Sep 19th 2017 by GinjaDiem • 37 Questions • 4851 Points
Hi friends, I'm excited to be here for another AMA.
I've been keeping busy these days with a few projects, including my venture fund and incubator Playground Global and my company Essential, which recently released our first product, Essential Phone. You can check it out here: https://www.essential.com/
Proof 360 photo: https://kuula.co/post/7lv71 Proof Tweet: https://twitter.com/Arubin/status/908402598771752960
I'm here with (in clock-wise order in the photo above): Linda Jiang, Essential's Head of Industrial Design; Dave Evans, Essential's VP of Design; Rebecca Zavin, Essential's VP of Software; Joe Tate, Essential's VP of Hardware.
We'll be here from 12 - 1pm PDT answering questions. Ask us anything!
EDIT: Thanks for joining us! We had a great time chatting with everyone today. We keep an eye on /r/essential so feel free to post topics there that you'd like us to see.
How do the wigs hold up during day to day activities? Do they slip a lot? Do you ever wear them exercising?
I'm the developer of Nova Launcher, the most popular replacement home screen for Android. We've been getting a ton of emails from Essential users complaining about how the Essential draws a large black notification bar instead of letting Nova, or any third party app not on your whitelist use the full screen. I'm aware of the adb commands to work around this, but that's not an ideal solution for end users.
How can I get my app white listed to use the full screen? It looks awful having a black bar over the wallpaper. Your users right now are early adopters, they're very likely to be power users who expect to be able to use a replacement launcher without issues. I'm used to dealing with OEM shenanigans but it doesn't even seem there is any hack I can do to use the full screen.
Please let developers opt-in to use the full screen. Or you could just use the standard Android APIs for insets. The creator of Android, you, had diverse hardware in mind. Embrace it!
It depends on the quality of the wig. Cheap costume/drag queen wigs are much different than wigs meant to be worn all day. Cheap wigs are uncomfortable, hot, and itch to the max. A real quality wig is expensive though ($500+), but it's worth it (I think). My wig that I wear on most days is $700, and that is cheap as far as "real" wigs are concerned.
I currently don't wear wigs when I work out (I work out five times a week). I wear a turban, but a local stylist has told me they can add some hair to my turban. I'm seriously considering it.
Edit: I wanted to put a disclaimer. I'm sure there are good wigs that don't cost so much. Actually, if there are, I would like to know how to find them. This is just my experience. I'm sure others posters would like the info, so please share what you know and your experience.
Hey! Message us directly and we'll whitelist you today! -Rebecca
What are your plans to address the widespread criticism of the PH-1's camera? What are the challenges and the plans for future software improvements on it?
If I wear it every day, I wash it once a week. I put it on a mannequin head and wash it like regular hair.
Hi! We are pretty happy with the hardware design of the camera. We are using computational photography to fuse a monochrome and color sensors. That's the part we're not too happy about, but luckily it's software and we've already done a number of updates to the app to fix bug and add features. - andyR
What's in your wig collection? How often do you change things up?
What other snap-on attachments can we expect to see? Do you have plans to release a dedicated zoom camera attachment/set of prime lens attachments?
I have two real human hair wigs: shoulder-length brown with loose waves and a straight blonde long bob.
I have 10 synthetics with long blonde, short blonde, pink, firetruck red, long brown, short brown, etc. But, I usually alternate between my two human hair wigs because they're more comfortable.
We are under development on a number of Click Connector accessories. The first available should be the charging dock. We are also actively developing a high end audio accessory to support a 3.5mm jack. We are continuing to look at supporting ideas, like cameras. -Joe
That was going to be my question, whether you preferred keeping it samey to look consistent and normal, or if you had fun with being able to change up your look on the fly.
What is essentials stand on custom development? When will kernel sources be released? Will you release factory images like google does with nexus/pixel devices? Will we see a SDK for the dual cameras so third party developers can use both rear cameras/360 cameras in their own apps? Android OREO ETA? I can go on but those are my top questions I would love to get answers to!
I don't mind changing it up. I don't change it at work because I'm a school teacher, and I like to be consistent for the kids.
We are excited about supporting 3rd party developers. We'll be releasing our kernel and factory images in the next few days. Android O will be coming in the next month or two.
Do you think the new style of women with shaved heads has helped the acceptance of balding women at all?
Can't wait to see a official Dev page some where on the essential site! Let's all hope it is a few days and not a few months like the phone release!
One more question regarding Android O, will you guys offer a beta channel like Android?
In a way, yes. But, most of the women who shave and display it aren't' the ones who are balding. They are usually the ones who are trying to be "alt" or "stand out." And, their bald looks different than mine. I actually have smooth (no hair at all) skin showing, whereas "normal" people who have hair have visible hair under the skin.
When I walk around bald (and I've done it), people sometimes assume I'm trying to be "edgy." When I show people my DL (which is me bald...), I get asked if "it was a phase."
It would be nice if I could walk around bald without people assuming I'm trying to make an extreme fashion statement. I don't really like to stand out or draw attention to myself.
We're thinking about it. Upvote if you'd be in! -Rebecca
I've got to say I've known some incredibly beautiful women with short/ clean cut looks and not to downplay Apolecia Areata but for something that does physically change your features I think you lucked out because you look great.
Edit: * Alopecia, thanks
Can we expect Essential PH-1 to be released in Europe? Looking for a new phone and the Essential Phone would be perfect!
Working on it as a priority. -andyR
Same here. My spots were unfortunately a lot bigger, so I wouldn't have any choice but to shave the whole thing.
Did you have any triggers that led to the bald spots? Any time I was dealing with a lot of stress, I'd wake up and find large patches of hair just gone.
Are the LTE reception problems on the essential phone fixable in software?
Stress definitely plays a role. I noticed I had my biggest loses during times of stress. I also think inflammation is a trigger. My biggest lost came after the flu, and I talked to my doctor about this. They say viruses seem to trigger autoimmune responses.
We have not heard of reception issues. We tested favorably vs. the competition in the labs. I'll have someone reach out and get your logs. - andyR
Oh man do I feel you, when I had lymphoma and lost my hair because chemo, people automatically just assumed I shaved my head even though I was full Prof. Xavier bald.
I actually had some people in college stop talking to me because they thought I was trying to be more """anime""". Granted I wore a pink wig but that was primarily because a) I already owed it from a costume and b) it was a $40 wig as opposed to a $400 wig. Plus I just wanted to have fun at that point.
Someone actually asked if I shaved my head to be like Britney Spears. I cannot imagine how many people must assume you have cancer.
It seems to be an issue with the modem hopping bands way too rapidly. More than happy to help.
Baldness needs to stop being the universal sign for sickness!
DM us please - andyR
My friend's sister has alopecia and rocks full bald. She's a very normal housewife and mother in any other sense. She's not trying to "stand out" but she is embracing her condition and being an outspoken advocate for alopecia and feminine baldness in general.
Will Essential support ROMs and custom development by releasing the kernel source code and boot.img?
Will Essential support an upgrade program involving trade-ins for a discounted price on newer models?
Ps. I'm really enjoying the PH-1 right now, appreciate addressing bugs in software and feel camera is pretty good now! Thanks!
That is beautiful! I am a school teacher, and I've gone to school without my wig before. I think women can be perfectly beautiful without.
Yes on ROMs. Not sure about trades-in yet. Startups need usually need to gain traction before that's financially possible. -andyR
I didn't realize there was so much ignorance about alopecia. I figured ppl knew what it was, even if it's rare, enough that it would at least enter their minds as a possibility.
When can we expect white?
People hide it a lot, so no one ever sees it. Also, a lot of people don't like to talk about it.
White is coming! Pure White ceramic is in build trials now. We're looking at a few weeks until they're in boxes and shipping, especially as we fill the manufacturing backlog on Moon Black. - Dave
Agree. I buzz my head CLOSE on purpose (would shave it but don't want to itch), because I think it looks cute, but people are always asking me "what'd you do that for", assuming that I did it for a fund raiser or that I'm sick. I'm not sure about your "trying to be edgy" comment--I live in Iowa, though, so maybe it's just not a thing here--but people are always asking for personal details about my medical history.
Do you ever take the time to explain the truth to complete strangers? I feel like that would get exhausting.
When do you plan on open sourcing the Essential connector?
One of the reasons I wear a wig is so I don't have to explain. When I rocked the bald (and I did for a while), I thought maybe I should wear a tshirt with my condition on it with "google it" underneath. It's mostly that I feel like a broken record because I've had to say the same thing over and over again.
We have a reference design almost complete. Once ready, it will be made available to 3rd parties so they can easily integrate our connector into their products. This works for hobbyists as well! -andyR
When I show people my DL (which is me bald...), I get asked if "it was a phase."
I can't figure out what "my DL" means from context.
Yeah but when you told them why you were really bald (if you did) I bet they felt pretty bad assuming that it was a "phase".
With the new crop of phones slated for release before the holiday season what do you see as the primary points that will allow the Essential Phone to compete?
Design, materials, expandability, stock android, fast updates, open mentality. -andyR
Since you are into fitness, have you seen Kevin Bull on American Ninja Warrior? He's an amazing athlete with Alopecia. He does a lot to help kids with it and with his minor celebrity has been able to spread awareness.
I've noticed that my phone will completely freeze and not respond to touch or the physical buttons, and I have to manually reboot my phone.
Is this a known hardware or software issue? Should I reach out for a replacement under the warranty?
Would like to get more data from you on what you have installed on the device and when you are seeing this issue. Obviously, this is not how the phone should perform. Its hard to tell from your description if it is hardware or software -Joe
What happened in the 7 years between the start of your hair loss and choosing to go totally shaved? Did you change the length of your hair to hide/adapt to the change?
Is there any possibilities to make a transparent ceramic glass? That's pretty solid.
My hair lose wasn't noticeable. Also, I fluctuated. Sometimes, I didn't have bald patches at all, but then they'd show up again. When I was 26, I lost so much that I couldn't hide it anymore.
It is not possible in Zirconia ceramic (what the phone has today), unfortunately. Interesting idea though! - Linda
Could we see some more pics of that cranium? I'm 29 and have regular male pattern baldness, soon it will be time for me to "come home" so I guess I want to see what exactly you are shaving off, for most bald people it's gotta look pretty patchy to give it the ol' chop, mines not quite there yet but soon I will be a classic baldy
People have also been reporting worse cell signal strength than other phones in areas that don't have the best reception. Would this be fixable on your end?
I'll post pics later today (I'm in a place right now where I can't).
Coverage is a complex issue. We are always looking for feedback on problem locations so that we can field test to fix issues which are software based. Its hard to look just at signal strength when comparing phones. For instance, which cell tower is serving you may be different even though you are in the same location with two phones. When we performed field testing sometimes we would score better than reference phones sometimes worse. We are a bit more conservative on signal bars. Which, unfortunately, there is no standard for on mobile devices. But, please let us know the locations and we can take a look -Joe
A good online friend of mine, who is coming up on 20, has lived with cancer since she was a teenager, and she's been worrying lately about losing her hair, but seemed to cheer up when I talked about my mother wearing wigs when she had cancer, and how wigs can look pretty good, but can you give any advice about how to pick out a good wig? Any hints or things to look out for?
- Android 8 and Project Treble status/ETA?
- Would Essential consider a Beta OS program similar to Google and OnePlus?
- What's the current focus for software issues like touch responsiveness (improved/tweaked palm rejection?) and micro-stuttering when scrolling. (EDIT: scrolling still seems to stutter in the new build. See video by u/tlxxxsracer - https://youtu.be/dbw_TUnfXuU) Is Essential already looking to Android 8 or is Essential still working on 7.1.1?
- Will Essential release the kernel source for the PH-1? Perhaps even use GitHub to back up Essential's ethos of the product belonging to those who purchased it? :)
- Can Essential offer Advanced RMAs to customers who are willing to have a hold on their credit card? I've heard of reports of others having it offered but it's been tough getting timely responses about it. I'm not sure about the status of my own RMA at the moment.
- Comment: Great build and great design on the PH-1!
If you want something good, you have to be willing to spend some $$$. I had mine custom made by a local salon, and that has made a lot of difference. I'd suggest finding a stylist who specializes in wigs. You can have your head measured and everything.
- 2 months-ish
- Yes, we want to -- it's on the list.
- Fixing as fast as we can. Should refer to rebecca's response on this. It's getting better daily.
- Good idea. Derek and Nelson will look into this.
- Team is smiling
- Do you still have your eyebrows and eyelashes?
- What about your bodyhair? Does that get patchy?
- Have you tried squaric acid on your scalp? That worked for me.
What devices would you cite as an influence on the Ph-1? The shape of the edges reminds me of the iPhone 4.
I still have my eyebrows and lashes. Although, I noticed the corner of my right brow as started to thin out (which kinda freaked me out).
I lost body hair (arms, legs, etc). I hardly have to shave my legs anymore (I get some leg hairs, but not the full leg anymore).
And no, I will talk to my dermatologist about squaric acid. Thank you.
We actually designed the device from scratch and did not take influence from other devices. The details are all there for a good reason. Our side walls are straight in order to reduce the amount of visual and physical border around the display. We actually took many, many weeks just to lock on the appropriate corner radius- just round enough to feel approachable and human, but also tight enough to allow for as many pixels in the corners as possible. Hope that helps - Linda
I hardly have to shave my legs anymore
Small blessings. :)
Fair enough, but I didn't accuse you of copying. Nothing is designed in a vacuum and all that.
I also save lots of money in hair products, and it takes me 10 minutes to get ready ;-)
Totally know what you mean- Especially in the smartphone industry where everything is starting to look a like because 50% of the phone is now display. For us, it was less about taking influences from other devices, but taking influences from meaningful experiences and good human-product interactions. - Linda
When will the essential phone dock be available?
We are planning on having the dock out shortly. Our final prototype build is this month and we will have it available for purchase after we run through reliability testing -Joe
Drop tests have shown the screen to shatter quite easily on the PH-1. Are you taking that into consideration for the next generation phone?
Also, how often do you see Essential releasing new phone models?
Some men care, but many don't.
Some people are attracted to you, and some aren't.
That's just life.
I've never had problems finding a date.
We have performed drop tests to industry standards and have performed as well or better to other devices. We are always looking to improve reliability and test to standards to improve the customer experience. -Joe
do you use a wig cap to secure the wig? i wear wigs occasionally but since I have hair, I am able to pin the cap and wig into my hair
Hello Mr. Rubin
So one of my biggest frustrations with smartphones is that it seems like every year we get all these exciting new features, but battery life is seemingly stuck at barely squeezing by one day. Do you think this would possibly change in smartphones in the future in the way we'll get a breakthrough and get possibly several days of battery life?
A lot of people do wear caps, but I do not. I feel like the cap cuts off my circulation, but that just be me. I also don't have enough hair for it to matter (I'll post pictures soon).
This is one of the dilemmas for product designers. We could easily make the device thicker to accommodate a larger battery. But consumers don't like thick devices. (we can also make them a lot thinner, but they'd only last a few hours). The product designers typically take a "just right" approach, which equals one day... - andyR
Many years ago, I awoke to a lot of hair loss, areata, in circular patterns all over my body/head .. I used steroid cream and after 6 months it was fine...may I ask what things you have tried?
For Dave, Linda, and Joe:
The PH-1 has a very distinct look. How did the team come up with a design language and personality for a completely new brand? What was the process like?
Also, in your words, how would you describe the Essential industrial design language?
Thank you for doing this and best of luck! Always love seeing hardware innovation.
I've used creams and injections. What I find is that I get some regrowth, but then it falls out again. I'm always fluctuating. I almost had full re-growth last year in July after a series of injections only to be almost bald again by September.
We developed a design language based on our top priorities- best technology, user experience, and materials. Believe me, it took MANY revisions and design iterations to get to where we are now. At the end, we worked very hard to make sure our device is designed from the inside out. We wanted to let the technology shine through and take away anything that may pose as a distraction. That's why our borders are straight and thin (more visual display) and our details are clean and minimal. It's hard to come up with a brand new design from scratch, but at the same time it's a very freeing and openly creative process that is hard to find anywhere else but here at new startup - Linda
So, ROM development. Can you commit to releasing ALL of your framework sources like Google does with AOSP and Nexus? One frustration with OnePlus is that their released sources are missing parts and thus work a lot worse than their real OS (OxygenOS).
When I'm not wearing a wig, yes.
When I am wearing a wig, I hardly feel anything except occasionally hot or itchy. The quality of the wig affects the hot/itchy factor.
This actually turns out to be really hard technically. We're going to try to do more and more of this over time but ensuring you separate out any close source proprietary bits from the rest, but that things still work well is a big challenge. -Rebecca
I'm a 19 year old female and my hair has started thinning. I don't have health insurance right now, so I can't go to the doctor. Each time I google my symptoms, I get different results. My receding hairline is very noticeable at this point, and each time I brush my hair, handfuls of strands fall out. What was the beginning of your Alopecia like for you?
Is this an error that i couldn't buy from Puerto Rico from essential.com even though it's available through other channels (amazon, best buy, sprint) ? Tried to contact support but didn't get an answer.
You should make an appt with a dermatologist. I know you don't have insurance and that really stinks.... I wish I had a better answer for you. And, it was rough. I flipped my shit the first time. Stress makes is worse though...
Please PM us and we can see what we can do -Joe
What's your favorite wig like, and do you wear it regularly it just for special occasions?
What's next in accessories? Stereo Speakers? Car mount? Rock tumbler?
My favorite is my long brown with loose waves. It's real human hair, and I love when I get compliments like, "I love your hair!" (People don't realize it's a wig until I tell them). One of the worst compliments you can get as a wig-wearer is "I love your wig!" And yes, I wear it all the time. I wear my blonde one when I'm feeling feisty.
As mentioned above, we have a number of Click Accessories planned including a dock and audio accessory. Great ideas though! question- what color would you like your rock tumbler? - Linda
Have you tried any of the newer treatments? I have had severe AA since I was very little; I just shave.
When I was little I had cortisone shots and various creams but never really got anything from them.
Is there a scheduled release date for the 3.5mm headphone jack module? It was teased during the announcement of the phone
I went to MD Anderson to discuss an experimental drug, but one of the side effects was possibly skin cancer. Since I'm perfectly healthy, risking skin cancer for (possibly) hair didn't make much sense.
Right now there isn't a release date for this Click Accessory, but we do have prototypes we are actively testing -Joe
No pictures of you showin' off your sweet wigs? Shame.
So are you open with people in person about your condition or is it more of an "if you don't need to know, I'm not going to tell you" thing?
Any plans to offer an subscription upgrade plan similar to Apple's? (Pay $30/month and always have the latest iPhone)
I don't mind being open about it, but I also don't tell everyone. It is what it is. When I first had my condition, I would tell everyone who would listen. But, after a while, I realized it really wasn't that important. Plus, there's way more to me as a person than my condition. I don't want it to "define me" as a human.
Have thought specifically about HaaS models. Nothing to announce just yet :-) - andyR
What sort of challenges has Essential faced when designing the body for dust and water resistance and balancing a certain degree of resistance with other features and costs? Is it simply impractical to design a body to IP66/67/68 (ideally one of the latter two) ratings without making major sacrifices elsewhere, including the size, weight, and hardware?
High dust and water resistance is a huge appeal to me yet options are very limited in that regard. My guess is it's not a major priority for most customers but I'm sort of clueless about the difficulties dust and water resistance present on the engineering and manufacturing side of things.
Not at all! But, that would be funny. I wonder if there are alopecia dating sites... there has to be! I've never used the internet to meet dates, though.
You nailed it, there are definitely tradeoffs to every design decisions and we had plenty of debates around ingress protection. When we studied waterproofing the Phone we discovered it would have made the device quite a bit thicker and the borders around the display would have doubled. Ultimately we decided to focus on making it "weatherproof" for daily use while maintaining that just-so blend of a huge display that also fits comfortably in your hand. That made sure the battery was big, the borders were minuscule, and the experience as magical as possible. - Dave
How long did it take you to adjust to the fact that you would be bald?
I am asking because to me, a man who started to loss his at the age of 24(normal male pattern baldness), it took at least 5 years to finally come to terms with it.
I am not trying to draw any more than a superficial comparison between your situation and mine because I realize that Alopecia is way more severe than what I had to deal with and that hair for women is far more of a status symbol than it is for men. Then again it is precisely these differences that make me ask the question.
It took me a while and little perspective. Basically, you realize that there are more important things to worry about in life. I once wrote a blog called "attached to suffering." We can find ourselves addicted to our own suffering, but everyone in the whole world is suffering for one reason or another. You can let that define you, or you can move on and accept it.