’s own Daydream headset does.

A Micro-SD card reader

It was a sad day when smartphones started dropping expandable storage, and while some have reversed that trend unfortunately the Essential Phone has made the same mistake. Sure, some OEM’s are now offering phones with storage capacities of 128 and even 256 GB, but these options are often expensive, and even this could not be enough for those that want to keep their entire media library with them on the go. Many companies already sell USB Type-C to Micro-SD card readers, but just like with the battery case, having access to that port for things like charging and audio playback is crucial for a lot of people. If you want to listen to music through wired headphones, you need that USB Type-C slot available in order to use your adapter (or super expensive USB Type-C headphones). This also means you could keep your phone charged while watching hours of local video files, so you would never have to worry about it dying and canceling your multi-hour movie marathon.

Keep in mind that the pins in the back of the Essential Phone only transfer power and not data, while the phone uses a proprietary wireless connection to get information to the device. While this is the case, the fact that it is able to transfer 360 degree video in real-time means that it has quite a bit of throughput at very high speeds, so information transfer shouldn’t be an issue in any of these cases.

What modules are you hoping to see Essential produce for their phone? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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