Essential Phone PH-1 May Live On Through One More, Minor Update
Based on a string of recently reported discoveries, Essential engineers may be planning one minor and final update for its Essential Phone PH-1. Specifically, that's based on a slew of new commits found in an "r-preview" branch of Essential's GitHub repo.
In short, the commits aim to ensure that Android 11 Generic System Image (GSI) can be booted on devices that support Project Treble. That includes the recently launched Android 11 Developer Preview 1 (DP1) build since Essential's only phone supports Project Treble. More importantly, that work included an array of commits that appear geared toward supporting Android 11 in its entirety.
That culminated with a comment from Essential system software lead Jean-Baptiste Théou. The software lead confirmed that a "final internal review and validation on the latest GSI for Android 11" is all that was needed "to allow the community" to take advantage of all of that work.
In effect, Jean-Baptiste Théou confirmed that the work would make Essential Phone PH-1 ready to be carried through. That's to the next iteration of Android. But that would have to be at the hands of the community still supporting the 2017 flagship device.
Essential Phone PH-1 will be dead after this tentative update
Now, it bears pointing out that this doesn't actually mean that Essential will release this update, as it has before, for users to flash to their Essential Phone. The company would need to release a prebuilt vendor, boot, and system images for that to happen. Essential fans with unlocked bootloaders would then need to go through the steps of flashing things over.
As hinted above, that also doesn't mean a stable version would ever become available. If enterprising users take the work that's been done and create a flashable image, that's a possibility. But Essential as a company is effectively dead.
In fact, Essential announced the demise of the company in mid-February. At the time, Essential promised only that a final February security patch would be released.
Essential's demise follows years of internal shuffling, controversies surrounding its founder — Android founder Andy Rubin — and a luke-warm reception of the Essential Phone PH-1. That's the only device ever launched by the company. At least two more were expected prior to its shutdown announcement but those never materialized.
What's in Android 11 Developer Preview 1?
The final plausible Android update for the Essential Phone won't necessarily bring a lot of new features. That's because quite a few of those are turned off in this early build of the new system. That's not unusual and some workarounds exist for gaining at least preview-access to those for more advanced users. The Essential community may also turn those on, as indicated above if the community uses Essential's work to step the build forward. But that isn't entirely likely.
Android 11 DP1 brings a number of useful changes, including the system keeping Bluetooth running in Airplane mode. That will keep the music flowing to headphones, among other things, even when the other radios need to be killed. But Android 11 also appears set to deliver on Dark Mode theme scheduling and a new power menu that put tap-to-pay in a more convenient position.
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