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Android creator raises $300 million, to launch Essential Phone soon [ad_1]

SAN FRANCISCO: Essential Products, the smartphone startup founded by a co-creator of the Android mobile operating system, has raised $300 million in new funding and signed up retailers to sell its first device, it said on Wednesday.

The $699 phone, with a titanium and ceramic case, will compete directly against new devices from Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc this holiday season. Retailers include Best Buy, Amazon.com and carriers Sprint Corp in the United States and Telus Corp in Canada, Essential said in a statement.

The company, founded by Chief Executive Andy Rubin in late 2015, said Access Technology Ventures led the funding round, which brought its total investment raised to $330 million.

Is your Android smartphone getting slower by the day? Here's how you can fix it

Is your Android smartphone getting slower by the day? Here's how you can fix it

Not all Android smartphones are the same: Older software versions and varying hardware specs mean that fragmentation is high and devices get obsolete a lot faster. If you have an older phone that seems to be getting slower with each passing day, you need to equip it with faster apps to replace the stock ones.

Give your phone launcher overhaul

The launcher is what you see first, the omnipresent layer on Android that dictates the feel and overall responsiveness of the phone. If you have a basic phone, using a launcher is the best way to add multiple customisation options and speed up daily tasks. Our favourite has always been Nova Launcher (by TeslaCoil Software) and once you use it, you'll see why. If you want to go all out with customisation, you can choose the paid Prime version but even the free one is a force to be reckoned with. Some of the other launchers we recommend on older phones are Google Now, Arrow (by Microsoft,) and Evie (by Evie Labs). Arrow is a simple design that includes access to a lot of Microsoft services while Evie includes awesome features like universal search app launch, customisable icons and dock, unread badges and gesture control.

Try Facebook Lite

Facebook has a Lite version on the Play Store that is specifically designed to run well on older devices and use less data (it even works on a 2G data connection). It still has all the basic features of Facebook (post status, share photos, find friends and so on). It's also a much smaller download which comes in handy if your device has limited space. Twitter doesn't have a lite version per se so you could use it within a web browser to avoid downloading anything. Or you could try a lite third-party Twitter client like Super Lite App to Tweet (by P Apps).

Use Email app

If you find your phone being bogged down when you configure multiple email IDs or if you just want a faster experience, the quite simply named Email (by Edison Software) is worth a shot. This is a universal app, so you can configure multiple accounts like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook, Exchange, IMAP and so on. Not only is it lightweight and fast, it's also completely free to use without any ads, bloat or a pro version. You'll also discover that lightweight doesn't mean devoid of features. A built-in assistant can search for items in your mail by category, it can help you track your packages, get flight notifications and even helps you unsubscribe from junk mail.

Disable some built-in apps

Typically, Google Chrome is pre-loaded on the phone apart from the company's own web browser. But if you find that your browsing experience is less than satisfactory, you should disable these built-in apps and get Smart Search & Web Browser (by Reactive Phone). It's a fast web browser with a simple interface, built in voice search, QR code scanner, adblocking tech and incognito mode. As for the search provider, you can switch be tween Google, Yahoo or Bing and even directly search YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and so on. It will give you live search suggestions as you type. And the highlight has to be the useful Readability mode that strips a webpage from all distrac tions and presents the content in a high-contrast format.

Open Camera app

Basic phones won't have a full-featured camera app -- so in this case, you're wanting to add features, improve quality and speed things up a bit. One of the best camera apps you can get is Open Camera (by Mark Harman). It's completely free, has no ads and supports features you normally see on flagship phones (ISO adjustment, metering modes, scenes, colour effects, face detection and so on). Not all features will be enabled on all phones but it will still likely be faster and more feature-rich than the stock camera app. Some of the clever extra features it has include better electronic stabilisation, voice capture (sound triggered photo capture) and the option to disable the shutter sound.

Lightweight and customisable keyboard

This one is a catch-22 because you would typically want a fast keyboard (opens responds fast) but still one that offers GIFs, emoji, customisation, swipe to text and so on. Google's GBoard is our recommendation in this case. There are no ads or extra features that weigh it down. If you still want more, try Bobble Keyboard -- it's free and ad-free, includes all the emoji, memes, stickers, GIFs, themes and customisation you need. There's also a free sticker store for all your social media needs and the ability to create stickers with your own photos.

Strategic investors also included Tencent Holdings Ltd , electronics contract manufacturer Foxconn and Amazon.com, which participated via its Alexa Fund. Previous investors Redpoint Ventures and Playground Global also participated.

A release date for Essential's phone will be announced next week, President Niccolo De Masi said in an interview.

The timing and distribution of the new phone could be critical during a year with many new releases. The Essential phone will only be displayed in Sprint and Best Buy retail stores in the United States, compared with the vast distribution network of the market leaders. In September, Samsung is expected to unveil its Galaxy Note 8, and Apple is expected to announce its highly anticipated 10th anniversary iPhone.

Some of the Essential phone's features, like a detachable 360-degree camera, are also available on Samsung models, which are bulkier.

"It's going to be extraordinarily challenging," Bob O'Donnell of Technalysis Research said by phone. "The initial specs of the phone look good, but not necessarily unique."

Amazon, Best Buy and Essential will sell unlocked versions of the phone that can be used on any network. But carrier discounts could encourage buyers, R. "Ray" Wang of Constellation Research said in an interview. He said he expected Sprint to charge $300 with a two-year contract.

Sprint did not return a request for comment.

Wang also said the presence of two strategic investors from Asia signals Essential's broader goals.

"It's not just about U.S. distribution. This is going to be a global phone," Wang said. "The biggest phone markets are China, India and the U.S."

Essential will focus on "building a brand in the Western World" before expanding to other countries, De Masi said. It would consider sales of "low single-digit millions" of phones in its first year a success, he added, noting that production was limited by the unusual materials of titanium and ceramic. Most phones have aluminum or plastic casings.

"Over the next five to 10 years, we will have the same retail footprint and product diversity as Samsung and Apple," he said.


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