Essential Phone

I published my initial Essential Phone review on August 18. 11 days later, after a few more software updates and extra time with it, I solidified the review with my final thoughts on the phone. But somehow, today, as we hit one month since Essential deemed its phones available and ready to review, the phone still doesn't seem ... complete. Though the Essential Phone is technically available, on sale, and in some consumers' hands, it doesn't feel like it's really out there yet.

Essential Phone and 360-degree camera

Nobody outside of Essential knows how many phones have been ordered, or how that number differs from how many have been made. But we know it isn't millions — or, probably, over fifty thousand if we're being realistic about it. Add to that the extremely narrow scope of its retail launch and the initial shipping delays, and it's not surprising that the Essential Phone feels like it's still stuck in first gear.

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But as someone who's been using the Essential Phone for over a month, and dealing with its clearly unfinished software, that's probably for the best. This past week my Essential Phone received both an 888MB full OS update and a subsequent 71MB bug fix update. Two in a line of roughly 10 OTAs I've received in the past month — necessary, badly needed updates. Most focused on the camera, which is still below the standard of a $700 phone, but also squashing important bugs and improving overall stability. Using the Essential Phone today is far and away a better experience than a month ago; and it still doesn't feel like a completed product that should actually be on sale, to say nothing of being on sale at this price.

At some point we expect a proper, finished product — how long do we wait?

For all of the talk historically about Google's Nexus phones (and to a lesser extent, Pixels) being for "beta testers," the Essential Phone feels like it's truly in beta — and when I got my hands on it, it was in alpha. The question is, at this point, how much longer do we wait for Essential to figure this out? How much longer do we keep looking at the promise and potential of this company and just measure it on what it's actually offering: a phone that looks and feels beautiful, but offers what would be considered a subpar software experience in a $400 phone two years ago.

On one hand, companies love having as long a time in the spotlight as possible. "There's no such thing as bad news coverage" and such. And indeed, Essential has been able to ride months of coverage and interest for what is a single phone with a few redeeming qualities but also a general consensus that it just isn't good enough for the price and posturing. But at some point, we need the Essential Phone to actually be finished, and offering a complete experience without the beta-feeling software and unfulfilled promises. That's how you actually sell a meaningful number of phones and start to justify your company's $1 billion valuation.

And, with that, let's hit a few more quick points from the week that was:

  • Alex absolutely killed it on his initial review of the LG V30. Looks like a great phone, and even if it isn't necessarily a direct competitor to the Galaxy Note 8 it looks like one of the top devices of 2017.
  • It will, of course, have competition from the Google Pixel XL 2 set to be unveiled on October 4. Can't wait!
  • Now well removed from IFA, I'm excited to spend more than a couple hours with the Moto X4 — it could be a fantastic phone for the sub-flagship segment.
  • Finally got around to writing about the Peak Design Everyday Sling I've been using for a couple months. Love this bag for "everyday carry" use.
  • I also have an Everyday Backpack ... but due to its larger size I haven't used that as often — though it's been great for weekend trips ... and saving my shoulder(s) on my trip to Berlin last month.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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