With Apple playing catchup to Samsung, the big phone story of the year belongs to Essential. And the big story with Essential isn't really the phone.
It's a combination of starpower - founder Andy Rubin created Android and his Essential co-founders Matt Hershenson and Joe Britt created the Sidekick - and the huge investment he's received in creating a new consumer electronics ecosystem.
The phone itself (specs) is fine but a bit meh... dual camera, titanium cased phone runs stock Android - nothing remarkable there. Two pogo pins on the back allow accessories to piggyback onto the phone: much like Moto Mods.
But it's part of a bigger plan: launched alongside the phone was "Home Base", a circular console designed for controlling the home, the first of several home CE products. The idea is that it unifies home kit from the competing platforms, kit like Amazon's Alexa and Nest thermostats.
"Fragmentation is a UI problem," Rubin explained this year, gnomically, beyond explaining that Essential had built "a new operating system so it can speak all those protocols and it can do it security and privately”
In a Reddit AMA Rubin and his top team had rather more to say about the phone than the new OS. But then that's all Redditors asked about, really. Hardware developers can expect a reference SDK soon and Europeans should get ready for a launch.
The odds are against such a venture. Brute-forcing a big consumer electronics company into life isn't easy. And the companies that Essential is taking on - Amazon, Google and Apple - are huge platforms unlikely to cede control to a third party upstart. But everyone loves a David and Goliath battle. ®