Essential Phone review: One (big) step away from the flagship competition

It's pretty rare nowadays to see a brand new smartphone company launch from scratch, and it's rarer still that it chooses to launch right into the ultra-competitive high-end smartphone space. The final piece forming this triumvirate of rarity is actually shipping a product — something that Essential has actually done. Sure hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital helps, as does the leadership of one of the founders of Android, but this is still no small feat.

And despite being its first ever product, the Essential Phone isn't some sort of short-sighted or incomplete gimmick. It's the real deal, with proper specs, serious hardware, and desirable stock software. After a brief hiccup with its shipping timeline, Essential has a full e-commerce launch, as well as a retail partnership with Best Buy and carrier partnerships with Sprint and Telus. Yup, it's done things properly and actually started off its life on the right track.

But with all of the launch hurdles out of the way, we now have to actually evaluate the phone itself. In a world where the top-end Galaxy S8, LG G6, and HTC U11 (not to mention a whole field of less-expensive phones like the OnePlus 5) exist, where does the Essential Phone stand out? We cover it all here in our complete review.

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About this review: Updated August 29

We always desire to use a phone for an extended period of time before writing a review, but given the circumstances of receiving the Essential Phone, in this case this review was initially published the morning of August 18 after roughly 52 hours with the phone.

As indicated at the time, the intention was to update this review with additional information later on after spending more time with it. That is now how the review stands, with our final conclusions on the Essential Phone after 12 days of use.

Since receiving the Essential Phone, its software was updated three times, and it was used on both T-Mobile and AT&T over the course of the review in San Jose, CA, Seattle, WA, and New York, NY. The phone was provided to Android Central for review by Essential.

Condensed version

Essential Phone Hands-on video

For the abbreviated, visual take on the new Essential phone, be sure to check out our hands-on video above. Once you're done and ready to see all of the details, read through the review below!

Essential Phone

Just the essentials

Essential Phone Hardware and design

From the very start, Essential has focused on simplicity, minimalism and generally striking design to sell the Essential Phone. It's right in the name: just the essential parts, and nothing more. It's something CEO Andy Rubin espoused constantly — he has no desire for the phone to even have the company's name on it (something he calls "Nascar branding"), let alone any other superfluous design elements that don't add to the function of the device.

In taking a two-hour tour of the Playground Global headquarters (the incubator from which Essential was born) and talking to the engineers who had their hands on this product, I found there was another pillar to the Essential Phone's construction: obsessive quality and materials standards. Talking to a hardware engineer standing in front of a massive titanium 3D printing machine, we talked about the tolerances and tooling required to choose materials like titanium and ceramic rather than traditional aluminum and glass.

The materials are tougher to work with, requiring different processes and tooling that has to be replaced 50% more often, but the trade off is worth it in their eyes. Titanium doesn't bend as easily as aluminum, and when it does bend on impact it simply springs back into place without permanent structural damage. Ceramic is stronger than glass, resisting scratches even better, and it just feels nicer as well. The extremely tiny bezels around the screen, which give the Essential Phone its distinctive look, require a tolerance of just 0.1 mm on the display panel edges; other manufacturers typically accept a 0.4 mm tolerance.

At 185 grams (6.53 ounces), the Essential Phone is hefty — befitting of its monolithic structure. It feels fantastic when you pick it up, and if you're a fan of minimalism as I am you'll love the look as well. The ceramic back flows smoothly to the highly polished titanium sides, which carries right into the Gorilla Glass 5 front. Essential is making no claims of ruggedness here, but you just get the feeling that it's a phone capable of living — and holding up admirably — a year or two outside of a case. You certainly don't get that from a Galaxy S8.

Being able to use more exotic materials with extra-high quality standards on the Essential Phone is one of the benefits of being small, the team says — if it had to make 40 million phones this year, these materials and processes just wouldn't be available. A majority of the Essential product team had a past life that involved a stint with Apple, and this experience is certainly in stark contrast to that company's product development. It's Essential's nimble size that's one of the reasons it can offer this bonkers-looking display, as the competition like Samsung and LG (and Apple, as rumored) move in that direction but haven't yet reached this tiny bezel size.

It's all about that dat screen.

The front-on view is indeed startling for the first day or so you use the Essential Phone. Yes there is a bezel on the bottom of the phone, but you're not looking down here — you pay attention to the ridiculously small bezels on the other three edges. Well, that's not quite right; you actually just forget about the bezels entirely, and truly feel like you're only holding a screen. That is, of course, until you see that front-facing camera dipping down into the status bar.

The display itself, once you get over the mind-bending nature of the bezels and curves, is a run-of-the-mill high-end LCD. At 5.7 inches diagonally and a 2560x1312 resolution (505 ppi) it's right in line with the rest of the industry. It's clear, crisp and has excellent viewing angles — but at roughly 500 nits max brightness it falls short of the competition in direct sunlight. Part of that is due to the inherent reflectivity of an LCD panel, but the Essential Phone also doesn't have any sort of outdoor display mode like the Galaxy S8, LG G6, U11 or Xperia XZ Premium, which pushes those phones over 550 or even 600 nits in harsh sun situations.

Essential Phone

Bare-bones

Essential Phone Software and performance

It doesn't take long to get a handle on the Essential Phone's software, provided you've used another phone with a "stock" implementation of Android Nougat like a Pixel, Nexus, Motorola or OnePlus phone. This is precisely Essential's goal, as Rubin reiterated time and time again — it has no desire to add any extra software, services, apps or changes. And if you want something extra, you're going to find it in the Play Store. Even in a world where you can choose from the aforementioned phones and get a very similar experience, it's still refreshing to see a new company release a phone and go with this stock software approach from the start.

When you start up the phone, you have a basically clean slate. The app drawer is only half full, with "as few apps as possible" pre-loaded. Unless it's an app to perform one of the phone's basic functions or it's an app mandated by Google to be included, it isn't here. Even the phones sold by Sprint and Telus will be bloat-free (though they will be SIM-locked if bought on a financing plan).

The Essential Phone's software is aggressively bare almost to a fault. Essential has made practically zero changes to the stock Android interface, and while that means there's no opportunity for the company to mess things up it also means it isn't differentiated in any way. I look at the way OnePlus and Motorola (and even Google on the Pixels) do their software, with subtle and very useful additions that improve the experience without getting in the way, and think Essential is maybe missing an opportunity to offer just that little sprinkle of extra functionality that would be super useful. This truly is the closest thing you can get to "stock" Android, for better or worse.

The only real change, if you could call it that, is adding some extra height to the status bar to ensure there are no conflicts with the odd front-facing camera jutting down into the screen. The bar is much taller than other phones, which feels a little odd at first but is really no different than simply having a larger bezel up there in the first place. Because the Essential Phone also has an extra-tall display, it has to fight with some app compatibility issues just like the Galaxy S8 and LG G6. Most apps are properly designed to scale to a tall screen and fit more seamlessly into the tall proportions, but others aren't ready for the aspect ratio and add an extra bit of dead space at the top of the app. Unlike the GS8 and G6, the Essential Phone has no "compatibility mode" of any sort to gracefully stretch or letterbox these apps — you just get dead space at the top.

The spartan software shouldn't come as any surprise considering the size of the Essential team.

None of this should be surprising. When the Essential Phone was announced, the entire company consisted of 20 people — hardware, software, business development … everything. Even today, a few months on from launching the company, Essential's headcount hovers around the 100 mark, and they're responsible not just for the Phone but also the 360-degree camera attachment, upcoming Essential Home and future products. It's no surprise that the extra engineering hours just aren't available to make more elaborate software.

Even with the small staff, Essential is talking a strong game when it comes to releasing monthly security patches and regular platform updates. If the company is able to keep up the cadence of updates, we may be more likely to look past the few areas of the software hat could use a bit more attention and polish.

Essential Phone

Performance and specs

In my time talking to Essential engineers and representatives, nobody seemed interested in boasting about specs or speeds. Not because the phone doesn't have high-end specs, but they simply understand that the Essential Phone has effectively the same spec sheet as every other top-end phone in 2017 and it's no longer a point of differentiation. Things like true world LTE radio support (25 bands) from a single model and 128GB of built-in storage are just givens in Essential's eyes, because that's what people want in their top-dollar phone.

Two specs that aren't included, however, are a waterproofing IP rating or a 3.5 mm headphone jack — features many people would consider "essential" when dropping $700 on a new phone.

More: Complete Essential Phone specs

Essential isn't boasting about specs — it's just matching the rest of the industry.

With a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM and bare-bones software, performance on the Essential Phone is expectedly great just like every other phone in this segment. I zipped through apps just fine and didn't find any hang-ups throughout — though I did have a couple surprising instances where the phone completely locked up for several seconds, once requiring a force reboot. (All of them seemed to stem from using the camera, which you'll learn more about below.)

With that simple, stock-like software, the Essential Phone gets really good battery life out of what is just an average-sized 3040mAh capacity. I never ended a day with less than 25% battery remaining, which I can't say for the other flagships out there today — even those with larger battery capacities. Even on really tough travel days, which typically involve 4 to 5 hours of screen-on time, tons of data use and Bluetooth music playback, I could make it 10 or 12 hours before needing to charge. I don't think Essential is necessarily doing a ton of battery optimization here, but the super-simple software just isn't doing anything egregious to drain the battery.

Essential Phone

A good start

Essential Phone Cameras

The best example of the Essential Phone's bare-bones software experience is in the camera, where it comes across as a "programmer's first camera app" type of interface. You can toggle HDR (but not auto HDR), the flash, video quality, timer and front-facing camera, as well as switch between auto, black-and-white, and slo mo mode. That's it. The "settings" page simply gives you options to toggle shutter sounds and location. There's no viewfinder grid option, no filters, no clever zoom mechanism, no depth effects from the dual cameras ... there isn't much of anything beyond the basics.

The camera app doesn't even lock the screen awake when it's open, so after 30 seconds without interaction (by default) the screen simply turns off. There are other annoying quirks like the flash turning back to auto mode any time you toggle HDR. It has decent performance, but it isn't lightning quick like the rest of the software experience — and if you push it too hard, it's likely to stutter and freeze. These characteristics don't seem to have improved much with the three camera-focused updates the phone received during the review period, either.

Essential Phone camera interface

The Essential Phone is working with dual 13MP camera sensors, one color and one monochrome, with f/1.85 lenses and dual-mode (laser and phase detect) auto focus. You don't get OIS (optical image stabilization) on either camera, nor does the pair offer any sort of dual-camera selective focus or artificial bokeh effects — though they're apparently on the way. The monochrome sensor can be used for true black-and-white shots, which look good, but its main purpose is to (theoretically) bring in extra light information to assist the main camera in getting better shots — much like other "color + mono" camera setups do.

Photos are particularly sharp and detailed with just the right amount of processing in fine lines — something so many cameras do wrong. But colors don't necessarily pop or wow you as much as the competition; they're just a bit dull. Dynamic range is acceptable, but sometimes a tap-to-meter was needed. And the HDR mode, which was added after receiving the phone, doesn't seem to actually do much other than slow down the capture process. Even HDR shots were still in the dull range when compared to standard photos from other flagships — and when you compare HDR to HDR between the two, it isn't even a competition.

This is great for a first-ever phone, but the camera app needs work.

Where things drop off quickly is in low light. Typical mixed lighting situations are manageable and remain crisp, but when things get properly dark the Essential Phone's camera just can't handle it. Shutter speeds drop to about 1/15 of a second, then the ISO starts to crank up until you get a noisy mess. It's in these situations where you _really miss having OIS, or at the very least appreciate the amazing software processing that phones like the Google Pixel have.

Even without OIS, it's clear the Essential Phone's camera components have room to grow with software. You can take some good photos with it, and what I see in some of the shots I've taken is a whole lot of potential just waiting to be leveraged.

But right now, even with a few camera-focused updates applied in the last week, the camera software is just so far away from where it needs to be that it makes me skeptical that a massive improvement is forthcoming. Software can and will be improved over time — the question is how long you'll have to wait and deal with a slow, unresponsive, lackluster camera before Essential gets it up to speed. And only then, once Essential has reached the bare minimum requirement of a fast and smooth camera app, can we talk about actual photo quality.

I just wish that Essential had shipped this phone with a camera experience that showed the same attention to detail and expertise that it clearly applied to the hardware. When your $700 phone's camera is handily beat in performance by a $200 budget phone, you did something wrong.

Essential Phone

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

Essential Phone Bottom line

A recurring theme of my tour of Playground Global was a frank sense of realism about the whole Essential Phone launch. Essential has a clear goal: make a clean, bother-free, high-end phone that's user-centric, and make money off of the margins selling the hardware. It isn't interested in designing a custom software experience or building ecosystem lock-in with extra services and subscriptions that make you feel like the product rather than the customer.

The Essential Phone's hardware is simply stunning, there's no way around it. Titanium and ceramic are both beautiful and brawny, while its tiny bezels are just downright amazing to experience. You get all of the specs you need — minus waterproofing and a headphone jack — plus great additions like true worldwide network support and 128GB of storage. Performance and battery life are in line with its $699 price. It isn't all industry leading, though, with a display that has good-not-great brightness and cameras that land well short of the flagship competition with no guaranteed path of improvement.

The value proposition isn't about what it has, but what Essential has chosen to omit.

It also has a bit of an aura around it that feels as though it's waiting for the other shoe to drop to make it a complete product. Despite having ambitions of future artificial intelligence-driven software, there is absolutely nothing in Essential's current build of Android 7.1.1 that shows any unique software prowess or even a tiny bit of thoughtful customization for a better experience. The same goes for its rear-mounted accessory pins, which have exciting potential in the future but today sit completely idle as its 360-degree camera attachment has no release date, its desktop dock hasn't even been seen and there are no known plans for other accessories.

It's truly refreshing to see a new company come out of the gate swinging with new ideas, and Essential has managed to execute on its vision surprisingly well. The Essential Phone is good, perhaps even great, but aside from solid hardware and clean software it doesn't bring anything particularly special to draw in customers. Its biggest strength isn't what it has, but what it doesn't: there's no bloatware, superfluous features, unnecessary hardware or even branding to get in the way of using it.

Restraint is refreshing, and something that isn't exercised by the competition nearly enough — but it's a tough selling point in this hyper-competitive market full of established companies selling great phones that best the Essential Phone in multiple areas.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

395 Comments
  • Uh, Andrew? You might wanna try taking a photo while blocking the monochrome sensor, and then taking the same shot without blocking it. I’ve seen a lot of people claim that the secondary sensor doesn’t really do anything aside from monochrome photos, but it is actually doing a lot of stuff in the background as it takes 2 exposures at the same time it would take one, and the merges the 2 photos with the monochrome photo being used to add extra detail and dynamic range. The final result when compared side by side tends to be subtle, but often, the differences lie in the most important parts. Essential themselves mentioned this as well.
  • Taking a "regular" photo while blocking the mono sensor doesn't do anything to the photo. I'm sure theoretically Essential could be using both sensor (much like Motorola and others have done) at once for HDR-like processing, it isn't right now, at least when I test. As noted, new software could change this. Will be updating the review if/when that happens.
  • Andrew, I'm pretty sure your wrong about the dual cameras. The second camera is not there to take black and white photos, although that is a side benefit. Also it is not there for bokeh effects. The purpose of the second (monochrome) camera is to take better pictures in low light. Also to get pictures in normal light that have more detail. Follow this link for Essential's explanation of how the dual cameras work and there development and tuning - https://www.essential.com/blog/engineering-the-essential-camera?utm_sour... Qualcomm calls the dual camera technique Clear Sight. For Qualcomm's explanation follow this link - https://www.qualcomm.com/news/onq/2016/09/14/take-amazing-photos-qualcom... Basically what it does is collects 3X more light. Try covering the monochrome camera in low light to see what a difference it makes, then report back to us.
  • Adding link with the difference between mono and color sensors - http://www.red.com/learn/red-101/color-monochrome-camera-sensors
  • I have no doubt that the intention is to use both sensors for better photos. I'm just telling you that on initial firmware, in my testing, the second sensor is doing nothing to influence the quality of the photos. When I revisit the review, with newer firmware, hopefully the results will be different :) And I would hope they are, because right now the camera just isn't good enough. It certainly doesn't feel like anything special is happening.
  • Yeah, but I am sure that they will fix that later on in an update
  • ECHO ECho echo ech...
  • Nice first impression review Andrew! I actually like this phone over ever so-sluggish Samsungs. But I have a doubt. Will the front-camera cut-out hide some of the notification icons once the notification bar fills up?
  • Theoretically, yes, but you have to get about ~9 icons deep in the status bar before that happens. I don't see it being a real issue for many.
  • Yes, you may be right. Not many people may find it frustrating, but little things matter you know. It would have been better if they released a software update to make sure that all notification icons stay visible on the left side and the battery meter, network connection and so forth on the right side without "hiding" behind the camera cut-out. If they do this, I think the Essential is a perfect phone to buy instead of Samsung's and Motorola's.
  • I don't quite understand what you're asking for here? where would the icons actually go? the software can't change where the camera is.
  • I have a doubt you know how to properly operate an android phone if you consider the best phones on the market "ever so sluggish".
  • Surprised you claim to know Android when you don't understand what a difference software from the manufacturer can make on performance..
  • So sad this doesn't have wireless charging.. why why why??
  • Obviously wireless charging isn't "essential".
  • +1+1+1+1+1+1
  • Wireless charging is essential at this price point.
  • No it isn't. Only a couple of phones have it and this and those both have a better charging solution available which is faster, cooler and better for the device.
  • It has a charging dock that can be ordered with it which is basically the same as qi charging.
  • Except it's proprietary and not at all interchangeable with the previously used wireless charging standards.
  • Meanwhile office furniture and monitor bases, living room tables, bedroom end tables, vehicles, and other things are getting wireless chargers built into them. Essential wants you to buy a dock...thats so 2012 of them. Lol
  • It does but it's proprietary, using the pogo pins on the back.
  • If it uses the pogo pins, it isn't quite wireless.
  • No wireless, no waterrestience, no micro s/d expansion, no headphone jack? And for the tidy some of 700.00. Yikes, this phone is definitely not for me. How about no OIS or EIS. It may interest some, but not I......
  • Pixel 2 = No wireless, no waterrestience, no micro s/d expansion, no headphone jack, with 64GB? And for the tidy some of $769.00. What an incredible deal!
  • Your specs and price are wrong
  • Yep. I'll stick with my s8plus
  • Even my old Samsung Note 3 have OIS.... and flagship phones in 2017 don't.... JOKE!!!
  • No phone with dual cameras has had OIS so far.
  • Uh..... What? You don't know about anthing and you sound like an idiot. The Huawei p10&p10 plus has OIS, and even the iphone 7 plus has it too. You might as well research before commenting to prevent yourself from looking like a 병신새끼. The try of yours trying to defend the so called 'Essential' PH-1 is just downright pathetic and sad.
  • Hey it's cool that you have a passionate opinion on the subject, but being a dick about it doesn't make you sound cool, it only makes you sound like a dick. I mean, really dude- it's a first generation smartphone from a brand-new company, and not something to get all charged about unlike say, climate change, foreign policy, the opioid epidemic, etc. So take a chill pill, smoke a fatty, or whatever it is you like to do to relax, because you're the only one here looking like a 병신새끼.
  • IPhone 7 plus, LG V10, V20, G5, G6 all have OIS on their main camera while featuring a dual camera set up.
  • I don't care about wireless charging at all. I don't think that it is essential. You still have to lay the phone down on something. So it's not truly wireless. You can't pick it up and it still charge. I'd rather plug in a Type C fast charger and still be able to pick the phone up. Plus supposedly metal bodies can't have wireless charging? Is that true still?
  • IMO wireless charging is the most overrated feature on phones. It's slower and much more inconvenient to use the device while it charge compared to a flexible cord. Wireless chargers still need to be.....plugged in and charged themselves to boot. Pointless.
  • I used to think that way too. That is until I got a Lumia 920 which came with a wireless charging pad. Several years later, when I had to switch from a Windows phone, wireless charging was a requirement, along with a USB-C plug, OIS camera, and headphone jack.
  • You can push hardware all you want but if software doesn't follow up there is no real benefit. Essential was smart to leave some reasonable bezel at the bottom, as a matter of fact it has more bottom bezel than S8, because Android navigation bar sits so low that hunting it down can only mean extreme thumb movements or adjusting the grip by holding the phone lot higher in your palm which throws off the balance. IMO upcoming bezelless screens will not solve anything as long as the footprint of the app is your usual header and footer and content in between. Designers really need to ditch the concept of letterhead.
  • We're probably at least 5 years out from an actual bezelless screen. It might not ever happen; it would probably require sharp (painful) corners.
  • Well, given the Screenshots posted in this article, it DOES seem like the front-camera cut-out hides some of the notification icons once the notification bar fills up. If this is true, it is going to be a major hindrance to the user experience, and it will be more of a design flaw.
  • Hey Andrew any chance uploading the wallpapers?
  • I don't see any screenshots that have any notifications anywhere near the center of the screen that would help us understand if this is true or not. I'd hope and expect they have a keepout region there and it just pops to the right side. It would be a small software update.
  • If by "major hindrance" you mean "my 9th and 10th notification icons get covered" then sure. People will not notice or care.
  • When my notification bar gets that full, I'm no longer paying attention to individual icons. Not a hindrance at all.
  • I assume that they have anticipated this already, it's probably one of the first software considerations they made when putting the camera there. Most likely they will use the icon that already exists in Android known as the "more notifications" icon, which can be seen in the pic found at this link: http://file.mrbool.com/mrbool/articles/Kaushik/AndroidStatusBar/AndroidS... So basically it'll do the same thing it does now, but you'll lose the space of about 2 notification icons before the "more notifications" grouping icon kicks in. Big whoop. I check my notifications pretty regularly so it's not an issue for me, plus I hate having a gazillion icons in my status bar, it looks unkempt and makes my OCD kick in.
  • I'm excited for this phone but will most likely pass since the pixel 2 is around the corner. Titanium/ ceramic seems like such an amazing material to use over the traditional. Hopefully this sets a trend. My main concern with this device is the smaller battery. While I'm sure I'd get close to the battery life of my pixel XL it should be more.
  • This will not become a trend "Titanium phones". Read the entire article to know why.
    https://www.wired.com/2017/05/essential-andy-rubin/
  • That camera is a whole pile of meh
  • Now that the phone is officially out there, is there any word from Essential or Verizon if the PH-1 will work with Verizon wifi calling?
  • Hey! Don't you know you're not allowed to call the phone by its model name on Android Central? You're only permitted to call it the Essential Phone.
  • In other words: it's an Essential-ly bad phone that will try to make the company a couple of bucks based on the selling of the overpriced hardware to the handful of nerds who know (and care about) who Andy Rubin is and will buy this phone just because of it. Hey, if it works it isn't stupid.
    I just doubt it works.
  • How is that what you took out of this post? None of what you said is what he said.
  • all his posts are that way. he hates android phones but feels the need to comment on 9 out of 10 articles.
    still angry that nokia sucks
    I have never seen a positive comment on ANY android phone from him
  • Oh! lol I missed who it was. My fault, we can carry on. IMO this phone kicks ass for a first attempt from a new company.
  • "he hates android phones" That must be why I use them. Amazing. Apparently I'm also a masokist (because this f*cking website censors the correct spelling). The things I learn about myself because some idiot somewhere told me so.
  • well said, I've never seen him liking any phone. be it android , windows phone, or ios. he does like Symbian phones from nokia. but I didn't read his comments back then lol
  • that's a bit harsh and reductionist.
  • Harsh it is.
    But reductionist I'd argue that so is the phone. Let's look at it objectively as if Andy Rubin had nothing to do with it: - it's be a phone without bezels. Impressive yes. But then again, more impressive was the Sharp Aquos Crystal and no one cared that much about it. - it lacks a headphone jack for no reason other than "Apple did it". - It has an LCD screen. Or, as you said a "run-of-the-mill high-end LCD". So not a great screen at all in a time where everyone is moving to AMOLED. - It doesn't have microSD, IP rating, wireless charging (there's supposed to be an add-on later of sorts but that's assuming anyone will be interested in the slightest for it to make financial sense), or any of those things you expect in a 2017 flagship. - The software is absolutely bare-bones. For the handful of people who like stock Android that's great, for the general consumer who never bought en masse any stock Android phone, irrelevant. - It doesn't offer ANYTHING special in the software for the consumer not even in the form of an app or service. - The camera is apparently terrible to use and without manual controls absolute garbage (this second part I will admit that is based on personal preference since I have no use for phones without manual controls to take photos). If this phone came from ANYONE else, you wouldn't be wasting your time with it. And no one would even bother reading such a long article about it. The truth is that Andy Rubin's name is the only thing putting this phone on tech sites. Without it it would be just another generic attempt by an unknown brand at creating an Android smartphone.
  • It lacks a headphone jack for reasons other than "Apple did it". microSD is not a good thing, so lacking it is a good thing. "Stock" Android is a good on Pixel and Nokia, but bad for essential? Why is the camera terrible? So far reviews like it. Software update that came during the review period, added functionality to the app and improved images. Not being the best and being a potato aren't the same things. Apple isn't even in the top 10 cameras right now. They don't suck. HMD is an unknown brand making an Android phone with the exact same scenario as Rubin coming out of nowhere to make new, unproven phones. Why is that good for "Nokia" and bad for Essential? LCD vs AMOLED doesn't mean what anyone thinks it means. Neither is objectively better. The best display on a mobile currently is the iPhone 7 and that's LCD. I'm sure that may change with the Note 8 or iPhone 7s or 8 or whatever it is, but it may not. it didn't change with the S8.
  • The iPhone 7 may have the best screen to you, but I, and most other will completely disagree with that statement. What are you basing this off of? Color reproduction? Nope definitely not the best. Deep blacks? Not even close. Sharpness? Laughable. Brightness? Maybe. Sunlight visibility? Definitely top 3. Overall iPhone 7 has a good screen, but definitely not the best
  • It is the most accurate display to date. Hopefully Note 8 passes it.
  • What are the reasons that it doesn't have a headphone jack then if it's not following Apple? Also, SD cards are..... "not a good thing?" How can expanding your storage be a bad thing??
  • Don't waste your time replying to him. He's just another Essential fanboy blinded from the facts that the Essential phone lacks Essential features.
  • What an ignorant comment. You can do better? Make an actual point perhaps.
  • Headphone jack takes up space, costs money, providing functionality that is redundant. We're going to see all flagships remove it, and it began before Apple did it. SD cards are slower, less stable and less secure than internal storage. More storage is good, less storage with a card slot is bad.
  • Expandabe storage won't go anywhere, Samsung has developed memory much faster than a micro sd card, based on UFS or whatever it's called in new smart phones. Just no one has bothered to make a phone with one yet, they rely on the old and slow micro sd.
  • That'll be awesome if they work with Android on fixing the security issues. Until then, it's just a faster version of the same problem.
  • I would say the headphone jack is redundant, IF something better was provided. Apple did not, and it does not appear the Essential phone will either.
  • Wouldn't the USB C port, which can more easily supply more power consistently and deliver the same fidelity be the exact same or better? It doesn't become redundant only if something better exists, but merely by being the same as something else. Wired headphones still work with all of these phones and they do easily.
  • I would agree with you completely on USB C delivering more power, and having the potential of delivering the same or better fidelity. For example, take a look at the U11 adapter when compared to one of the best headphone jack outputs in the world on the LG V20:
    Phone / Noise / Dynamic range / THD / IMD + noise / Stereo crosstalk
    LG V20 / -93.0 / 93.1 / 0.0036 / 0.0075 / -93.7
    HTC U11 / -94.1 / 94.1 / 0.0017 / 0.0067 / -94.5 The U11 adapter is an improvement in fidelity in every way, and only falls short of the V20 in maximum volume. However, this is not the trend Apple took, and almost every specification on the iPhone 7 adapter is worse than their previous headphone jack on the iPhone 6S, so it is obvious they did not do it for improvement: Phone / Noise / Dynamic range / THD / IMD + noise / Stereo crosstalk
    iPhone 6s / -93.5 / 93.5 / 0.0016 / 0.0075 / -73.2
    iPhone 7 / -92.4 / 92.3 / 0.0015 / 0.0093 / -80.9 This is what I meant when I said Apple did not provide something better. So in terms of fidelity, Apple did take a step backwards with the iPhone 7. So in Apple's case, a headphone jack would not be redundant because it would be better than their adapter. If you show me a phone where the USB C audio is amazing, and even the adapter with that phone is very good, then there's no point in that phone also having a built in headphone jack. Yes, wired headphones would work with all of these phones, and I get that just like you do, even if some reviewers do not, lol.
  • Ah I see what you're saying. Yes, we're on the same page.
  • I'm buying the phone, not because it's "overpriced" or because "I know who Andy Rubin is". No, I'm buying it because it looks nice, the hardware specs are good, and it will suit all of my use case scenarios. I don't really care about having the best camera on the market. This camera will still wipe the floor with the camera from my crusty old Nexus 6, and besides, it'll get the job done. If I want spectacular photos, I would buy a DSLR, otherwise it'll do just fine for my needs. I like the materials that are being used and the lack of bloatware and branding. Stock Android is a must have for me as I have no patience for bloated overlays like TouchWiz or Sense. And while I would prefer a headphone jack, I am perfectly OK with a dongle. I can't ever recall a time where I used both the headphone jack AND the charging port at the same time. If I have headphones on, then I am out and about and thus not plugged in to a wall. I also use a bluetooth adapter that plugs into my AUX jack on my car, so no need for a headphone jack on my phone there either. I think the company has the right attitude about their products, which is why I am supporting them. I would like to see more Essential phones and products in the future and that won't happen unless people buy them. I would like to see an Android ecosystem with more choices, not this current ecosystem where Samsung owns 90% of the market share and everyone else fights over the remaining 10%, it's just currently too anti-consumer for me, and for that reason I am willing to shell out a few extra bucks for something that stands out as well as suits all of my needs.
  • This 👍
  • Phone that will try to make the company a couple of bucks based on the selling of the overpriced hardware to the handful of nerds who know (and care about) what Pixel is. Fixed it for you.
  • Guilty as charged.
  • What a fail analysis of the article and of the market.
  • All the top tier phone are over priced lol
  • And you must be an expert on hardware and their manufacturing and R&D costs.
  • If this phone has any influence at all, I hope it's that more OEMs make 17:9 phones. The dimensions of this are fantastic for a 5.7" phone (allegedly it's roughly the same size as the smaller Pixel?) and they manage to do so without making it too skinny/tall. I think it's better than 16:9 or 18:9.
  • Yeah, but it is actually a little shorter than the Pixel. Just a bit. I'll probably be able to pocket it better over the Pixel.
  • A tad shorter than the small Pixel, but also just a little wider.
  • A side by side picture of the Essential phone and the smaller Pixel would be great, because not everyone wants a Phablet!
  • I agree but for now, visit PhoneArena's size compare:
    https://www.phonearena.com/phones/size#/phones/size/Google-Pixel,Essenti...
  • Thanks for the quick first impressions. This phone has a beautiful design that I like. But this review was a lot of meh. I'm not convinced that after the first impression excitement wears off this will provide anything to talk about again. As much as people ragged on the Pixel, it maintained its position as one of the most solid, stable, best camera phone for a year. Essential phone won't be mentioned after the fall phone cycle from what I've gathered so far.
  • Nice impressions review. Great first attempt for Essential.
  • Agreed, not a lot of first timers looking this good - sorta excited to see how well they support this and what they do next device too
  • I agree with you on that. They should be given credit considering that the camera is the only "weak" point. We have seen some other phones from first timers that have several weak points. Stunning phone that I'll like to check out...eventually.
  • Nice looking first phone and great materials. Now, add commonly used QI wireless charging, IP68, and more ram and there might be a bulge in my pants.
  • You always have a bulge in your pants, no?
  • Lmao
  • Why would you need more ram, this is not Samlag with a boat load of bloatware.
  • Haha you're right about that! 6gb ram not needed but wanted at $700 price.
  • Haven't had lag since the s6 so.......
  • Which means you have never used a phone running pure Android, I own a Nexus 5X and S7, the Nexus 5X is my daily driver.
  • Wao ,how many people here already judging the phone without even touching it or seeing it from a distance personally, I guess the phone is doomed and we all should keep using the galaxy and the pixel, some of you are already judging the camera by one picture😂, unreal.
  • Seriously, this phone looks stunning in photos. It probably looks and feels better in person too. It's got everything Pixel has and more plus it's cheaper. I don't get the hate for this thing. And as for reviewers, you guys are always complaining that other OEMs skin Android. Now we have company that offers stock Android and you're complaining about that too! You want them to sprinkle a little extra functionality. It's too stock! Come on!
  • It's missing some of the most interesting things about the Pixel. Namely, guaranteed 3 years of support and instant access to latest updates. If it guaranteed both it'd be a very interesting offer.
  • According to different sites, Rubin will do same as Google regarding updates
  • Nobody at Essential ever told me they were guaranteeing updates for a fixed period. Only that they intend to get out updates as soon as possible, and hopefully with this bare-bones software they can do that.
  • Thank you for getting this out so quickly. It looks tiny compared to the s8 and LG I love it
  • Agreed! The size is great. All that screen and in a small body (and no, not the "it seems small" crowd we have with those two phones you listed here; great phones but not small in the least)!
  • About time a phone that can be used with one hand, with a 5.7" screen to boot, with flat edges that make it easy to hold.
  • I can use my 5.8" S8 with one hand
  • Congrats
  • Way too expensive, might as well just get the Pixel
  • Kinda depends what the Pixel XL 2 looks like.
  • I would assume that this looks better than the Pixel XLR, if Google stays in line with their current design language. Looks are what kept me away from the first Pixels. That, and I don't really like stock Android.
  • Pixel XL 2 with 128 gb storage is going to cost you at least $100 more than this! Not saying I'm in love with this phone, but price is in line with other phones with similar specs.
  • How is it way too expensive, it is priced just fine compared to the competition that are all aluminum built.
  • It has way less features than comps.
  • What features is missing, IP rating is the only thing I see, but it makes up for it with a quality built, and does not look like a cheap Chinese toy.
  • IP rating, micro SD, wireless charging, headphone jack to name a few..
  • microSD: it has 128GB, and besides, neither the Pixels nor the Nexus had microSD.
    Wireless Charging: Pixels and last gen Nexus did not have this.
    Headphone jack: New Pixels will not have this either.
    IP rating: Your only valid point. You can't always have it all. #FirstWorldProblems
  • Meh. No SD, no FM, no wireless charging. It looks cute and the rest of the specs seems OK, but it's expensive for just looks.
  • SD, FM are both meh. This device appears to be much better than any device that has those things.
  • GS8 and G6 both have SD; the G6 also has FM radio.
  • Right and this appears to be a much better device than the G6.
  • How so ? Looks cuter ?
  • Better SoC, possibly better camera, better build materials, better software, better security, better support (we'll see if that is true), better storage option, guess that's a good start.
  • Better SoC and looks yes, but you're wrong on all the rest. Sources for saying software, security, support storage (no SD !) and camera (reviewer says NO) are better ?
    If you want it that's fine, but that for its looks and cachet.
  • 128 is more than 32, so surge is obvious. SD is a bad thing, so lacking it is good. Software is closer to stock, so better. No bloat is good. They're closing they're going to try Google level support, so that's a million times better than LG. And every device getting monthly security updates is better, because LG is not keeping its promise to do so. Also ceramic and titanium is better than glass body.
  • 32 is plenty for apps, but a bit short for media. I'd rather have 32+240 than 128, and that's what I actually have on my phone and 2 tablets.
    LG's update policy isn't bad, though not always speedy; Essential's is just promises at this point.
    Customizations are mostly irrelevant, use whichever Launcher and apps you like.
    Granted, the materials are better. that and the look are the only notable selling points.
  • Ok, so the whole list, all at once: Essential has a better SoC, better software, better security, better update support (TBD if this is real), better build materials, likely much better display, LG G6 has a better camera (assumed), a larger battery and a more established name. Tied or too much unknown on audio, same RAM.
  • You keep forgetting the LG also has: FM radio, SD slot, audio jack, quad DAC
    and the Galaxy: FM radio, SD slot, IP68, wireless charging, AMOLED, IR blaster, audio jack And you keep mentioning, for the PH1, better security and better updates based on nothing but PR with 0 track record. The display has no reason to be much better, early reviews call it barely on par (IPS, low brightness) Again, design/looks and materials are the only noticeable things about the PH1. It's OK to buy a phone for that, but don't try to rationalize it further; it's inferior and limited in other ways. It does look and probably feel darn cool. And phones are mostly handbags, so it's OK to buy for coolness.
  • They are both IPS and the G6 is very poorly calibrated,as are almost all LG displays. The DAC is regional, everything else on the list in first paragraph doesn't matter. Security and updates, we know LG sucks and that essential is promising not to suck. Just like display, we can give the nod to the one without the history of sucking. When you say design only, you're still leaving out the SoC and the software, which is the only reason we're still going, because it's not just one or two things. The PH1 seems to dominate the G6 in every way that matters except maybe camera, and the G6 camera is not an industry leader, so kind of a moot point. No one is buying G6 for the camera. Yes there is a list of largely irrelevant features that the G6 crammed in, and essential is making a point to NOT do that, because those feathers are in-essential.
  • These features are inessential to you, but essential to me. They're much more important to me than than how a phone looks and that it's made of fancy metal. It's very inessential to me that a phone have snobbish materials.
    LG doesn't suck for updates. The 2015 G4 is getting 7.0 around now, that's a regular 2yrs of update, a bit slow, but unless you're in it for bragging rights (which might be the PH1 market), timing of update isn't very important as long as they eventually get there. The GS8 dominates the PH1 in every way period (looks is an arguable matter of taste) , the G6 is more of a mixed bag depending on what matters to you: features or looks and hype.
    That's what is great about Android: choice. until people start to pass off their superficial and personal preferences as absolutes ^^
  • I don't know about LG's Customer Service support, but I am NOT impressed with Google's support. Both with a Nexus 6p's phone charger going bad a month after purchase, and issues with a hacked gmail account, which also screwed up my Fi account. Of which Google did nothing.
  • S8 has FM as well
  • And no IP68
  • They had an opportunity to be the "stock" android phone that makes up for where the Pixel 2 is going astray. But instead of providing actual essential features like headphone jack, waterproofing, a great main camera, normal aspect ratio, they chose to put effort into trendy gimmicks like a second mediocre camera, "bezel-less" design, and non-standard aspect ratio.
  • Not impressed for $699+ accessories