Here's the first accessory for the smartphone recently launched by Android co-founder Andy Rubin's start-up

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Here's the first accessory for the smartphone recently launched by Android co-founder Andy Rubin's start-up

CNBC Tech: Essential camera 5
Todd Haselton | CNBC
  • The Essential phone, built by Andy Rubin, has a fun 360-degree camera accessory.
  • CNBC put the camera to the test.
  • It's just so-so, and you should probably wait for it to drop in price.

 This is the Essential phone

This is the first product from Essential, the most recent company created by Andy Rubin, who was the co-creator of the Android smartphone platform and led that group at Google.

CNBC recently reviewed it. It's one of the best smartphones we've used in a while, though it has a few shortcomings.

One feature we didn't get to cover, however, is the new accessory dock. Essential is building all sorts of gadgets to attach to the phone. The first is a 360-degree camera.

This is the Essential camera

CNBC Tech: Essential camera
Todd Haselton | CNBC

It attaches to the back of the phone. Surprisingly, the magnets seem to be really strong. It won't slip off in case you're taking a 360-degree photo over the Grand Canyon.

It's seamless

CNBC Tech: Essential camera 3
Todd Haselton | CNBC

When you attach the camera, the phone automatically launches into the camera app and you're looking at a feed right from the 360-degree camera. It supports still shots and up to 4K video.

The pictures are just OK

CNBC Tech: Essential camera 7
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The pictures are just OK. The sample above is static, so you can't get the full experience panning around it as you would on the phone. Samsung's Gear 360 Camera, which is larger and doesn't clip on to a phone, produces sharper images and video. But Samsung's solution is bigger and doesn't slide into a pocket as easily, so we'll give Essential some credit here. We just wish the images were clearer and not so washed out.

It's weird the Essential phone doesn't support VR

CNBC Tech: Essential camera 2
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Here's what's weird about the whole thing: The camera is good at snapping 360-degree videos, bu you can only view them back on the phone or in other places that support 360-degree content, like Facebook. The Essential phone doesn't support any sort of VR, which I think is the most fun way to view 360-degree content — it makes you feel like you're standing in the picture.

Should you buy it?

CNBC Tech: Essential camera 6
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Tough call. When the Essential phone initially went on sale, this attachment was priced at $50, which I think is worth it. Now it's $179, and it's eventually going to cost $199. I don't think it's worth that much. Hold out, it's bound to drop in price as new gadgets are launched by Essential.