Essential acknowledges how bad its first smartphone camera was: 'We heard you, and we're going to do it better on the second-gen, for sure'

Essential acknowledges how bad its first smartphone camera was: 'We heard you, and we're going to do it better on the second-gen, for sure'

Essential Phone 2

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • Essential, the tech startup founded by Android creator Andy Rubin, released its first phone in 2017.
  • The phone was generally well-received by critics, but its camera was widely panned.
  • Essential says it's currently working to make the camera better on the next version of its phone.

Essential knows people didn't like the camera on its first smartphone, the PH-1, but a better one is on the way.

The Essential Phone, which is the brainchild of Android creator Andy Rubin, launched in August 2017. The phone is made of ceramic and titanium, has a nearly edge-to-edge display, and has built-in connectors on the back for accessories like a 360 camera.

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From a design standpoint, the Essential Phone is unlike anything else you can buy right now. It's sleek, sophisticated, and high-end, and it doesn't have any branding or logos. As Essential's head of industrial design Linda Jiang described it in an interview with Business Insider, the Essential Phone is "a phone for an adult."

There's only one real problem with the Essential Phone: its camera.


The Verge described the camera as "terrible." 9to5 Google called it "pretty poor" and "slow." Gizmodo said it was "terribly inconsistent." CNET called it "crummy."

Shortly after the phone came out, Essential pushed out several updates to try to fix some of the issues with the camera. But it still underperforms compared to other high-end smartphones like the iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S9, and Google Pixel 2.

essential phone camera

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

In my own tests, I found the camera performed well about 75% of the time. In well-lit situations, photos turned out just fine. But in low light, the photos looked blurry and dark, and it often took several seconds for the phone to actually take the photo.

Essential has heard those complaints, and others, and it's working to fix the camera.

"In general, one thing that we got hit hard with was the quality of our camera, and we're really looking forward to improving that with our next-gen, making sure that we're listening to our customers and their pain points," Jiang told Business Insider. "We're going to make it better for you."


"We can say, we heard you and we're going to do it better on the second-gen for sure," Jiang said.

Essential hasn't given any indication when it's next-generation phone will be coming out, although it could be as soon as this summer if Essential takes cues from other premium smartphone manufacturers, which release new phones annually.

Beyond the camera, Jiang didn't reveal much about what other changes Essential is making to the phone, although she did say Essential is looking into coatings or textures to make the phone - and the black version in particular - less slippery and prone to fingerprints.

And if you did shell out for Essential's $200 360 camera, don't worry - it will still work with future models of the phone.

"Once you spend money on accessories, you'll be able to use them on future phones," Jiang said.