A handful of phone makers have released models with support for modular add-ons in the past few years, with limited success. It’s unclear if modularity is going to continue to be a feature in the future… but it’s always nice when an existing device lives up to its promise.

When Essential launched its first smartphone last year, the company included pins on the back of the phone that would allow you to attach optional modules.

At launch, there was only one available — a 360-degree camera. And it stayed that way for over a year.

Now there’s a second module available: a $149 Audio Adapter HD.

Not only does the adapter add a 3.5mm headphone jack to a phone that wouldn’t otherwise have one, but it also features a high quality ES9218Pro DAC (digital audio converter) with support for 24-bit, 96 kHz input and rendering of up to 32-bit, 384 kHz sound.

There’s also a multi-color LED light to indicate audio quality and compatibility.

Theoretically you could probably get similar features by investing in an expensive pair of USB-C headphones. But the adapter lets you use any headphones you may already have, while leaving your USB port free for charging or data transfer.

It’s unclear if or when we’ll see any other modular add-ons for the Essential PH-1 smartphone. The company’s been struggling a bit recently and recently laid off about a third of its workforce.

On the other hand, maybe that means there’s more reason than ever to continue developing new products that add features to the original Essential phone rather than focusing on the expensive and time-consuming work of developing a second-gen phone.

Anyway, modularity has a bit of an iffy track record. Google canceled its Project Ara effort to design an entirely modular phone. LG released one phone that was capable of supporting modules, and then scrapped the idea with its next phone. RED’s Hydrogen One smartphone has pins for add-on modules, but the company hasn’t announced any modules yet.

The one stand-out might be Motorola’s Moto Z line of phones, which support a range of add-ons including speakers, batteries, and even projectors. That company’s commitment to modular phones is also an open question.

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9 replies on “Essential releases second modular add-on for its phone (Audio Adapter HD)”

  1. Hahaha. This is hilarious! Should have the headphone jack built in from the beginning.

  2. So… let me get tis straight. You are selling me back the headphone jack. As a $150 addon. In a form of a huge bump on the phone. That you removed in the first place because aesthetics, no space, go wireless or go home and “bravery”. Yes?
    You know what? I see removing the headphone jack as a big middle finger the industry is holding up for the customers. Maybe they also add “what you gonna do about it?” on a high-pitched irritating voice.
    You want to sell me a phone for listening to music? Leave the headphone jack where it is and put that super DAC inside the phone. LG can do it! And it’s still slim and waterproof! But don’t tell me this is an “option”, something extra that other brands don’t offer, this should be the baseline, where things start. We agreed on this back in around 2009 when every manufacturer gave up their proprietary audio connectors and went with the jack. I remember buying headphone adapters for the Nokia Pop socket and it was awful! Also Ericsson! Even the 2.5mm jack was bad! For well over a decade your phone were prone to fail if you included an indented jack connector that a more meaty headphone connector could not fit into. And now it’s 2018 and here we are again with motherfuck1ng Nokia Pop connector, only we call it bluetooth and we need to charge it overnight, but it disconnects in your pocket, just like back in 2005. Who wanted this?!

    1. LOL no, this isn’t the same jack that was removed glued back on. It’s an audiophile jack. But you know that.

      1. TBH I would rather buy Dragonfly Black/Red than this, made by a no-name audio company.
        + It works with every phone, so it is not useless when you upgrade to a new device.
        Add-ons that work with only one device … that is just stupid.

      2. I’m trying to picture an audiophile using this adapter on a cell phone, and plugging it into his McIntosh amplifier and Thiel speakers.

      3. Is there some reason an “audiophile jack” couldn’t have used the USB-C port? Possibly while also providing an additional USB-C port that would allow for charging? This is a pointless add-on, fully demonstrative of the problem with these companies removing features only to sell them back to you later.

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