The Essential Phone might not have been our favorite, but the company has been undeniably quick with updates. Essential first rolled out the Android Oreo 8.0 beta program for the PH-1 back in November, and now, a month later, the Beta 2 OTA is rolling out. According to the changelog, this latest build includes the December security patches, Oreo features like Smart text selection, instant apps, PiP mode, Google Play Protect, as well as performance improvements and bugfixes.

The full changelog was posted to /r/essential (along with some speculation about unannounced fixes, not added), and we've included it just below:

What's New

  • December Security Patch
  • Smart text selection, instant apps, PiP
  • Faster startup and app sign-in
  • Google Play Protect Security scans

Issues Fixed from Beta 1

  • Android Auto and OEM Bluetooth Car Kit Interoperability Improvements
  • Data tracking issues for certain U.S. Carriers
  • Setup Assistant screen cutoff issues due to status barFurther Treble support
  • Battery life improvements
  • LED notification and charging behavior

The OTA should be rolling out now, but only if you've made the jump to the beta builds. If you haven't yet taken the plunge, switching is a manual process that requires sideloading the update via ADB. The full instructions, as well as download links for the latest beta images, are on Essential's site. Somewhat annoyingly, every time you visit that page you have to enter an email address and hit "agree," so for convenience's sake we've also included some delicious copypasta with both the instructions and download links just below:

Download Build

Essential Phone Oreo Beta 1 (OPM1.170911.130) - download

Essential Phone Oreo Beta 2 (OPM1.170911.213) - download

Release Notes:

You might experience issues with:

- Increased battery drain with bluetooth enabled.

- Android Auto compatibility issues with some vehicles

Instructions

Before Sideloading:

Caution: Before updating, backup any personal data on your device—so you can recover it if you encounter an issue.

To sideload a device using the image below, you’ll need the latest ADB tool. Don't forget to either add adb to your PATH environment variable or change into the directory containing the executable.

Also, set up USB access for your device, as described in Run Apps on a Hardware Device.

Finally, check to see if there’s a pending OTA update for your device. Tap Settings > About phone > Systemupdates, then tap Check for update. If your system is up-to-date, you can continue with the sideload. If not, update your device before continuing.

How to Sideload Image:

  1. Download the appropriate update image to your computer
  2. Verify the checksum of the image. The OTA mechanism has a built-in validation feature, but verifying will save you some time if the file is incomplete. The last portion of the filename is the first 8 digits of its SHA-256 checksum; the full SHA-256 checksum is also shown next to the download link.
  3. Make sure USB debugging is enabled, then execute: adb reboot recovery
  4. If you're unable to use ADB to reboot into recovery, you can use the key combination for your device. To get into fastboot use vol down + power and for recovery mode use vol up + power
  5. Then, navigate to the Recovery option by pressing the Volume-down button. Once Recovery is highlighted, press the Power button to confirm.

Your device is now in Recovery mode. An Android logo with red exclamation mark should appear on screen.

  1. Hold the Power button, then press the Volume-Up button one time. When the menu appears, select Apply update from ADB.
  1. Run the following command: adb devices. Then check that your device shows up with “sideload” next to its name
  1. Run the following command: adb sideload ota_file.zip where ota_file.zip is the name of the file you downloaded and verified
  1. Once the update finishes, select Reboot system now to reboot your phone

For security, you should disable USB debugging when the device is not being updated.

We'll migrate one of our devices up to Beta 2, and should we notice anything not included here, we'll update the post.

Hopefully, the phone's potentially poor sales don't have a negative impact on either the quality or timeliness for a final Oreo update—though I'm still personally waiting on a fix for the janky, stuttery performance and signal issues. A ~30dBm loss compared to half a dozen other phones on T-Mobile is not ok. Maybe a future beta can include such fixes.

  • Thanks:
  • Frank Chip Howard,
  • ChronoReverse