Essential Phone release date ‘imminent’ as Android creator’s new smartphone eyes UK launch

The Essential Phone may have missed its June release window in the US, but the Essential team is reportedly pushing on with plans to expand the ambitious flagship’s availability to the UK, Europe and Japan regardless.

According to a Financial Times report, the start-up, helmed by Android co-creator and founder Andy Rubin has entered into negotiations with UK networks over a possible exclusivity deal for a British launch “this year”. EE is mentioned as a possible partner in a deal that could mirror Essential’s partnership with Sprint in the US.

Essential’s chief operating officer Niccolo de Masi told the publication that a US release for the anticipated device is “imminent”, while once again confirming that the Android-powered smartphone will be sold with no pre-loaded applications with “trend setters and technology seekers” intended to be the company’s target market.

“Consumer choice has declined due to Samsung and Apple,” said de Masi, before accusing the industry’s biggest names of “[slowing] the pace of innovation to boost quarterly profits.”

Essential’s plan to topple the sector’s elite begins with the Essential Phone, developed by Rubin and a team of over 100 employees, with many alumni from Apple, Google, HTC and other industry giants.

The phone itself will retail for $699 (£544) and features an elongated screen and minimal bezel space similar to the recent Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6 phones. Essential takes this edge-to-edge design a step further by moving the selfie camera into the display’s notification bar.

A rear dual camera with a secondary monochrome sensor and an impressive hardware spec sheet are just part of Essential’s pitch however, as the start-up sees the modular attachments as a strong outlet for innovation.

Currently the only confirmed peripheral is a 360-degree camera which attaches to the phone via a magnetic pin connector it calls “Click”, which cleverly transmits data to attachments over a wireless connection.

In the report, de Masi notes that fitness, audio and virtual reality (VR) will be integral parts of Essential’s future, potentially hinting that further Click-support products will be on the way to address these areas.

Details for Essential’s other major product announcement, the Essential Home smart speaker/hub, remain scarce and de Masi reportedly declined to comment on the potential integration of Home’s Ambein OS into other devices.

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