The Essential Phone will soon be in the hands of customers who pre-ordered the device. And after the recent flood of up-close-and-personal photos of the phone, anticipation is building.
Indeed, the Essential Phone is a beautiful device, as Business Insider immediately realised during our hands-on time with one of the first review units. The titanium and ceramic that’s used to clad the Phone helps make it stand out against even the gorgeous Samsung Galaxy S8.
Yet, perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Essential Phone is the fact that it runs a near-stock version of the Android operating system (OS).
This is surprising. After all, the Essential Phone was the perfect opportunity to see what Andy Rubin, the “Father of Android” and leader of Essential, had to say about the Android OS’ direction since he left Google in 2014. Would he put his personal touch on the software, showing us what the OS might have looked like had he stayed at Google? As it turns out, it appears instead that Rubin had more to say about a smartphone’s design than he did about the Android OS.
I suppose I was expecting something different from Rubin. He did mention in May that the Essential Phone would run stock Android, but I wasn’t expecting him to have such an extremely light touch and to barely alter anything about the OS.
Make no mistake, this is a purposeful statement.
Rubin created Android, so he’s no stranger to developing mobile phone software. And given how much attention Essential paid to every little detail of the phone’s hardware, it’s a good bet that Rubin didn’t just go with the plain version of Android out of sheer laziness.
The move suggests that Rubin believes stock Android is still the best Android compared to what you see on phones from Samsung, LG, and the numerous Chinese companies like Huawei. Stock Android means none of the duplicate apps from the smartphone maker and carrier cluttering things up. Android looks and works exactly the way Google intended it to.
Phones from most other companies often come with layers of software, called “launchers,” that run on top of stock Android, which allows them customise the look and features of Android to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Yet, most of the time, these launchers fall somewhat flat, and they tend to bog down the phone’s performance. Those phones also tend to come bloated with redundant apps, like two, or even three, messaging apps, photo galleries, calendars, web browsers, and so on.
To be clear, those companies make great phones, as their popularity shows. Yet, I’ve always believed that nothing beats stock Android. So, thanks Andy Rubin for backing me up. And if you haven’t tried stock Android, I’d sincerely recommend doing so by trying out the Google Pixel, the OnePlus 5, and now the Essential Phone.
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