Apple iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S11 could face competition from an unlikely rival

Android founder Andy Rubin's smartphone startup Essential could be throwing its hat back in the ring

Essential Phone
(Image credit: Essential)

The Apple iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S11 could face stiff competition from Android founder Andy Rubin's smartphone startup Essential. Speaking to XDA-Developers, the Palo Alto-based company confirmed that its next device (believed to be called the Essential PH-2, succeeding the Essential PH-1) has now entered testing.

While this may not seem like market-disrupting news to you, it is to Android purists, who welcomed the unadulterated user experience the Essential PH-1 brought to the table with open arms in 2017. Considering Rubin's close relationship with Google and his life-long attachment to Android, it's safe to assume that'll be the case again.

However, there's a chance what Essential has up its sleeve is not a smartphone. Instead, it could release an Android tablet to challenge the forthcoming Apple iPad Pro (2020) and Samsung Galaxy Tab S7. At least, that's according to XDA-Developers, which uncovered a reference to a tablet in a portion of code from the device.

To be more specific, XDA-Developers noticed that the boot animation had been programmed to display at either 90° or 270° — both landscape orientations, which are commonly associated with tablets. Smartphones, on the other hand, are coded to boot in a vertical direction at 0°. Then again, it could always be an honest mistake.

We aren't entirely when the dark when it comes to specifications, either. That same batch of code revealed that the Essential PH-2 (or maybe even Essential TA-1, if it turns out to be a tablet) is equipped with a Snapdragon 730 CPU, a tri-camera on the rear (48MP + 20MP + 16MP) and a dual-camera on the front (13MP + 5MP).

It also referenced a new feature called "Fingerprint Walkie-Talkie." While it's unclear how exactly it will function, it's been theorised that it will allow users to continuously talk to Google Assistant while the fingerprint reader is being held. Although, that leaves many unanswered questions, like whether it'll be an under-screen sensor.

In all honesty, we aren't too sure what we're looking at. The tri-camera would us leaning towards a smartphone, but the Snapdragon 730 CPU (versus the latest Snapdragon 855+ CPU) and the line of code recording that that device has been programmed to boot on a horizontal plane has left us scratching our heads.

Considering the Essential PH-1 had the latest Snapdragon CPU when it came out, and the rumoured Essential PH-2 should follow suit, we're inclined to believe that what we're looking at is the Essential Tablet (TA-1). But there's always a chance Essential is experimenting with different hardware purely for testing purposes.

Maybe it wants to see how a lower-end chipset fairs, or whether it baking in a mode that lets customers use a smartphone in a landscape orientation at all times is a good idea. Or maybe it is a tablet that's aimed at those looking for something with a more native feel than what Samsung's One UI-ridded Galaxy Tab range has to offer.

We'll have to wait and see.

Having spent half a decade writing about the latest news for some of the world’s largest publications, Josh is one of the most recognised reporters in the space. Nowadays, in addition to covering the odd news article, he spends most of his time keeping T3's long-form consumer content up to date, while also researching and reporting on the best deals to help you save some serious scratch.