- Julian Chokkattu , Digital Trends
The Essential Phone is an Android phone that nails it with design, performance, and software.
- Karissa Bell , Mashable
Even though the Essential Phone is, for now, far from perfect, it's hard not to be excited about what it could be.
- Crisp, bezel-free display
- Solid, attractive design
- Powerful performance
- Plenty of internal storage
- No microSD support
- No headphone jack
- Camera software issues
- Questionable future of modular add-ons
It’s rare to see new faces in the mobile market. Especially new faces challenging the flagship behemoths on their first release. But Essential’s pedigree involves one of Android’s original founders and a handful of ex-Apple and ex-Google experts.
The phone’s received endless hype since it was announced and the spec sheet looks great. Despite a few release delays, this much-anticipated phone is now available.
How’s this disruptive, minimalist phone sitting with reviewers? Let’s dig in and see what everyone is saying!
The Essential Phone distinguishes itself from the pack out of the gate with a unique choice of materials. The phone doesn’t use the typical aluminum or glass, instead opting for ceramic and titanium.
It appears this decision paid off as reviewers raved about the stylish design and how the phone feels in the hand.
Android and Me declared, “The Essential Phone feels absolutely phenomenal without a single bit of exaggeration.” Engadget noted, “[The phone] feels dense, in a reassuring sort of way.”
Reviewers had no trouble with scratching or grip. Though some noted the ceramic back attracted fingerprints.
The only design complaint from reviewers was the lack of water resistance as this feature is common in today’s flagship market.
Heading around front, reviews continue to stay positive. The phone’s 5.7-inch 2560-by-1312 pixel LCD panel wowed reviewers for both color reproduction and clarity. The screen fills nearly every inch of the front of the phone—including the areas around the front-facing camera. Engadget noted, “It's almost impossible at first not to gawk at the PH-1's screen.”
Many reviewers questioned whether the camera floating in their notification bar would create problems. Fortunately, no one had any issues.
With an octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM, the phone sits on par with many of 2017’s most popular flagship releases. Paired with a near-stock version of Android 7.1.1, reviewers had no complaints about performance.
The phone is also confirmed to get Android 8.0 Oreo soon.
You won’t find a microSD slot to take advantage of Android’s adoptable storage. However, with 128GB of internal storage, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.
Reviewers had little trouble getting a full day out of the 3,040mAh battery either. Digital Trends noted, “Starting at 8 a.m., with medium to heavy usage including browsing the web, taking lots of photos, watching a few YouTube videos, and playing a game, the battery reached 30 percent by 6 p.m.”
Should you need to top off during the day, the 27-watt USB Type-C charger offers as much as 30% in only 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. The camera left most reviewers wanting more. While the 13MP dual-lens rear camera and 8MP front-facing lens sound great on paper. Most reviews noted issues with shutter lag, poor low-light performance and muddy colors.
The Next Web said, “I’ve had better shooting experiences on midrange phones. Fortunately, it mainly seems to come down to software… I installed Google’s camera app for the Pixel, and the results are night and day.”
Many of the later reviewers noticed a considerable difference in picture quality as patches rolled out. In time, picture quality might improve. For now, most reviewers had trouble recommending the phone for those looking for a good camera experience.
Some reviewers also criticized the lack of 3.5mm headphone jack. However, those that tested the included USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter had no complaints.
Modular attachments are still a mystery. At release, only one is available and none of the reviewers tested it. However, general opinions seem to be that the design will leave greater flexibility in mod options once they appear.
Overall, reviewers were split on recommending the device. If you’re looking for a top-notch photo experience, the Essential Phone isn’t there yet. Otherwise, reviewers felt it brought a lot of value to the table.
Engadget summed up opinions well, saying, “It's an exceptionally crafted device and a stunning first effort from a company that didn't exist 18 months ago. While the PH-1 stands as a testament to Rubin's vision, a few shortcomings keep it from being as truly great as promised.”
Reviews (7.7/10 Avg. rating)
Not the smoothest execution
We deserve more than this unfinished phone
Not very essential
On paper, the Essential PH-1 seems like it would be a winner in almost every category. From the gorgeous and stylish build, to the extensive care that has gone into the design and material choices for the phone, there’s little on the outside to make you think this would be a bad experience. Even the benchmark results and internal components fit within the frame of a $700 phone, however this facade breaks down once the phone is used. You’ll find little to justify the high price tag, no matter if we’re talking features or the overall experience, and the whole package feels m... Full review
No one said hardware was easy
A stunning phone that feels incomplete
Beautiful but not fully baked
Does so much right on its first try
The Essential Phone gets so much right, but most importantly it’s a joy to use. Our biggest gripe with it right now is the camera experience, but if a promised software update fixes it, then we’ll update our score. Buy this phone if you care about fast Android version and security updates, and a pure Android experience. You also get a phone with an excellent build quality and materials, with super-fast performance and decent battery life. If you’re looking for more camera features and overall a more reliable smartphone camera, we recommend either waiting to see if the soft... Full review
A beautiful blank slate
From its impeccable fit and finish to its impressive bezel-less design, the Essential PH-1 is a truly beautiful smartphone. Even better, it boasts impressive performance and battery life, not to mention one of the cleanest Android experiences you'll find out there. Unfortunately, smartphone cameras have gotten so good that Essential's purely OK shooter will frustrate some. The lack of certain popular niceties, like a headphone jack and water resistance, also make the PH-1 a tougher sell than expected. All told, this is a phenomenal first try and an undeniably solid device, but we're really... Full review
An absolute joy to use
The Essential Phone doesn’t pack every feature of modern flagships, but it doesn’t need to. It’s a fresh, unique take on a flagship that puts a focus on experience rather than features. With high-end specs and stock Android, the speed and usability is fantastic. The dual camera setup performs very well. The battery life is above average. The screen is beautiful. And best of all, it looks and feels special. The phone stands out in the current market, which bodes well for a newcomer. People ask what it is when they see it; even strangers recognize that it’s not the usu... Full review
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