Essential is slashing the price of its eponymous phone, down to $499 at its website. That’s a $200 price cut from the original $699 price, less than two months after it began shipping to customers. There is really no other way to read the move except as a signal that it wasn’t selling well at $699 — especially given that the only US carrier stores it’s available in have “Sprint” above the door. It certainly doesn’t help that it now has to face the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL head-to-head.
Of course, that’s not how Essential sees it, saying that the price drop is there in lieu of “a massive TV campaign to capture your attention,” which is hard not to see as a wry Google and Apple dig. “We think making it easier for people to get their hands on our first products is a better way to get to know us,” the company’s blog post adds.
It’s common for Android phone prices to go down over time, but this is an aggressive price drop both in its timing and its amount. To help salve the burn that customers who paid the full price might be feeling, the company is offering a $200 Essential Store “friends & family code” to be used towards the purchase of another phone or a module. The only module available thus far, of course, is the 360 camera.
In the time since Essential released the phone, it has made good on its promise to release software updates to improve camera performance — though it’s neither as fast nor as good as what you’ll get on a Galaxy S8 or Pixel 2. Depending on how you feel about the camera’s importance, $499 is either a steal or the appropriate price for this phone.