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Essential Phone PH-2 turns up in carrier logs

The Essential Phone PH-1 flopped, but the company has been hard at work on a sequel. (Source: Essential)
The Essential Phone PH-1 flopped, but the company has been hard at work on a sequel. (Source: Essential)
The next product from Essential looks to be a sequel to the PH-1 after initially indicating that its next device wouldn't be a smartphone. A reference to PH-2 has been found in carrier logs this week, suggesting that the device mightn’t be far away from seeing a commercial release.

Andy Rubin’s Essential looks to have been quietly chipping away at a successor to its PH-1 smartphone. Now sold out, the PH-1 didn’t gain significant market traction and suffered from heavy discounting to shift inventory. It launched at US$700 but could be found for as low as US$280 a few months after its release. Things didn’t look good for a sequel, although a cryptic tweet from its Head of Research and Development hinted that it might not be the end of the road as far as smartphones from Essential go.

After indicating that its next product wouldn’t be a smartphone, but instead would be focused on ground breaking AI technology, it appears that Essential decided to shift tack and transplant that technology from what may have been a smart speaker and put into an Essential Phone PH-2. Earlier rumors about the device suggested that it could be a companion smartphone, something similar to the diminutive Palm reboot. However, given that device’s lack of success, it really needs to offer standalone functionality.

One thing is for certain – AI technology will be at its core, suggesting that natural language voice control will be central to it. Given that Google’s Duplex technology is now live and taking calls on behalf of Pixel 3 owners for them, it will be interesting to see if, or how, Essential is able to build on this. The Essential Phone PH-1 was a beautifully designed device, but had a couple of fatal flaws. Chief among these was a lack of any standout features. If the PH-2 is to succeed, it will have to be a game changer.


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Sanjiv Sathiah, 2019-02- 5 (Update: 2019-02- 5)