Scrapped Essential Phone 2 and 3 get shown off by a former Essential designer
Essential jumped onto the smartphone scene in 2017 with the Essential Phone PH-1, riding on the reputation of its founder, Andy Rubin, better known for co-founding Android. The company got to release only one smartphone, before it was unceremoniously shut down in February 2020. This came as a surprise to a fair few people, as the company had been exceptional with the software support it afforded to its singular device, with regular monthly security patches and major Android OS updates released right after Google (including Android 11 Developer Preview 1 through a GSI). Now, a former Essential designer has shared images of what would have been the Essential Phone 2 and Essential Phone 3.
Mr. Kevin Hoffman worked with Essential as a lead designer and had the opportunity to guide the company’s product lineup. In a brief post on his website, which has since been locked down, Mr. Hoffman has shared images of the unreleased devices.
Essential Phone 2 / PH-2
The Essential PH-2 would have followed closely along the design cues laid down by the PH-1. We can see the flat rear panel with the dual cameras and the dual magnetic pin attachments and the fingerprint sensor. The visible change is along the metal frame, which is now rounded off a bit. The back glass also appeared to be matte this time around.
“PH2 was a project I overtook as lead designer during a team reorganization. I contributed to early conceptualization, form & detail iteration, creating visual presentations, collaborating with Chinese vendors and meeting for product builds, CMF/PRD documentation for manufacturing, CMF approvals, etc.
This phone had a semi-round side profile for considered ergonomics and “slim border” look, a dual camera system, SUS321 ultra-fine bead blasted frame, 2.5D front cover glass, matte chemical etched back cover glass, IP68 rating, 84% screen to body ratio, and supported the “Essential click connect” system. Among others, all these features combined for a competitive mobile device (at the time).”
Essential Phone 3 / PH-3
The Essential Phone 3 would have been obviously in earlier stages of development than the other phone, but the company was working on it as recently as this year. Mr. Hoffman shared a few different designs, with the basic idea being housing an existing OLED display with defined dimensions and accomodating a triple camera setup on the rear.
“Essential PH3 was a project I led as a designer in an effort to create an inclusive phone with contemporary tech & aesthetic, at a low price point. The design was constrained to low BOM costs using a preexisting OLED display with defined dimensions, bead-blasted machined aluminum, and 2.5D cover glass.
Noteworthy design detailing is expressed in the back triple camera system: A polished stainless steel camera housing holding a flash module and 3 camera lenses. This exaggerated, bold treatment accentuates a high performance camera story in an age where consumers prioritize phones with exceptional cameras. Additionally, chemical etched back cover glass created further contrast with the camera, and the flat side wall treatment paid homage to the original PH1 Essential phone design language.”
The Essential GEM with its bizarre design was teased by Andy Rubin back in October 2019. Obviously, with Essential shutting down, the GEM will no longer be released in any form. Nonetheless, Mr. Hoffman shared some insight into the product:
“Noteworthy industrial design features include a 3D molded glass unibody (a manufacturing feat that has never been done before with the help of Corning Glass), a MX resistant coating with striking color effects, and a slim form factor & OLED display that refocuses how we interact with mobile devices.”
With Essential now essentially dead, these planned products just provide a window of insight into a future that could have been.