Essential's PH-1 phone is getting new limited edition colors

They just might hold you over until the Essential 2 shows up.

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Chris Velazco
February 15th, 2018
In this article: android, essential, gear, mobile, ph1, smartphone

Essential's first smartphone wasn't exactly perfect, but it was beautifully designed. Its existing black and white models aren't striking enough for everyone, though, which is why the Andy Rubin-helmed startup will soon start pushing out a handful of limited edition color options. And thankfully, the first one to be released is the blue-and-copper Ocean Depths finish the company teased from the very beginning.

Here's how the process will work: starting today, that Ocean Depths model will be available directly from Essential. Then, the Stellar Gray model with a matte black back and a dark titanium frame will go on sale on February 20, followed by a piano black model with a bright copper frame on February 22. All of these limited edition devices will sell for $599, and after seeing them very, very briefly, I can conclusively say they look lovely. Essential declined to comment on how large these production runs are, though, so there's no telling how long it'll take for these things to sell out.

Honestly, it's not hard to look at the release of these colorways as an attempt to drum up interest in a phone whose hype has largely quieted since its launch last year. After all, a recent report from IDC suggests the startup sold fewer than 90,000 devices during its first six months on the market, even after Essential chopped $200 off the phone's permanent price. (When asked, an Essential spokesperson told us the company "doesn't comment on third-party reports.") The limited nature of these redesigned devices, however, means they may not have a huge impact on overall unit sales and Essential's bottom line. Ask Essential, though, and they'll tell you this is by design.

From the beginning, Essential positioned itself as a company uninterested in selling millions of devices out of the gate. Its approach, as a result, feels sort of artisanal, and that seems even more true of these limited edition models. Rather than partner with ceramics vendors that could more quickly scale up production of these new colors, Essential instead decided to work with an experienced vendor from Japan on a smaller run where they could more closely control the quality of these finishes. (The Ocean Depths model, in particular, was a difficult one to perfect — some back panels came out more green than blue and vice versa.)


It's currently unclear whether these will be the last updated Essential phones to be released before the true sequel is finished. In any case, we'll soon see if a handful of new colors is all it takes to get people excited about Essential again.

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