Andy Rubin explains why his new Essential phone looks so weird


Earlier today, Android founder Andy Rubin finally unveiled the new smartphone he’s been teasing for months.

The phone, the first product from Rubin’s new company Essential, is so big that its nearly bezel-less display wraps almost all the way around the handset’s front-facing camera. Now Rubin has offered an explanation for the odd design choice, which raised more than a few eyebrows. 

Speaking at Recode’s Code conference, Rubin said there was no other good place to put the selfie cam while maintaining the edge-to-edge display that makes it possible to squeeze a phablet-sized screen in the form factor of a normal phone.

Acknowledging that other smartphone makers, like Sharp with its Aquos Crystal phone, have achieved edge-to-edge displays by placing the front-facing camera on the bottom of the phone, Rubin said that wasn’t an option for Essential.

“I call that nostril cam because when I’m taking a selfie, it’s like literally a picture of my nose, so people kind of have to turn it [the phone] around. I think that’s a terrible user experience,” he said.

“So what we did is we notched it [the camera] out and yes, it looks funny, but it’s in a place where we know that Android, the icons for the notifications grow inward for both the static ones and also the dynamic ones, so you actually don’t lose any real estate. The display is a 19 x 10, so when your watching a 16 x 9 video, it doesn’t interfere with the video either.” 

“Even though it looks funny, it’s actually pretty well thought out and architected to actually solve the selfie camera being in the wrong place if you weren’t to do that. ” 

In addition to explaining the design, Rubin shed some light on how the device, which is apparently just called “Phone,” will use modular accessories. 

All of the modules, including the 360-degree camera that was also unveiled Tuesday, attach to the back of the phone via a magnetic “accessory bus” that use the USB 3.0 standard. All accessories will draw power from the phone’s battery, meaning users won’t have to charge their accessories separately.

Besides the small 360-degree camera that is available to people who pre-order the phone now, Rubin says Essential will likely make “the first five or six” accessories, though the goal is for third-party developers to make their own compatible hardware as well.

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