The Essential Phone was one of a few devices that managed to keep up with Google's Pixel handsets when it comes to system updates, but with the company behind shut down after issues with its quirky GEM phone and the sexual harassment allegations surrounding its founder, we assumed development was completely halted. That doesn't seem to be the case just yet, though — Essential has published a Github repository aimed at making the phone fully compatible with Google's Android 11 generic system images (GSI).
Achieving this compatibility will let PH-1 boot Android 11 without relying on any software adjustments on Essential's side as GSIs are meant to work on any phone that supports Project Treble.
In a statement to XDA Developers, Essential System Software Lead Jean-Baptiste Théou confirmed as much. He and his team "just need final internal review and validation on the latest GSI for Android 11 to allow the community to use it." As soon as that work is done, the shut-down company plans on releasing system images that interested parties can flash on their PH-1 to enable full GSI compatibility. That should even let the stable version of Android 11 run on the phone without issues. Keep in mind that GSIs don't work with mobile data, though, so you can't use the Essential Phone as a fully self-sustained device on the new OS.
Getting Android 11 on the phone is still pretty impressive for a device that has been released with Android 7.1 in 2017 and can be considered dead in the water now — Essential is going out of its way to give customers control over the software on their phones.
- Robert Barber