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Essential’s Amazon-exclusive phone comes with Alexa onboard

The Halo Gray model goes for $449, much less than those limited editions.
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Oh, you thought Essential was out of new color options to show off? Not quite. The company announced today that a new, so-called Halo Gray model is now available to purchase exclusively from Amazon. Unlike the other, limited-edition versions of the PH-1, this new model goes for $449 rather than $599 and it ships with Amazon's Alexa app pre-installed.

With its matte black ceramic rear and titanium trim, the Halo Gray isn't as ostentatious as some of the models Essential revealed yesterday, but Linda Jiang — the young head of Essential's industrial design — told Engadget the look was meant to use "two finishes and colors that exemplified the materials in their best light."

"The reason why we have the matte black on the back is that it doesn't fingerprint at all," Jiang said. "It has a super-nice, almost silky bone-like finish to it." The phone's metal frame, meanwhile, was chosen because of its specific character as a metal. "It has such a nice, warm color to it, very different from aluminum or stainless steel," she added. The end result is a device that feels markedly different than either of the first versions of the Essential phone, seemingly built for people who prefer a more subtle approach to smartphone design.

"I think that our original black has a different type of premium, one that's almost bling-y and in-your-face," said Jiang. "This one's premium in a way that's so understated; it's like a matte Lamborghini Aventador versus the red Ferrari."

With the Halo Gray now in the mix, Essential is finally ready to move on. The company confirmed that no new color options are in the works — all work internally has shifted to crafting the Essential 2 (or whatever they plan to call it). And while Jiang wouldn't talk specifically about what we could expect from the company's smartphone sequel, there's at least one issue she's attempting to tackle through design: smartphone addiction.

" I really can't get from place to place without a smartphone," she said. "We're so aware of that — I feel like especially this generation of kids are just so stuck on their smartphones, and you know our generation is becoming aware of that. My goal is to make it a more symbiotic relationship." She's not entirely sure how to make that happen, but her aim seems clear: she wants to help people strike a more balanced relationship with their devices, one that reduces our level of dependence without sacrificing functionality. For now, we'll just have to wait and see how her plans pan out.

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