Essential Phone review, four months later: The sun is setting on this experiment

With big money and big names involved, Essential was a deserved recipient of intrigue when it launched as a company with the promise of a great Android phone (and so much more). Weeks later, I wrote my original review of the Essential Phone in mid-August, and followed it up after a couple software updates with a definitive review on August 28. Even then, it clearly wasn't a finished product; beta, at best. Dozens of reviews and weak sales numbers reflected that. Weeks later, I was already asking how much longer we would wait for Essential to "figure it out" with updates and accessories to make it a serious player without a series of caveats.

And now, at the end of December, over four months after my first review, some of the parameters have thankfully changed. Like a permanent $200 price drop to just $499, a couple dozen notable software upgrades, and the release of its 360-degree camera attachment. But even though the enthusiast perspective of the Essential Phone has improved over time as people have seen a mountain of software updates released, I somehow still have most of the same questions and head-shaking moments using it today as I did four months earlier.

The question still stands, though, as to whether the Essential Phone, with a large price cut and notable software improvements, is now good enough to warrant looking at it in ways that it so clearly wasn't at launch. I'm here to let you know.

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Essential Phone

Hardware is the saving grace

Essential Phone What I still love

The one (big) part of the Essential Phone that has aged well, but to be honest didn't really need any improvement in the first place, is the design and execution of the hardware. The ceramic back isn't completely impervious to scratches, but it sure is durable. And when it's perfectly mated to a titanium frame like this, you get a heft in your hand like something that's truly expensive and finely crafted. All of the flat planes and tightly cut edges are pristine on the same level as any high-end phone out there, but the Essential Phone still manages to be friendly to hold thanks to its strategically curved edges and relatively small dimensions for a modern phone.

This is an excellent design at any price, and it's executed perfectly.

And that brings us to one of the Essential Phone's key features, the display. Or, rather, the size and shape of the display and its bezels. This was "the notch" people talked about before Apple released the iPhone X, and it enables the Essential Phone to have a surprisingly large 5.7-inch display that's comfortable to use in one hand. Aside from some occasional app quirks with a taller-than-usual status bar that covers the notch, I don't notice that front-facing camera at all. I never feel like it's in the way or hindering my ability to see things, particularly as that area just blacks out when viewing full-screen video. It's extremely well handled.

Design and quality-wise, this is a ridiculous value for $499. It feels every bit a phone that used to be $699, and can easily go toe-to-toe with the rest of the flagship market in terms of raw quality and feel. Sure there are a couple odd quirks like the lack of a headphone jack, lack of waterproofing and an oddly rattly vibration motor, but the overall execution of the hardware aside from these little details is immaculate. Of course, it can easily be argued that those details do matter, but that's a different discussion altogether.

We can't forget the packed spec sheet, and battery life is good despite the average-sized capacity.

Along the same lines, Essential has a seriously spec-packed phone for this new lower price. It has everything inside it needs to perform well, basically matching the specs Google has in the Pixel 2. As I'll get to below, Essential simply doesn't execute with those tools — except in one area, which is battery life. 3040mAh definitely gets the job done with the Essential Phone, leaving me with power in the tank at the end of the day. Aside from a day where bad cell signal really destroyed the battery, I can't recall a time when the Essential Phone called it quits before I expected it to.

Since we're following a theme of great ideas that have poor executions, let me also mention that I seriously appreciate Essential's approach to software. It's bare-bones out of the box, and I like it that way! A simple interface, a lock screen that works well, no unnecessary bundled apps and very few unnecessary visual changes. Sure I wish Essential could work up a better ambient display, and the camera app is still a disaster (again, more below) but in general this is a fantastic way to do software when you're a small company that doesn't have the people or time to spend a ton of customization that in the end actually offers little value.

Essential Phone

Software struggles

Essential Phone What I don't like

Aside from the hardware, every other aspect of my Essential Phone experience has been about frustration. Mostly, it boils down to horrendous software stability and performance. Despite dozens of updates and the anecdotes you may have seen that indicate performance issues have been "fixed," it most certainly hasn't. The Essential Phone is handily outperformed by a Moto G5, and that's just unacceptable — at $699, for sure, but at $499 as well.

Four or five years ago, Android phones were slow and unstable like this. But not today.

It all starts with just general app instability. Apps crash — a lot. More than I've experienced on any other phone. They freeze, stutter, lock up and force close. Sometimes you tap an app to open it, and nothing happens for multiple seconds. When an app calls up another one through a share action, it takes the same egregious delay. Sometimes apps open and switch just fine, but then randomly slow down to a crawl with inordinately long splash screens or loading animations. And it isn't tied to just one app, it's all apps.

The app issues seem to come as a result of general system instability that I haven't seen in a high-end phone in years. Touch response is very slow, making everything simply feel sluggish as you tap and scroll around every day. The phone will often struggle to open or close the camera and can fail to save photos if you close the camera too quickly. I've had the entire phone go unresponsive for several minutes and require a force reboot (hold the power button for ~15 seconds) multiple times.

Let's expand on that camera point. Because Essential does deserve some praise for dramatically improving both the performance of the camera app and the overall quality of its photo output since I first looked at the phone. But you have to understand just how downright horrible the camera was at the start ... there was nowhere to go but up. Still, a few months and several updates later I'm actually able to take some good photos with the Essential Phone, and that's great to see. Here are some examples of what it's capable of:

Camera quality has come a long way, but it still isn't great and the app is a train wreck.

Those are some good photos. Not fantastic or industry-leading, but good. But what you didn't see is the frustration and piles of bad shots required to get that handful of good ones. The camera app is slow and unstable and lacks basic features like viewfinder grid lines or any sort of customization or "pro" mode. HDR mode doesn't really seem to do anything but take photos slower, and toggling it on still inexplicably turns the flash to "auto" mode. The slow performance directly contributes to missing shots, and the fundamentals of a small sensor with no OIS mean you get grainy and blurry low-light shots regularly. The Essential Phone's camera is still so far from the competition.

Am I nitpicking on this performance and stability point? A little bit, but it's for good reason. Essential has a phone here that was originally on sale for $699. Even though the price has dropped, it still has an extremely capable set of internal specs. It has set high expectations for this phone to be a great, clean, smooth Android experience. And it isn't. Not in any way. And in a world where you can get a OnePlus 5T for the same price — not to mention a Motorola phone for $200 — that runs circles around it with better software, you have a problem. Four or five years ago, Android phones were slow and unstable like this. But not today.

Essential Phone

The sun is setting

Essential Phone Four months later

Months of hefty software updates have clearly improved the daily experience of using the Essential Phone. What used to be a phone that was near-impossible to consistently use is now one that's just ... mildly frustrating. And it's mildly frustrating at a lower price, which always helps. At the same time, its hardware stands up incredibly well against its new, cheaper competition — that ceramic and titanium body is perfectly crafted, unique and striking to hold. The internal specs are great for the end of 2017, it's very compact for its screen size and battery life is good.

It used to be a phone that was near-impossible to use but is now just ... mildly frustrating.

The fundamentals are all there. Truth be told, they were there from Day 1. But four months after I first reviewed the Essential Phone, there remains a severe lack of execution. You just can't get away with selling a high-end phone of any sort that has performance this bad, stability this unpredictable and core functionality that's just downright broken. It's exemplified by the camera, but apparent throughout the software experience that Essential is just behind the curve. The company has taken big strides in just the last couple of months, and behind the scenes has surely learned lots of lessons about optimizing an operating system. But as it turns out, this software is really hard to get right. Just as I wrote in my initial review, Essential still seems like it's one big step away.

I would love to see Essential persevere and actually release another phone next year as a follow-up to the original. Despite the Essential Phone clearly not being finished or refined to the point where it can truly compete, even at $499 (opens in new tab), I think it's time to go into maintenance mode with this device and move on to making sure the next one is truly great from the start. The sun is rapidly setting on the Essential Phone launch to the point where no amount of updates or good press can make this phone appealing or sell in the numbers required to make it a success. That window has closed, and it's time to build up to the next launch — hopefully with software, camera performance and an ecosystem that's worthy of the hype bestowed on the original.

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Andrew Martonik

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

  • Guess I'll grab a OnePlus 5T... Right???
  • This ph-1 was suppose to revolutionize the smartphone industry. What happened? The great deal on this phone was Cyber Monday with Amazon it sold for 399.00 with the camera mod. Now that's a good deal. The release price was 699.00 & has since been reduced to 499.00. Maybe a good deal with all the latest camera updates!
  • For $499, definitely a better choice.
  • I'm still amazed at the poor performance of this phone running "stock" Android and how a company with Andy Rubin could screw it up so much. Him being the original face image of Android and background history, you'd think this phone would run flawless, yet plagued with glitches. The execution of this release was such a cluster. I loved this phone, and still do, but after my experience, I'd probably never go back to this company unless it had new leadership and way better quality control & reassurances.
  • My Essential phone has none of these issues except for the camera. I've rectified that by porting over the Google camera app, and have taken dozens of excellent photos under assorted conditions. I do not ever get random freeze ups, stuttering and the need to reboot. Not once! In a side by side with a S8 and Pixel 2 xl my Essential opened apps as fast it faster and provided smooth and seamless interaction always. Furthermore, I get security updates almost as fast as my Pixel. Try doing that on your one plus 5T no personality generic slab of boredom.
  • Slab of boredom? Anything close to stock Android is a slab of boredom!
  • Your essential phone is as fast or faster than your pixel 2 xl? I had this essential phone when it first dropped to $499 and the thing was a stuttering mess compared to my pixel XL 1. So either you got a lemon s8 and a lemon pixel 2 xl or your blinding yourself to justify your essential purchace. I still have that essential phone and it dogs through almost everything.
  • I got my Essential PH-1 back in October, and I've had no performance issues with it other than Bluetooth not working properly (it cuts in and out when you move the phone) but I almost never use Bluetooth so it's a non-issue for me. Apps open quickly, no major crashes or freezes, transition between apps is snappy. I guess I got one of the better Essential Phones.
  • I believe that you'd have to actually show people first hand about things such as the god awful touch scrolling and compare it to other phones before they'd admit there's a problem. At this point, I'm convinced that Essential has no clue how to optimize the software. Being stock Android, that's pretty scary
  • Or you got 1 lemon essential phone. Makes the best sense really. My fiance has one no problems here.
  • I am running the Essential phone too. My experience is in between - no where near as dire as the author but definitely still sub par including one hard freeze per week on average and some weird touchscreen issues. I'm (foolishly?) holding out hope that the Oreo release helps.
  • My essential phone also has none of these issues. The camera isn't very good, agreed; but none, zero, of the instability issues or touch response issues in this review. It has been a blast to use, and all 5 of my family members with the device have been very happy with it. I am really surprised at this review. Reviewer should attempt another essential device.
  • Rubin's busy doing a lot of things. I get the feeling he isn't there driving Essential day in and day out making sure the product is great.
  • Maybe it's not the software. In other words ....maybe all of the various APPs and their own forms of advertising don't mix well with the pure android experience. Sometimes APPs don't function uniformly together. 3rd party galleries with 3rd party file managers etc. . . For example, what if you want to take a picture or tons of pictures? Then ,let's say you want to move these pictures to a file manager to keep them tidy instead of "sharing" them right away. If those particular apps do not play nicely makes for a bad experience. These things can become issues on even "flag ship" phones. It's the nature of how Googles play store interacts with the software. I wonder how this phone would work say....on /r/ android app store? Since it is bloat free, with a choice of using Google or not and it has good specs....why not put a custom ROM on it ,try it and see how it works....just a thought
  • I knew about the bad camera, but wasn't aware of the overall poor performance. I had expected by default great performance from its premium hardware and minimal "skin". Oh well. Is this a failed Beta? If so, they might need to revisit the idea of the Essential name if it is now mudd. Thank, you Andrew. It is good to know that this phone looks premium but performs like an old Motorola Droid 3 (but without that old Droid's benefit of a hardware slider keyboard)
  • Well I didn't necessarily compare it to a Droid 3 ... but yeah, it's not good.
  • This just confirms to me that the 1+5T is a better phone out of the two. Better camera, headphone jack, more RAM, performance is smooth, faster charging, etc.
  • After owning both, absolutely the 5t is a better phone imo.
  • Let's be honest, opo has been building phones for a few years. Plus they had their parent company to lean on. I have the same problems as Andrew with my essential. All phones are the same when it comes to problems, some have issues some don't. I hope they can fix them with the Oreo update. Mine has a crack on the back from dropping it so it's probably not worth much to anyone else.
  • I’ll give you $50 for it.
  • $51
  • The camera on the 5T is subpar though. But otherwise, probably a better phone. I only had the 5T so I'm not sure. You get what you pay for at $499.
  • Also, Andrew, what is that to do, calendar, etc widget you have on the screen there? It looks nice.
  • That is default Google Calendar widget.
  • Looks like Google Calendar's Schedule widget, which I also use.
  • The Google Calendar Widget.
  • Thanks. I have obviously never used it!
  • I own this phone and have never had an app crash. It is super fast and the camera works fine, especially with the Google camera application. The pictures are as good as the S7 Edge I just sold. Best $300 I have spent on a phone...
  • You got it for $300?!
  • There were Black Friday deals that dropped the price down below $500.
  • Yes on Swappa...Looked brand new.
  • I got it for my son $130 total from Sprint. He seems to like it a lot. Which is saying something since he is a Apple fan.
  • Same here. Sounds like he is not reviewing the phone that I own and really like. Is it perfect? No, but it is far better than he describes.
  • I know it's all subjective, but the pictures were no where near the same as the s7e. When I was using them both, and yes I'll admit I did have it before the software updates, that camera just didn't do it. It wasn't as bad as people made it to be, but there was no comparison.
  • Yeah this thing doesn't challenge an S7's camera at all. Maybe an S6 in some situations. If the Essential Phone legitimately replicated or beat the Galaxy S7's camera, I wouldn't have any complaints.
  • Would be interesting to see pictures taken by the Essential phone using the Google camera app.
  • Hope Essential can get it together. The more competition, the better. I really like the HW design of the phone, but the software issues and the camera app make it a nonstarter for me. I don't want the phone to get in the way of doing things -- that can be a serious problem in some scenarios. I also use my phone's camera a lot. That's why I bought the Pixel 2, to get stock/current Android and a great camera (but I do miss the headphone jack, and my next phone might not be a Pixel, depending on what's out there).
  • I've been using this phone as my daily driver for the last month and I'm on the Oreo beta and I'd say it's very stable. Had maybe one or two app crashes but that's it. Camera has taken some great shots too. I got it on the Sprint deal for $225 total so I'm happy. That being said I'm picking up a Pixel 2 XL today as I still like Google's software updates. I'll keep my essential phone though and use it from time to time when I need a smaller phone
  • Huh, very happy with mine. I'm even running Oreo Beta 2 with no noticeable problems so far.
  • Been using the Essential Phone for about a month now and it is supremely stable and fast. Can't remember an app ever crashing. Suggest the author do an OS reset since his device really shouldn't be that unstable. Really like the phone and have had zero complaints aside from it being very slippery (a ring stand solved handling issues). Several people over the holidays asked me what phone I was using and complimented its design.
  • I did do OS resets. I also used two different phones to remove potential issues with the first one I had.
  • It's all relative, people who use multiple flagship phones can easily make out how bad Essential software is on nougat. They have improved a lot on their Oreo beta build I'll give that. But still one plus 5t is better buy at this price than Essential.
  • Photos are... ok, but I like your eye for composition Andrew!
  • Thank you very much!
  • Is this guy an idiot? Did you just take a review from the day it came out and change the date? I haven't had one issue with this phone, no lag, no stuttering, no need to reboot at all. It's actually a great phone. The camera is good I give you that. But in no way is this anything like you said in this article. This phone is like buying a pixel but for 1/2 the price, and it looks better than the pixel. Don't listen to this article.
  • Yes, anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot. Oh what a time to be alive....
  • Damn, you figured me out.
  • Actually don't listen to this guy, I can agree 100% with everything Andrew said. It is a very buggy phone. And oh my god, the vibration motor is garbage.
  • Yeah I don't recall many people talking about the vibration motor, probably because it's kinda far down on the list of issues, but it's HORRIBLE. It's annoyingly loud and rattly. I just wanna disable it.
  • 100%. I've had very few of the issues you mentioned. No force closes, no needing to reboot. But the vibration motor is HORRIBLE! When I use my Pixel 2 after using the Essential, it feels so premium just because the vibration motor is so much better. Can the vibration motor be fixed with a software update or is that a hardware limitation?
  • That's just the motor they put in there. Nothing fixable there aside from reducing the vibration duration or strength, but that's not going to change how the motor itself sounds.
  • I'm thinking there must be a huge batch of problem phones that slipped out. There seems to be 50/50 in agreement with you. I don't see any of it on the one in my house.
  • Also you never know what phone people came from. If you had a 2 or 3 year old phone prior to the Essential, it might seem buttery smooth and responsive.
  • serious pro Essential astroturfing going on in these threads....why? just admit the phone isn't flagship quality, it's not even midrange quality
  • They all come from the Essential subreddit. They downvote you, close threads, delete comments if you say anything negative about the phone. I'm glad I sold this POS, worst phone I've owned since the HTC Thunderbolt.
  • While I agree that the PH-1 cannot be redeemed, strong ongoing support with regular updates and improvements is the only way to retain the few customers that bought in and ensure good word of mouth. If they alienate the small base they built because they decide to toss the PH-1 into “maintenance mode” as you suggested they are truly done. Nobody will buy their next phone and the story will be over before it begins. For my part, the recent improvements have made this a much more appealing phone for me. I have purchased a brand new one for $500 CAD (about $380 USD), all in, and I think I got a smoking good phone for the money. Also, I can finally use a phone without a case or screen protector, how it’s meant to be, because at the $500 price point I am not going to fret if it happens to smash up.
  • What's funny is that I bought this phone on black friday and did all the updates out of the box and I have had exactly none of the issues people report. I really have a hard time believing people reviewing the phone 4 months later are not using past frustration and screaming wold at the first small hitch. I've had nothing but amazing performance and since they updated the camera software, portrait mode is extremely good.
  • I'm having the same issues.
  • The reason I write these second reviews is to get away from any initial feelings and come back to a phone with fresh eyes several months later. That's what I did here, and the phone still isn't good.
  • I don't know. Maybe I got lucky then? Most reviews that give second opinions (that I've seen - I know I didn't see all of them) say the phone is much better now. If I recall, even an article I've read on this very website stated it was a great phone since the price drop. I'm not saying your specific device wasn't having issues but it sure seems like it's become the minority. Maybe try to do a factory reset and start from scratch? I guess that's kind of what I did since I got it and from the box, I updated everything and it ran smoothly.
  • You didn't get lucky. I've had my phone now for 2 months, did the updates right out of the box and then added apps one by one. Going into the reddit, xda, and Google plus forums most of the people having these types of issues did a restore of the google backup instead. I know it can't be convenient to add apps one by one but it seems to have solved many people's issues with results of no more lagging, battery drains. The camera app isn't fantastic and it hiccups still for some but if you look online at the google plus forum and flickr there are a lot of pretty nice shots, maybe not Pixel 2 quality but not just average either. I'd like to support Essential and hope they continue to build out this phone company as how many OEM's are putting stock android on their phones only, Google and Essential.
  • I didn't do a restore of the google backup, I start fresh with every new phone and I still had all the issues with the author stated plus the signal issues. I even updated the phone to the most current version, did a factory reset and then started there. When I started running into the issues a week in, I flashed the Oreo beta and factory resetted it too. Still had issues. I believe people aren't seeing these issues because they've come from a bad phone. My mother's Moto G5 Plus runs circles around it. It's a poorly optimized phone and I'm shocked at how a company can screw up stock android. It's a pretty phone to look at but doing basic functions is a nightmare.
  • When a squishy piece of dookie hardens from the cold, making it easier to pick up, it makes it better. But it's still a piece of dookie.
  • As a longtime Nexus user, and recent Moto G5S Plus user, I am thrilled with the Essential phone and camera I bought on Cyber Monday for $399. I can't speak to the earlier software issues, etc., but since I bought mine, I've enjoyed a stable device which performs well. The Moto was a good device, but the Essential phone takes MUCH better pix--as it should. And, overall performance exceeds the Moto--again, as it should. Is it a $699.+ phone? I wouldn't pay that. I didn't pay that. But, at $399. or $499.? I say YES! That being said, I certainly am hopeful that Essential will continue to make this very good phone ever better even as they work on the next version.
  • Biggest disappointment of 2017
  • Gawd yes. Mine was quite a dichotomy. It is THE best feeling phone in the hand, I've ever held. It IS very unique to look at with its screen, lack of logos, flush surfaces and the finish of the materials. I am a stock, unskinned, no crapware Android purist, so I'm pleased there. Bought mine for $370 off Swappa. The dude bought white and a black models, opened the boxes to compare their appearance and kept the white. Profit! I've been fortunate compared to many in that my device has had very few problems. I notice a few stutters per day. The slow scrolling is jittery if I look at it close enough but no impact on regular use. App crash 2-3/ week, but no system crashes. Camera has been meh, but Google Camera app has made it decent in most settings. First run though. I'm gonna support it on next run if they have one. I like underdogs and bought the BB Priv, rocked it for 9 months to support its mission and approach to smart phones.
  • I've had the essential for about a month now. The phone is fast and stable with ZERO crashes. The camera could be better yes. But other than that, the phone is super. He either has a defective device, or just regurgitated an older review without actually testing it. It's reviews like this that keep the uninformed consumer from buying what is a great device.
  • What's your favorite part of the phone so far?
  • It would have been nice to see a fraction of this tough love attitude brought to AC's gushing iPhone X review. I've been using the Essential on the Oreo betas and the phone has been excellent - not quite as good as my Pixel 2 but still a very good all around experience. I too am disappointed by not having finished 8.1 and some overdue hardware. As an enthusiasts phone, there is nothing close - price, pure Android, exceptional hardware. No, I wouldn't recommend this for my mom, but mom's should probably stick to mainstream phones like Galaxy or Pixel anyway.
  • Andrew, one reason I like your work is that you're not afraid to state your mind. Damn those comparos where no position is taken.
    However, my Ph-1 just does not have the issues you list. This is my 2nd one; the 1st did have some screwy screen wonkyness, but this one is smooth as a baby's bottom! I live a little south of you but would be interested to see if you see a difference. Perhaps Essential does not have enough control over their supply chain, resulting in a range of product quality?
  • I've also used two different Essential Phones. This one I'm using here actually was just sent over a few weeks ago. I've had the same issues across devices with different software.
  • Same problems with different devices and different software? Seems the common element here is the operator.
    Just sayin'... ;-)
  • Or the phone, and since he does this for a living I'm going to trust him.
  • Oh cmon, give me a break.
  • What?? I was smiling.
  • To Anthony above.... Reply link not working for some reason. My favorite part is the small phone size relative to the large screen size. That's what initially piqued my interest. And the speed as well. It functions flawlessly. I would also like to comment on another part of the above story. The author mentions the Essential being outperformed by the Moto G5 Plus. I have the G5 with 4 GB ram. Come on man, the Essential is a far better phone. Performance wise, even camera wise.
  • Hey Andrew, do you think the phone has a problem with memory management. When mine gets 4 or more apps open, it starts to become unstable. Plus I've done the power button reset when it would locked up on a process.
  • Plus another thing that has bugged me is 1080p is the highest resolution you can watch on YouTube. The phone is close to 2k but not actually 2k so no 2k video content on YouTube
  • Andrew - for all of the problems with the Essential Phone, the battery life is incredible. How is that possible considering the large screen size and relatively average battery size?
  • Well aside from any apps you install, the phone isn't really doing anything. Essential hasn't built in any extra features or anything that'd be running and consuming battery. On top of that the screen isn't super bright so it isn't draining much. It is definitely possible to get good battery life out of this size of battery — you just can't add in a bunch of extra features.
  • Definitely agree, personally I couldn't even keep this as a back up phone and just sold this yesterday. I would like to see what they can do with their next phone.
  • Move on to the next phone... and leave those of us first customers hanging for support. That's a great reward for being initial customers who have shown faith in a start-up company.
  • This is why I specifically say "maintenance mode." Essential should still be putting out software updates for security patches and major flaws, but it shouldn't be spending an inordinate amount of time trying to add features or fix things at this point if it's going to get in the way of making the next phone actually work well out of the box.
  • You sound like a Blackberry supporter lol - full disclosure, I own the PRIV and several Playbooks...
  • hey computerguy68 - I also have a BB Priv (for 2 years) and am having space trouble. Every time I want to download an app, the phone tells me I don't have enough space. I've gotten rid of many apps but I'm getting frustrated. I purchased an SD card for the camera but can't get anything else on it (don't know how I guess). So for the storage space situation, I have been looking at the Essential because of the memory it comes with. Think I'll be disappointed?
  • I love the phone, but I got zero reception. I kept losing service . . . just like my OG Pixel XL. Otherwise, I'd still have it.
  • Starting to wonder if Andrew's phone is defective - other re-reviews seem to be much kinder to the device outside of the camera
  • As address earlier, I've actually used two different Essential Phones. One from early on, and another production unit picked out randomly about a month ago. Both have the same problems.
  • Good to know
  • Go to r/essential and you will see all the problems listed and more.
  • I'll chime in as another satisfied customer. I've been using mine as my daily driver for just over a month with zero issues. No forced reboots. No app crashes. No slow downs or stutters. No touch issues. I'm not even seeing the scrolling issues that everyone complained about earlier. I've also not had any issues with reception which was something everyone complained about. I've only rebooted once that I remember and that was when my email app went a bit rogue and was affecting battery life by keeping the processor awake. I admit to not really putting the camera through it's paces but the handful of times I used it, it opened quickly and took what I consider to be good pictures.
  • Lots of good comments about the phone. I've had one for about 2 months....and it's been a good phone. Few software issues and slow camera with decent pictures, but fantastic build quality. My problem was with customer service. Had an issue of an update killing the cell radios and 2 weeks of absolute garbage email assistance from Essential. Issue was fixed by reflashing latest firmware (after they finally released it). 2 weeks of email troubleshooting that consisted of basically telling me to turn it off and on. Beautiful hardware, OK software, OK camera, horrible customer service.
  • Was this the biggest disappointment of 2017. Nah, the z2force broke my heart with the downgraded battery, no ip68, no headphone jack and no OIS with the camera. And the release price. Plus the overpriced mod attachments!
  • That z2 force was a strange mix of bs. I was hoping for it to be the phone of the year and they just screwed it all up!
  • "I spent my hard earned money on this phone and my completely unbiased opinion is that this is the best and fastest phone ever and has the best camera." -Essential owners in the comments section of any technology rated article anywhere on the internet
  • Yeah seems a little suspicious frankly guy with 10 accounts ? lol
  • I've owned every phone under the sun and my Essential phone runs like butter like I can't believe it's not butter. It is incredibly Smooth and zippy and have experienced zero of the performance issues that you have mentioned. My last 3 phones I owned were the OnePlus 3T, Lg G6 and the Moto Z Droid and I find it to be faster and smoother and just as good if not better than the 3T. You may have a lemon because 4 friends of mine have Essentials and they have nothing but a top notch experience!
  • Same here!
  • It's not bad being in the minority I guess
  • Andrew if you go through and read all the comments, it's pretty easy to come to the conclusion that the common theme is that most Essential owners thought they were reading a review of a different phone because of the complete opposite experience most Essential owners have experienced. You're entitled to your own opinion of course but it is sad that such a great company with an awesome phone at an even better price will never be able to put this phone in some customers hands because of this bizarre review.
  • I'll trust Andrew over a bunch of fanboys that refuse to see the truth
  • I appreciate that. Thank you.
  • I agree as well, owning multiple phones Essential just left a bad taste in my mouth. Oreo beta made it better but even for the low price they are selling now OP5T is a much better option.
    People just don't like when you say the phone they own is not the best.
  • and yo mama
  • Great company? Based on what?
  • Bought mine when price dropped to 499. To be honest, I'm very happy with the unit.
  • I purchased a PH-1 when the price dropped to $599. I have had no negative experiences with this device. It makes a great back up phone to the "free" Pixel XL Google gave me when they replaced my Nexus 6P. It is a mobile phone that I can run apps and access the internet with. I got what I paid for. No regrets about this purchase. BTW, I use a digital camera when I want to capture images.
  • My wife picked one up during the $399 CyberMonday deal (with 360 camera). She has been using it about 2 weeks and has not complained of bad performance or apps crashing. Still running Nougat; not the Oreo beta yet. She hasn't spent a lot of time with the camera so I can't comment on that. I don't think anyone will dispute that there is still room for improvement in the camera software though. Overall though, no regrets in our house.
  • Is this a serious article? I love mine. Aside from the camera issues, I have zero problems with this amazing phone. Maybe I got lucky...
  • Well you're one of two people
  • I absolutely love the Essential Phone... the only problem (and it is a big problem) is the camera issues. The low light takes pretty horrible pictures. Also, as mentioned in the article, I experience a lot of crashing and freezing while taking a picture, and have to do a reboot of the phone. Extremely frustrating. Other than that, best phone I've ever owned
  • other than that it contained pop I've ever tasted...
  • About 2 months, and no crashes, hangups, touch/scrolling issues, etc. I'm even happily using the camera app.
  • I bought the Essential when the price dropped and have not been disappointed. I haven't experienced any of the issues listed in the article and I appreciate that they continue to release frequent updates. I would highly recommend it to anyone.
  • I don't understand. The two essential phones I've had we're perfect software included.
  • You have good luck with phones
  • I think the latest batch of phones is considerably better. This would be worth another shot once they start releasing other colors. Andrew, maybe you can get your hands on another one down the road. The stock camera app for me is better than the Google port at this point. Minimum 128gb of storage at this price is still nuts to me. I'd be willing to deal with a couple bugs here and there but haven't had any. I got a pixel 2 xl the other day and man the pixel is so much better. I think that's what skews the essential phone for a lot of y'all. Google does it better and one plus does a fantastic job. The next essential phone will be markedly better I bet.
  • Just picked up one last week and loaded Oreo Beta 2. No complaints whatsoever other than the BT issue which isn't a problem for me until I have 3 devices connected or trying to connect. Works great in my Pathfinder with the stock Bose system.
  • I wouldn't be at all surprised if this was a paid for by Samsung or Apple article
  • Well he only cites facts about this phone. Ph-1 is a big fail, and no amount of updates will help that, and remember this was supposed to be a flagship phone, with flagship pricing to boot.
  • It was not paid for by anyone.
  • Yeah right Samsung and Apple are so scared of this company which 99.9% of the population doesn't even know it exists. In fact they are paying everyone on the internet to write bad reviews and opinions for this device.
  • I would. Since when would either of those major players care about an upstart?
  • Thank you Andrew for telling the truth about this phone. So tired of the stupid fanboys of Essential who can't see the real problems with this phone, that are not going away no matter how many updates the company pushes out.
  • Fanboys? I simply like the phone. I like the fact it's a smaller company. What's tiring is you. What the **** you care for anyway? Some stupid objective 'truth'? Obviously you don't own the phone, so kindly **** off. I'm just here to say no, this phone isn't a piece of ****, it's just one guys nonexpert opinion. And here is mine.
  • Triggered! Don't blow a fuse this holiday season. 🍻
  • Right, what a ****** bag
  • Coming from a two year run with the LG V20 and took a chance on the Essential Phone. Researched and watch every review out there, and still took the jump. No regrets.
  • The problem is when comparing against other offerings it falls short. Sure if you come from a 2 year old phone pretty much every current phone will feel better. But what Andrew and others are referring to is comparing to other phones it falls short of expectations. That's helpful for buyers when they are evaluating phones. So instead of buying Essential they can buy other better phones.
  • The v20 was a classic and you traded it for a inferior brand. How are you living with yourself after a dumb decision like the one you made.
  • Have you even held a Ph-1? You are so damn quick to call those of us who own, use & like the Essential 'Fanboys' as to make yourself look like an idiot. I have had two Ph-1's, the second being a keeper, and love it. It suffers from none of the issues Andrew states (other than camera limitations), yet he passes on my offer to try out my Ph-1. As much as I like Andrew's work he does not represent those of us that have an excellent phone in the Ph-1 and no amount of pillaging will change that.
  • Apparently it does when he uses it.
  • Anyone saying the ph-1 is the fastest phone, best camera, no stutters and no issues are being fanboys and choosing not to see the issues or lying in the comment section. It's really like saying your toothless 400lb girlfriend looks like Julia Roberts. We get it... You love her to death, but please don't tell us she's smoking hot. Maybe people that don't hop from flagship to flagship phone may feel this phone is a blazer, but when you try most flagships and then try the ph-1.. you see an immediate difference. I've moved on from my pixel XL 1, but even that year old phone smokes the ph-1 in EVERY aspect. You cold get away with calling the pixel 1 Julia Roberts. Old but HOT. :)
  • This !! People (or at least fanboys) missing the point. Comparing to other flagship phones Essential comes short in many areas. It's got a gorgeous design sure, fast updates but other than that falls flat in all other areas. I'm mean they couldn't even get bare bone stock Android working properly for months. Sure small and new company, probably rushed the phone. Doesn't mean we have to put up with that and appreciate. It's not that they are giving us phones for free. I'm hopeful that next phone they will be in a much better position to make much better phone all around. But their first take falls short.
  • Ok I can say that I move form flagships to flagships year after year. Last year I got a OnePlus Two, Nexus 6P, Samsung S7Edge and Pixel XL. I started this year with the Pixel XL and switched in October with a S8. A month later I finally got my PH-1. I'll give you that this is not the best camera of them all, but the stock camera is now usable and with the GCam port, you can get some solid shots.
    Now for overall battery life and performances, it has much better battery life than a S8 , a little bit better than a Pixel XL, but still behind the monstrous battery life of the GS7 Edge. Of the bunch, it's the fastest and is much more stable than any Samsung flagship. However, I have to say I do run ALL my phones with x0.5 animations speed and high touchscreen sensibility (hidden feature in talkback setting while having talkback off). By gathering comments on /r/Essential, I think these system tweaks are a definitive fix to UI responsiveness and scrolling issues. Also, the only gripes I really have is that the RAM management is not great. If I have more than 10 apps open at the same time, the phone will struggle to operate. But hey, it's nothing I can't fixed myself by not forgetting to close some apps from time to time or something Essential won't fix with a software update. So far so good, it's the phone I'm the most pleased to operate since my OnePlus One and to a lesser extent, my Pixel XL!
  • What seems very apparent with this phone is a wide range of performance standards. Some no hardware issues and others massive problems with reception and wifi. Same goes for the OS, some super smooth and others it crashes and runs poorly. I for one have been lucky, I have had two, one unlocked other from the Sprint deal and both have performed well. For the price I paid from Sprint, I can deal with a few quirks because the phone almost never has an app crash and all my normal uses work just fine. Not sure if there will be a phone # 2 but if there is, I'll support it.
  • The wide range of performance issues is a problem because a phone should perform great no matter who owns it. Seems that Essential hasn't mastered basic quality control, ensuring that, at the very least, owners have the same issues with the product. That doesn't bode well for Essential's future as a going concern.
  • Hi,
    I had to disagree with this opinion.
    I imported it one month ago with amazoncom Cyber Monday deal (400 $ for the bundle) to EU and I'm very happy with it.
    Battery can satisfy every needs for at least one day.
    It is smooth and responsive in every circumstances, build quality is awesome (but there's no need to mark this).
    I like stock Android, so it is my personal Pixel, I envy only the camera and the accessories to the Google (little) son.
    The screen is pretty good.
    If I have to talk about the negative side will be:
    - Reception is half point under the concurrency tops
    - Camera isn't adeguate to the price tag, but you can take anyway some good shots
    - The shortage of accessories
    - The fingerprint sensor, I like it more on the front side, but by now this is the trend the producer are imposing
  • Sounds like BlackBerry OS back in the day.
  • I've had mine for 2 months now. It's definitely grown on me, but the software really kills the experience. People ask me what's special about it, and I can honestly only say that the build and materials are what set it apart. If and when they roll out the official Oreo build and fix all the problems with the software, camera, and just subpar performance, I think this will finally be a phone I'm happy to have, but when phones like the 5T exist, it's really difficult to feel that way.
  • Wow you pay a lot of money for elegance?
  • So...sound like the options are: Google Pixel, or Apple that not surprising...
  • No, just iPhone in this case
  • Add me to the list of satisfied PH-1 owners. I purchased the phone / 360 package from Amazon for $399 on Cyber Monday. Since then, I returned the 360 camera for a $114 credit so the phone actually cost me $285. I bought this to tide me over until the 2018 phones come out, hoping there will be a phone that really excites me. Since my Moto X Pure Edition (2015), none of the new phones really excited me. Bought a Pixel XL off of Swappa for $800 but resold it within a couple of months and bought a used Nexus 6P off of Craigslist for $250. Actually liked the 6P better than the Pixel. The Pixel 2's finally came out and I purchased the XL. For me the display was a deal breaker so I returned it and went back to my 6P. Now I am using the PH-1 (since early December). I have not had a single app crash or system lock-up. I use the phone every day, all day. I find it strange that some people find the phone to be extremely stable while others experience regular crashes and lockups. Andrew, what do you think explains such contradicting experiences? For now, all I can say is the PH-1 makes me happy every time I pick it up. If I experienced half of what you described in your article I would have returned it long ago. Anyway, I love reading AC. Just wish there was a way to eliminate the obvious trolls trying to stir up trouble rather than contribute to civil dialog.
  • IFixit gave it 1 out of 10 - basically even a battery swap is so difficult it may fail. So that $499 has to be seen against "if the battery goes after a year you're on your own" which potentially makes it very expensive indeed. (Mind you I wouldn't go near it based on the BT issues - I expect seamless connection to everything and I have had that now for 4 years solid on other phones.)
  • Hahaha that's what you people deserve for turning your backs and leaving Samsung, the best cell phone Manufacturer in the world and on Earth
  • I'd like to start by saying I'm a"fanboy"of tech in general and not a specific brand. But, if a brand makes what I find to be good tech, I then appreciate that brand until they do something to otherwise sway my opinion. With that said, my personal experience with the Ph-1 is so much different than what this article and some of the comments are stating. My last phone was the S7 Edge and I currently have a Note 8 as my work phone. I'm definitely getting better performance with the Ph-1 than the S7 Edge and similar if not a little snappier than the note 8. Camera performance while not nearly as bad as I've read, definitely gets out preformed by both Samsung devices. The only things I dislike after 2 months in are the haptic motor is cheap feeling, and I wish the screen was AMOLED. Although, it does look good in well lit rooms, in darker rooms the blacks are not inky like on AMOLED displays. As far as the poor performance that others are having, I think it's weird but if it is happening then there's something causing it and it's Essential's job to get that sorted out. Cause the phone is capable of being pretty great, especially for the price.
  • I'd like to make a couple of points here too. Battery life is good, not great. Oreo beta 2 helped with that, the first beta was horrible on battery. Most camera issues can be fixed with the Google camera port. Reception is my biggest problem. It's either great, or it sucks. I mean no reception at all, and at the worst possible time. I haven't had the instability issues the author has, and I love the phone. Time to move on though, just got my OP5t, so it'll be going up for sale tomorrow on Swappa.
  • Well....I grabbed one through that insane Sprint $5 lease deal a few months back, and got it paid off and unlocked for around $150. For the price.....AMAZING. I honestly have no OS or app lockups like Andrew has. The camera app has improved to me where I don't open the modded Google Camera port anymore. I think the stock app is better. That being said, there are a few quirks: 1. Answering calls can be tricky. You have to be VERY exact in where you start to swipe and how far up you swipe or else the green circle just falls back unanswered.
    2. It's also easy to place it to your ear in a way that muffles the call. The speaker has kind of an odd placement that way.
    3. Low light camera performance is just OK. Aside from that, I love the design, abundant storage and untouched stock Google experience. I had an S7 Edge prior to picking this up for $150, and I sold it shortly thereafter. Samsung devices are always great out of the box, but slowdowns and frustrating lag pop up right around the first OS update or security patch. All of that horsepower invariably gets hobbled within a year. Blech.
  • I love my ph1 essential phone this is there first phone they built give them some damn credit I bet none of you could do a better job. My phone is 3.5 months old and I don't have any issues with it at. I give these guys all the credit in the world making a new phone in Thai day is pretty tough to do. They should of went too all the carriers not just sprint bc we all know sprint sucks.
  • "give them some damn credit I bet none of you could do a better job". We don't build phones for a living!!!!
  • Had it since September and paid the orgional price. The thing was buggy as heck of course. Purchased the pixel 2XL, got bored of it, now this is my daily driver. Took the chance with installing Oreo Beta 2, and it running smooth. The only mainstream app I use that keeps crashing and locking up is Instagram, on my pixel 2 it does the same thing. The camera app crashes every once in awhile, but hey I'm on beta anyways who cares about that to be honest. People keeps complaint about the camera, th camera is fine. Now if most folks would say "Camera software" then yes, the camera software isnt up to specs with most flagships out there. I've gotten some pretty good images out of it though. Yes the pixels camera software is godly in it's own right, but I enjoy taking images I can control myself "everyone's different of course :). Other than having all that, essential has a ton of work to accomplish. Me personally continuously sent emails and suggestions to their support page and Twitter account.
  • Completely disagree with your one phone experience. My one phone experience has been nothing but positive... No motor vibrations, no app crashes, fast performance, no bloatware!, long battery life, no dents from my drops, and my picture quality are as good as any and love the ease of use of my 360 camera. But the main point that has caused me to become a fan to this company and phone has been the customer service, the transparent honesty on Reddit, and the timely updates. You can sign me up for any Essential accessories or new phone now. If you are disregarding considering this phone as an option, you are doing yourself a dis-service
  • That's called anecdotal evidence
  • i literally needed to make an account and comment here becuase the comments are driving me crazy i've the same exact experience as andrew. and i've contacted essential multiple times to troubleshoot the issues but they have been of very little help. after even doing a full reboot and installing apps one by one, i constantly would have to reboot my phone once a day. the freezing for no apparent reason and constant lags was not worth it at the end and converted to the galaxy s8. couldnt be happier and my phone won't randomly shut off at night.
  • The only thing I can agree with here is the camera app being slow. Otherwise this is a great phone. The build quality is fantastic and screams premium device. It is a beautiful piece of technology. I have note experienced the freezing or stuttering mentioned here, but I am running the Oreo beta so that might have something to do with it. All of the apps that I have on the phone run well. I have not experienced the issues some have mentioned. And battery life, I can not say enough about this phone. Sometimes I can get a day and a half off one charge.
    There were only 16 apps on this phone when I bought it! 16! When I got my Note 5 through AT&T I had to remove (if I could) of force quit at least twice as many bloatware apps. Then, when there was an update, I had to go back and force them to close again. It pisses me off that I purchase an expensive device, like the Note 5 was at the time, but had no say about all the bloatware that was on it. From now on it will either be an Essential phone or a Pixel.
    The OS is smooth and quick, not to say that other OEMs don't provide a smooth interface, and has been a pleasure to use since day one.
    I hope Essential is here to stay.
  • So your only complaint was about so called bloatware? Pcakage Disabler Pro helps with that.
  • Dude it sounds like those that are having a problem need to do a factory reset. It was suggested from multiple outlets after the October update that you should factory reset. I have been a Day 1 customer and I must say at the beginning it was a little sluggish but definitely usable. If you have used Samsung/Pixel phones you know software will have issues. Hell they all have issues they just don't get hammered like the Essential has. But now this phone is awesome. I cannot experience what you are experiencing because like anything if something doesn't perform correctly try resetting first before complaining. Its software anybody who code knows it will never be perfect and that includes Google's babies. The camera app does suck. I must admit but there are tons out there that does a better job with more features. And as far as you claiming that all apps freeze on this phone is a tale tale sign that you need to factory reset. Because the only app that freezes on this phone is "Chrome Dev" which is currently being looked at but its a Dev app so bugs are expected. This is still a top 5 phone when you add up all of the pros.
  • I'm assuming, him being an Android enthusiast, he already did that
  • I so wanted to like this phone but was totally underwhelmed and disappointed when I finally got one. Looked good in pics on the internet, but I just couldn't deal with how small the device and the screen was. I really disliked how the LCD screen looked compared to the Nexus 6 I was coming from. Compared to the N6 it was faster (duh), but just acted strange, screen touches wouldn't register sometimes, apps would crash and most of all I had terrible reception (lte and cdma) on Verizon. The N6 in comparison always had great reception and never had an issue with anything other than being kinda slow, but it is getting old. I only used the Essential as a daily driver for a day and couldn't deal with it any longer, went back to the N6. Side story, I got a Note 8 on new years eve and cant put it down, the N6 is now in the desk drawer.. :-)
  • What is being described as great hardware is really just the case description. That doesn’t constitute great hardware. Most of the problems this phone has is due to very poor hardware execution. That can be mitigated, in some instances, to some extent, but software “fixes” can’t eliminate them. The photos, for example, in the pictures above, are all too dark, and have much too much contrast. They aren’t acceptable, in the sense of looking ok, but are usable, in the sense of being able to tell what’s in the image. In no way are they in the least bit pleasing. That’s the fault of a poor camera. There’s only so much that you can do with poor sensors and SoC camera hardware. It’s said that people and companies get one chance where they are successful. Few get a second chance, and fewer yet make that one successful as well. Andy Rubin got that chance with his first company, Android, when Google bought them. He’s now squandered his second chance.
  • I found this is so beautiful!
  • That's cool design I love this one.
  • I hd one of the initial units at release. I sent it back.
    $699 plus the $99 for two year damage + tax made the phone about $850.
    I ended up buying a LG G6 unlocked; which by the way is a great phone.
    Fast forward to early Dec. Sprint was basically giving away the Essential via a lease.
    The total lease cost was about $150. It did need to stay in Sprint for 50 days for a full unlock.
    So for $250 and having to deal with Sprint for two months I have one of the best phones I've ever owned. Initially there were performance issues with throttling.
    Those are gone and the benchmarks look like what a SD835 should do.
    I have three APS-C cameras so I don't care if the phone isn't as good as an iPhone.
    The iPhone isn't as good as my other three cameras. So as soon as Sprint unlocks my Essential, my LG G6 is going on Swappa.
  • I purchased this phone 3 weeks ago for $340 on ebay, that was one week after reading this article. Why would I do that after having Andrew trash it? It's because after reading this site for close to 6 years, I know Andrew can be heavy handed with his opinion. Luckily he is almost always on point, but you do have to take it with a grain of salt. Now with that said, I love this phone! I really love this phone... and I waited 3 weeks of using it to say it. I'm on beta 3 and things have been pretty damn good. I haven't used the camera a ton, but it seems to be just ok. I came from a Note5 that had a great camera, the PH1... meh. Everything else has been good though. Love the screen... being OLED lover, I didn't think I would, but I do. The phone is super zippy, scrolls smooth, and hasn't crashed an app since I've been on beta 3. The battery life is a huge improvement over my note 5. Frankly, I just flat out dig the hardware, It's beautiful. If you find this for $425 or less, its an absolute steal. For $500 though, I'd prob go with the opo 5t still. Go forth and prosper.
  • ALL CAPS IS OBNOXIOUS... STOP DROPPING YOUR PHONE DUM DUM. Someone is a little bitter ;)
  • I guess he run out of milk for his cornflakes 😂 BTW have the essential and loving it so far. Cheers.
  • Ever since I got the 8.1.0 OTA update my Essential Ph1 has been running like the true Flagship it should have been in the first place. It's fast, smooth, lag free and just a joy to use. If the price went back up to 6 or 700 dollars it would now be worth it. Even the camera works great now. I thank and applaud Essential for they're great work in fixing everything on this great phone.
  • I bought the phone in early January. And, for while experienced a bunch of lags and stuttering, usually when reading news articles from the Google news feed. I have a friend who is a tech support person for LG and she suggested simply clearing the cache and seeing how that helped or didn't. Well, it pretty much ended the problems that I have. I have a lot of cell phones, LG G5, V20, Axon 7, Iphone 6, etc. Each time I switch to them to see if they are working better, I come back to the Essential. They all seem to have issues of some sort. I love the feel of the Essential better than any phone I have had, the apps (80 of them) seem to work well and fast, very fast. Occasionally I get a freeze up but since I started clearing the cache, the phone really zings along. I am glad I have it and would buy another with no hesitation. I did port the Google camera app to it.
  • I'm at a crossroads. I like this article, put it out there, simple truth, and give the pros and cons, no holds barred. However, I don't know which way to go with my new phone purchase. S9+? Pixel XL3? One Plus 6? Essential's next rendition? I want a quality phone, performs well, water proof, not bloated or gimmick filled, and checks all of the basics a smartphone should at this point. You know, stable, gets updates in a timely fashion, great camera. I'm a techy, long time Nexus head but switched to a One Plus 5 after the dismal issues with the Nexus 6P. I don't want to spend a thousand on a phone, and so far the S9+ is as close as it comes. Sure it has some bloat, but it checks the other boxes. I'm holding to see, will Essential come with a new model with all the good stuff, and the kinks worked out? Damn essential is intriguing.