It can be outfitted with a $50 360-degree camera accessory — likely for recording content to view back in virtual reality or on social networks — which snaps to the back of the device. There's also a cordless charging mat and docking station, which the phone snaps on to with magnets. This is a modular approach to accessories that we've seen before from companies such as LG and, more successfully, from Motorola Mobility. Essential will likely continue to build and sell other accessories that snap onto the smartphone.
Essential is entering a tough market that's dominated by Apple and Samsung. While the 360-degree camera accessory is compelling and the specs are high-end, there's not a whole lot here that suggests Essential is going to take considerable market share from the iPhone or Galaxy devices.
In a letter posted to Twitter, Andy Rubin explained why he's entering the smartphone market again. "For all the good that Android has done, it has also helped create this weird new world where people are forced to fight with the very technology that was supposed to simplify their lives," Rubin said. "Was this what we had intended? Was this the best we could do? After a long talk with my friend, we decided that I needed to start a new company to build solutions for the way people want to live in the 21st century."
The Essential smartphone, first reported by The Verge, can be purchased from Essential's website now but is only available to U.S. shoppers. It supports all U.S. carriers.
Andy Rubin will discuss the device and his strategy during the Code Conference at 9 p.m. EDT on Tuesday evening.