This beta should have stayed in testing a bit longer, but now that it’s out, the Essential Phone is turning into a good phone.
It’s not uncommon for people to accuse Google of treating its users as beta testers, but that notion — release fast and broken, and fix problems later on — is, in fact, an entrenched part of the startup culture as a whole. It just looks unbecoming of a company with a market cap approaching $650 billion USD.
But year after year, Google gets away with it because it releases dozens of pieces of software for various platforms and ecosystems, and usually, over time, improves the reliability and performance of each one. It also gets away with it because Google as a company is an indelible part of our culture’s fabric, and its core products — search, Android, Docs, and increasingly hardware like the Pixel, Home, and Chromecast — are used by millions of people every day. The occasional buggy software release stings, but does not linger.
The Essential Phone is not finished. It shouldn’t have been released until later this year.
Other companies don’t have the luxury of such inconsistency. Essential, the nascent hardware startup run by former head of Android, Andy Rubin, has been embroiled in this kind of controversy — if you can call it that — over the past couple of weeks. Essential committed the worst sin a new company can make: it released a product before it was ready.
The Essential Phone is a remarkable achievement. It’s dense and compact and beautifully made. Its screen goes right up to the edges, and the camera cutout forms a cyclops that, to me, enhances its visual appeal, mainly because in every other way it is the quintessence of minimalism.
But the hardware was finished long before the software. And Rubin, after announcing the product in May to enormous support and an uncharacteristic amount of anticipation from an industry cynical of new entrants and their ability to compete, likely felt a disproportionate amount of pressure to put this thing out into the world, to give the people, few as they may be, what they want.
After three big software updates, the phone has gone from almost unusable to almost amazing.
That was Rubin’s biggest folly. The Essential Phone is not finished; it should have been kept under wraps until the late summer, and released in October or November — yes, later than he would have liked — so the team could iron out the enormous number of issues with the software. To the degree that public availability has given Essential’s software engineers additional vectors to find and quash bugs, it has also marred what could have been a flawless release from a company that had 10 years – Source