Android creator Andy Rubin is returning to the smartphone business with his new Essential Phone, and one of its signature features is a modular accessory system that Rubin and co promise will “keep your phone cord-free, future-proof, and always up-to-date.” Featuring a pair of magnetic pins on the back of the device, this so-called Click cordless connector will hook up to Essential’s 360-degree camera and its Essential Phone Dock (pictured below).
Beyond those two publicized accessories, we’re left guessing as to what additional modules Essential might be planning, or how exactly this physical modularity would assist with keeping the phone up to date. Lacking an onboard headphone jack, the Essential Phone would be a great candidate for an audio accessory that bumps up its headphone-powering capabilities while also adding in that universally compatible port. Another company that’s eschewed a headphone jack in its recent designs is Motorola, and it too has opted for a system of modular extras, which it has dubbed Moto Mods.
I’ve made no secret of my skepticism about modular smartphones: good mods take a lot of time and engineering effort to develop, and the mobile industry generally moves too quickly for them to be worthwhile acquisitions. Every company that opts for modularity is, at least implicitly, trying to sell people on the idea of a longer-lived phone through incremental hardware upgrades — which Essential is stating explicitly by calling its phone “future-proof” — but all the evidence so far has been that phone hardware and software both move too fast and people just wind up buying new devices.
Essential’s entire existence is built around bucking existing trends, so it stands to reason that it would try to disrupt the current ways of doing hardware as well. Rubin’s depth of experience and expertise in this field lends a measure of credibility to a project that otherwise seems too ambitious for its own good.
Andy Rubin will be on stage tonight at the Code Conference. You can watch it live starting at 6PM PT / 9PM ET.