The Essential PH-1 was truly a one-hit-wonder, especially now that the company has announced it would be shutting down. No longer will fans receive the super early updates that were the pride of Android users and the shame of OEMs. It seems, however, that Essential will be giving them a parting gift in the form of an Android 11 preview. While not coming directly from Essential, the move proves one last time how a well-designed Android phone should ideally behave.
To be clear, the first and only Essential Phone won’t be getting the final Android 11 version when it comes out around the third quarter of the year. That is going to be well beyond the company’s operations and it might no longer even exist as an entity by then. What Essential’s developers are doing is, instead, to make sure that users and modders will be able to install Android 11 themselves when that day comes.
This is done by testing and ensuring that the Essential Phone is compatible with Google’s Generic System Images or GSI. These are prebuilt vanilla versions of Android that OEMs and ROM makers can use to test and build on Android releases. It is currently possible to test the first developer preview of Android 11 on the Essential Phone via that GSI system.
This capability is actually a result of the Essential Phone closely following Android’s standards rather than striking out on their own. In this case, Essential’s support for Project Treble is to be credited for making it easier to install Android images on the phone. It is also responsible for the fast updates that only Google itself could beat.
Of course, that means that someone else will have to do the work of making Android 11 work on the Essential PH-1 later this year. Given how the phone has had an active community exactly because of those features, that might not be so difficult to accomplish in time.