I don’t know who the target market is, but a phone like that is going to evoke all sorts of mildly crass jokes. “Is that an Essential phone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”
Maybe they hope to get people using it as a remote in the home media setup? But then why would you work on a maps app?
It’s confusing to me why they’re spending money they don’t have to make a product that seems unlikely to appeal to the average user… Unless it runs on AA batteries?