The Essential Phone PH-1 is the first smartphone from Android co-founder Andy Rubin’s new company Essential. So when Rubin and a group of colleagues from Essential took to Reddit to answer questions in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session, it’s not surprising that people asked pretty specific questions about the phone and the decisions that went into making it.

What’s kind of nice to see is that Essential representatives are answering some of the tough questions about hardware, software, and performance… and providing a few clues about upcoming moves the company will make.

Here are a few things I’ve learned so far from the AMA:

  • The first modular add-on for the phone is a 360 degree camera. But future modules could include a “high end audio accessory to support a 3.5mm jack,” which is particularly interesting because the phone doesn’t have a built-in headphone jack.
  • Asked about the decision to omit the headphone jack, the company replied that “they don’t play nice with all-screen phone architectures” and that including a headphone jack would have required a larger bottom bezel, smaller battery or a headphone bump. Of course, the phone could have just been thicker, but like most phone makers these days, Essential opted to balance battery capacity and thickness in order to offer about a day of battery life in a phone with a reasonably slim profile.
  • There’s a reference design for third-party modular add-ons that will be made available soon.
  • An Android 8.0 update should be available in around 2 months.
  • As the first Android phone with a camera cut-out in the screen, Google asked the company to automatically letterbox apps by default so that they wouldn’t look funny. But developers can contact Essential to be added to a whitelist if they have apps that work well while wrapped around the camera.
  • Essential will release kernel source and factory images soon, and has no problem with independent developers building custom ROMs for its phone. The Essential PH-1 already ships with an unlockable bootloader.
  • Some users are reporting problems with cellular signal strength, and Essential is encouraging users to get in touch so the company can help pinpoint (and maybe fix) issues).

You can read more questions and answers from the AMA at reddit.

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2 replies on “Essential Phone AMA reveals 3.5mm audio add-on in the works, kernel source and factory images coming soon”

  1. You have to pay for a headphone jack dongle? Pass.

    This phone is probably going to be less successful than Google’s discontinued Nexus line. I guess for a startup, that amount of sales may be okay though.

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