Opinion: The Essential Phone still looks great, but it’s quickly running out of time

When Andy Rubin officially took the wraps off of the Essential Phone in May, I was excited. The father of Android had just announced a brand new phone with a modern design, near bezel-less display, stock Android, and a modular system to go along with it. The Essential Phone sounded like any Android nerd’s dream come true, and while it still is, the company needs to act fast if it wants to hold the attention of its fans and potential customers.

The Essential Phone was first announced on May 30 — nearly two full months ago at the time of publication. That’s not long in the grand scheme of the things, but in this industry, it absolutely is. During those two months, we’ve seen both the Moto Z2 Play and Force from Motorola, full-on renders for LG’s V30, a good deal of news on the upcoming Nokia 8 flagship. On top of that, there are more than enough rumors and renders for the Pixel 2 to get us plenty excited.

Of those devices mentioned above, the most obvious competitor is the Google Pixel 2/XL 2. Like the Essential Phone, the Pixel 2 (at least the XL version) is expected to come with a modern design, near bezel-less display, and stock Android — sound familiar?

Rumors for the upcoming Pixel phones were certainly making their way around the web when the Essential Phone was announced, but since that time, we now have a much better idea what to expect from Google later this fall. And, as you’d expect, that makes it a lot more difficult to seriously consider picking up Essential’s offering over what the Google Mothership will soon have available for purchase.

The Essential Phone doesn’t look like a bad product by any means. It looks pretty great. But Essential might have missed its window to really make an impression on the market. The Essential Phone is shaping up to be one of the best stock Android phones of 2017 (and the start of something even bigger), but like we see every year, your best bet with stock Android is always with whatever phone Google kicks out.

Even if Andy Rubin’s company does manage to produce a phone that has a similar software experience to the Google Pixel and receives snappy software updates, activity within Essential itself does create for some much-warranted pause.

Earlier this month, word broke that Essential’s Vice President of Marketing and Head of Communications had both left the company. And, just yesterday, we reported that Essential’s Head of UX had officially cut ties to go work at the Google Home team.

Executive departures from businesses aren’t anything unusual, but for a startup as young as Essential, these shake-ups can have a profound impact. Plus, when you add these two events together with the fact that Essential largely missed Rubin’s original ship date of sometime in June, thing’s aren’t looking all that hot at the moment.

Lastly, let’s take a look at what our readers have said.

We recently held a poll asking if you’d lost interest in the Essential Phone, and 47.5% (865 votes) voted for, “I was never interested in the first place”, while 23.56% (429 votes) said, “Yes, I have been waiting forever and plan to purchase something else.” Although these results aren’t indicative of the entire market, it’s still further evidence that the longer Essential waits, the more and more potential customers it’s losing out on.

The Essential Phone is currently expected to start shipping out within the next few weeks, but even though it looks like we’re finally drawing closer and closer to its delayed launch, I’m personally of the mindset that the company will be releasing too little too late. Assuming that Essential releases its phone at some point in August, we’ll be just two short months away from Google’s unveiling of the Pixel 2 – a device that will likely be the premier Android phone of 2017. And, when the Essential Phone is eventually released, future customers will be limited even further due to its exclusivity to Sprint in the United States.

I’m still intrigued by what Essential will eventually bring to the table, but at this point in time, I’m not so sure my wallet feels the same way.

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Avatar for Joe Maring Joe Maring

Joe has been a writer and occasional video producer for 9to5Google since July 2017. Follow him on Twitter @JoeMaring1 and send all emails to joe@9to5mac.com.

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