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Android co-founder unveils the ‘phone of the future’

The new Essential Phone has an edge-to-edge screen, 360-degree camera and a modular design for adding accessories and upgrading

Andy Rubin, one of the original founders of Android, has unveiled the unique Essential Phone.

After leaving Google to start his own company, Essential, Andy Rubin set out to make a game-changer of a smartphone. Now the mystery device has been unmasked, and it’s called the Essential Phone.

Over on the company’s website, Rubin says that a future-proof design with optional attachments makes the Essential truly special. He explains: ‘Devices shouldn’t become outdated every year. They should evolve with you. Simple is always better.’

So what’s all the fuss about? Keep scrolling to find out more on the mobile that’s dubbed ‘the phone of the future’.

Best Buy smartphones – see which phones our experts recommend

The Essential Phone – price and release date

We’re still waiting for news of a UK release date and price, but US buyers can reserve the phone for $699. We expect that when it reaches our shores it will cost around £700, which would put it in the same price bracket as the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8.

The Essential Phone – 3 key features

Edge-to-edge display

The headline feature of the Essential Phone is its sleek edge-to-edge display. It’s a 5.7-inch, bezel-banishing screen that reminds us of Samsung’s Infinity Display on the Galaxy S8. It has a 2,560 x 1,312 resolution, which means it should provide plenty of detail. We’ll see how it shapes up when we get our hands on it.

Pushing the display out to the far corners of the smartphone means you end up with a phablet-sized screen on a regular-sized device. LG adopted a similar approach for the G6, which has a 5.7-inch screen with a 18:9 ratio, making it easy to hold in one hand.

Snap-on accessories

The Essential Phone has been designed to support detachable accessories. The idea is that you buy a new component for the phone and snap it on using magnetic pins. The optional extras remind us of the third-party fisheye lenses that are popular on Apple’s iPhones.

This isn’t the first time a smartphone company has played around with a modular design. Lenovo’s Moto Mods range works in a similar way, with attachments including projectors, kickstands and camera lenses.

360-degree camera

One of the first clip-on accessories we’ve seen for the Essential is a 360-degree camera, the world’s smallest camera of its type designed for a smartphone. To use it, you attach it to the corner of the phone’s display and then record a video just as you would normally. US buyers can get their hands on one for $50, which translates to around £40. That’s far cheaper than a dedicated camera such as the Samsung Gear 360, which goes for £350.

As the Essential Phone supports 360-degree video, you’ll be able to upload videos to YouTube for other people to interact with. If you view a 360-degree video on YouTube using a computer, you can click and drag your mouse to look around. Users with a VR headset will also be able to look around your videos by physically moving their head to explore the scene.

Under the hood, the Essential Phone is equipped like any other high-end smartphone. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor, which is backed up by 4GB of Ram. This should mean that the mobile will cope very well if you’re running various apps at once. There’s also a 13Mp dual rear-facing camera that can shoot 4K video. For more details, see the specs sheet below:

Are modular smartphones the future?

We don’t want to get too hyped about a phone that we’re yet to get our hands on, but there’s no denying that the Essential Phone could really shake up the industry. If this modular mobile really takes off, we could see some major companies experimenting with the idea. Ultimately, the Essential Phone could pave the way for a world where we simply upgrade parts of our phones rather than shelling out for a completely new handset.

At this stage, we’ve seen only two of the Essential Phone’s attachments – the 360-degree camera and a charging dock. We’re keen to see what else Rubin’s team has in store.

The best smartphones of 2017

If you don’t fancy waiting around for the Essential Phone, there are still plenty of impressive smartphones to consider. Every mobile we test is put through its paces as part of our independent expert reviews. Only the phones with top-notch battery life, detailed screens and impressive cameras are worthy of being Best Buys. Meanwhile, Don’t Buy smartphones will struggle to take a good picture, and they won’t last you long on a single charge.

To see which Android, iOS and Windows mobiles have topped our tests, head over to our smartphone reviews page. If you’re looking to save money, see our advice on Buying a mobile phone on a budget.

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