If you had told me fifteen years ago that one day I'd walk around with a handheld computer capable of facilitating all of my daily needs, from communicating with coworkers, to tracking my workout and processing mobile payments, I probably would have laughed in your face. Before the arrival of the iPhone, a mobile-first lifestyle seemed like a fantasy. But fast forward to today, and this digital dependency and mobile growth no longer sparks awe and curiosity, rather it's par for the course.
Every year we await new updates to our iPhone and Android devices aimed at making our daily lives a little smoother and a lot more entertaining. We've grown accustomed to a revolving door of incremental hardware and software updates. However, the recent arrival of the Essential phone has the potential to shake up the smartphone industry.
The Essential phone is an Android smartphone. It's championed by Android creator Andy Rubin, and it faces the tall order of competing in an already-saturated smartphone market.
The facets that set the Essential model apart, first and foremost, are the materials and screen size. Apple and Samsung devices are forged from aluminum, but Essential has built a titanium and ceramic phone, which means it should be able to withstand forceful drops. The phone boasts an edge-to-edge screen--and although I have yet to personally get my hands on a model, early reviews laud the phone's speed.
It isn't without its drawbacks, and at a price point of $699, these qualities might force intrigued consumers to think twice. Some early reviewers lament the sub-par battery life and camera application. The Essential phone's dual-camera system is seemingly sufficient, users aren't necessarily loving the phone's camera application.
Why should you care?
As an Android system phone, Essential won't necessarily impact how you develop your brand mobile experiences. Yes, it offers more screen size to tell rich media stories, but it won't force you to develop mobile applications in new ways. However, the team's approach to distribution and brand connection offers some valuable lessons.
We already know that more consumers want high quality mobile devices that can withstand falls, facilitate quality viewing experiences, and help them capture (and distribute) compelling photos and videos. But the idea that less is more, on both a branding and distribution front, should encourage organizations to slow down and take stock of how they're really forging connections with consumers.
On the surface, the Essential Phone has not reinvented the smartphone wheel, but the team's approach to marketing and distributing the product may mark a new chapter in the tech branding world.
More doesn't equal better.
Essential is not looking to compete with the new iPhone's volume. Rather, it is purposefully keeping production and distribution low. Similar to the world of fashion, and (tech has inarguably become a force in fashion) Rubin and his team believe that not everyone wants to walk around with the same mobile models as everyone else.
In the United States, especially, the smartphone breakdown largely parks consumers into two camps: Samsung and Apple. There's very little variety or room to stand out.
With a small production plan, Essential will not be rampant, at least not during this initial product run. Low production numbers allow the team to use the materials they want to use and develop systems on their terms, which would be near impossible if they were looking to distribute on Apple's scale.
Brand (and lack thereof) still makes a difference.
Essential is a label-less phone. The company is making a point not to stamp its brand name on the product. In a world seemingly overrun by luxury labels, subtle branding or even no branding at all, could resonate more with consumers--or, at least, that is the philosophy the Essential team is banking on.
Rather than developing an overly-branded and accessory-laden device, Essential poured its resources into producing a streamlined mobile solution, and perhaps, focusing on substance, more than flash, still matters to consumers.
Consumers are fickle: They're constantly looking ahead to what's next. Because the Essential phone is producing in low volumes (to start) the team has given itself room to experiment with distinguished materials and enhanced visual features that set the model apart from other smartphones.
This concentration on quality over quality, and a move away from over-the-top labeling may help marketers in verticals across the board remember that when it comes to connecting with consumers, sometimes less is actually more.