Is the Essential Phone Good? – Product ReviewJune 14, 2018
After a year on the market, numerous updates and a permanent price drop of $200USD, Is the Essential Phone Good?.
Its founder Andy Rubin helped create Android and with the help of a few ex Apple and Google guys and girls, have created a timelessly designed phone with a Stock Android experience. If you have a spare $499.99 you would be crazy to not consider the Essential Phone in 2018.
Product – Essential Phone
Cheapest Place to Buy – Amazon.com
- Timeless Design
- First Near Bezel-less Display
- Stock Android
- No headphone Jack
- Lack of Accessory Port Support
- Average Camera
In 2017 the specs of the Essential Phone lined up with most phones released at the same time. Inside you will find:
- Display – 5.7-inch LCD, 2560×1312 (505 ppi) / Corning Gorilla Glass 5
- Chipset – Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 / 2.45GHz octa-core Kryo 280 CPU / Adreno 540 GPU / RAM 4GB
- Storage – 128GB (UFS 2.1) / Non-expandable
- Rear Cameras – Dual 13MP camera (color + monochrome) / f/1.85 lens, phase-detect + laser auto focus / 4K video at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps or 720p at 120fps
- Front Camera – 8MP with f/2.2 lens / 4K video at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps or 720p at 120fps
- Battery – 3040mAh / Non-removable
- Charging – USB-C fast charging
- Waterproof – No
- Connectivity – 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 LE / NFC, GPS and GLONASS
- Accessory – power pins with 6 Gbps wireless data transfer
- Security – One-touch rear fingerprint sensor
- Audio – Single down-firing speaker / USB-C to 3.5 mm headphone adapter included
Honestly one of the best features of the Essential Phone is the striking design. Its timeless and even though this phone is almost a year old, design wise it still competes with a lot of new flag ships. The quality of the materials used here and the hand feel of the titanium and ceramic chassis is something truly unique, it feels very premium.
The near bezeless design of this phone and “top-notch” came out a few months before the I Phone X, making this phone one of the first phones to include the “top-notch” and essentially show other phone manufacturers what could be done. The screen is 5.7-inch with a 2,560 x 1,312 display and fits into a chassis that is only slightly larger, truly an engineering marvel.
Using titanium around the frame in theory gives this phone better durability than the usual aluminum that other manufacturers opt to use. The rear of this phone is a glossy ceramic that is cool to touch with a central Fingerprint Scanner that works as good as most flagships, depending on the color you choose, your fingerprints will show up more distinct or less. You can get the phone in a few colors : Black Moon, Pure White, Stellar Gray and an Amazon exclusive Halo Gray. One thing that I personally find a big plus is the absence of any sort of branding on the rear, this allows a clean finish and I hope other manufacturers are taking notes.
A feature that I and many of you find “ESSENTIAL” is a headphone jack, you won’t find one on this device haha. It looks like the whole world is going wireless and the essential phone is no different. One big plus, is the inclusion of USB-C which I am all for in 2018. I predict in 2018-2019 we are going to see a complete switch to USB-C across all mobile devices not branded with an Apple Logo
Essential have chosen to go with an LCD panel, to be honest it doesn’t really compare to the Super AMOLED displays Samsung has on its phones but at its refreshed price point, you shouldn’t really expect it too. Compared to other phones that are a similar size to the Essential Phone, Essential has a higher ratio of screen to bezel, this makes it a pleasant experience when consuming different media and it gets the job done with a decent resolution and quality.
When you talk about phones with minimal bezels, you have to mention the fact that it either makes the phone more immersive or less immersive, the Essential phone is somewhere in the middle. This is due to the fact that unlike the Samsung line there is no zoom option to spread out video and certain apps to take advantage of the full display. Also, there are few apps in the play store that take advantage of the top-notch and end up just cutting out the entire top section, this makes for a fairly average experience.
Due to the use of an LCD screen you won’t be able to take advantage of any VR experiences like Google Daydream, but that is neither here nor there and is a very niche market.
You won’t be getting the black blacks that you get with an AMOLED display but all in all the display is stunning and is truly an eye catching feature of this phone. It is competent at the day to day tasks that 99% of consumers will be using it for.
You have dual 13 megapixel cameras at the back and an 8 megapixel camera in the front. This phone can also record
video in 4K. You will see a lot of articles online bashing this camera set up, but in all honestly the camera isn’t that bad at all, in my opinion it’s was and is comparative to all the other smartphone cameras from 2017.
The software on the other hand is what lets the camera down, at launch the camera app was a nightmare to use, it was slow on start up and very slow at processing images, incrementally over the last year Essential have been updating and tweaking the app for a better user experience. The camera app still isn’t amazing but its usable and you can get some pretty decent images out of it.
The dual camera set up is becoming more and more common and the way Essential implements the dual camera is a bit unique. One of the cameras is capable of shooting in both color and black and white, and the other is only capable of shooting in monochrome. Both cameras do a respectable job and with a f/1.85 aperture (all that means is it lets more light into the sensor) you can produce some amazing results at night and during the day. The front facing 8 MP camera should be enough to take a solid selfie but that’s about it.
I was going to dedicate a full section to the Essential Phones modular add-on capabilities, but as of writing this article (almost year after release) the only add-on available is a 360 degree camera. At the rear of the phone there is 2 metal indents that contain very strong magnets. You attach the 360 camera to the back of the phone by lining up the 2 metals pins with the indents in the phone and the magnets hold it in place. The performance of the 360 camera is decent and adds an extra layer to this phone that others don’t have
Performance and Power
On board you will find a 3040 mAh battery that you can’t remove, this is pretty standard by 2017 standards. You also have the Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM and a decent 128GB of storage which is more than enough for the average user. This phone will be able to handle the average daily commute, social media browsing, bit of gaming, media streaming, document creating and taking the odd photo here and there. It has a single down firing speaker that performs as well as a single downfiring speaker should.
As far as performance goes this phone is comparable to the Galaxy Note 8, which is no slouch. It doesn’t have as much RAM as current Gen phones but its not noticeable at all. You will get a full day of use out of the phone and if you need to charge this bad boy, it has Fast Charging via USB-C and you can fully charge the device in 1 hour via one of the highest output chargers I have seen.
If you use the 360 camera attachment it is very power hungry and will drain the battery very quickly, one of the big drawbacks of this type of attachment is it draws power from the phone to run the camera and then transfers data wirelessly over Bluetooth. You can see how it would drain a battery real quick.
Overall the performance your get from this chip set and battery combo is above average and more than enough for most.
If you purchase the Essential Phone today, it will come with Android 8.1 Oreo and on this phone it is bare bones stock Android. This is by far the best feature of the phone, it even trumps the bezel-less design. If you have never used stock Android before, then you are missing out.
Unlike iOs, Android can be skinned by manufactures to provide their own unique experience. When manufacturers do
this it most often than not, slows down standard Android UI, Fills the phone with bloatware, adds extra strain on the chip set and drains the battery faster.
Stock Android is one of, if not the fastest User Interface on the market when paired with the type of performance you get with the Essential Phone. There is less bloatware, makes phones run smoother and faster, visually better (if you like stock Android) and you receive faster updates from Google. It is truly liberating using a phone with stock Android for the first time and to be honest, can’t really be explained until you play with one for yourself.
At Launch the price of the Essential Phone was a big turnoff, you were looking at a $700USD phone that contained the bare minimum and performed terribly out of the gate.
Almost a year down the line and a massive permanent $200USD price reduction the Essential Phone becomes a real bargain. Seriously, name another phone with the timeless design and stock android experience of this phone, that you can pick up for $499.99USD ?? Not many, if any.
Should You Buy?
Most brand new phone companies don’t really knock it out of the park on their first go round and Essential unfortunately isn’t the exception to the rule. Is the Essential Phone good? Absolutely, can it compete with The Galaxy S9 or IPhone X? Not even close.
The thing is, if you have are looking at the Essential Phone then you aren’t in the market for an IPhone X or a flagship Samsung. At the price point of $499.99USD even with all its flaws it’s hard to not consider the Essential Phone as your next phone.
Do you like the Essential Phone ? What phone feature do you think is Essential ? Comment below and let me know