Introduction


The creator of Android, Andy Rubin, was instrumental in changing the world of technology as we know it. The Android ecosystem alone has catapulted advances in technology few might have imagined. However, for all the benefits gained over the past decade, it also fomented what Mr. Rubin called a "weird new world."

It was that “weird new world” that gave Mr. Rubin an epiphany, and prompted him to create a new series of products that take the “weird” out of that new world. In furtherance of that goal, he created Essential. The result is the company’s first product, the Essential phone, which can best be described as “simple.”

There is more to the Essential PH-1 (PH-one, phone, we see what they did there) than mere simplicity, but it is a good place to start. The beginning of such journeys usually reveal areas that need some improvement and refined development, and that is the case here.

In the box:

  • Essential phone
  • Quick charge adapter
  • Braided USB Type-C to Type-C cable
  • Braided USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio jack adapter
  • SIM tool

Customer Experience

Not the smoothest execution

We acquired the Essential Phone through the company’s online reservation and order system. On the day Essential notified us that orders could be made in mid-August, we confirmed the order, rendered payment, and waited. Then we waited some more.

Two weeks later, the phone finally shipped, direct from its point of manufacture in China. We reserved and ordered the 360-camera too, but that transaction was handled separately. We will have a full review of that modular piece in the very near future.

In broad strokes, those logistics were handled okay, but the long period of time between order processing, payment, and shipping was nowhere near anything that could be described as ideal in 2017. The lack of proactive communication was no treat either. Yes, this can be chalked up to new-company-growing-pains, but the bell-curve for such errors has shrunk dramatically. Essential used its mulligan.

Design

Beautiful, sleek, smooth, and slippery


There is a lot to talk about this device’s design. As you have no doubt read or seen already, the Essential phone is a beautifully stunning piece of hardware. The build quality is the stand-out feature, and it arguably surpasses every other flagship on the market today in that area.

The Essential phone is a monolithic slab, simple in nature, yet elegant in execution. There are no discernibly tactile seams anywhere except where the buttons are set on the side, and where the fingerprint sensor resides on the back.

Gorilla Glass 5 protects the display on the front, and on the back, a lusciously smooth, mirrorlike plate of ceramic. As pretty as it is, and with its ability to show off that high-polish luster, it is equally good at showing off fingerprints, which should come as no surprise. Those two pieces sandwich a titanium body whose overall dimensions are only millimeters bigger than an iPhone 7, but pack a display that is a full inch larger. Use of such premium materials fits one of the tenants of Andy Rubin’s vision.

These compact dimensions do not translate to a compact weight, however. The Essential is a substantial smartphone in the hand, weighing in nearly two full ounces heavier than the aforementioned iPhone, and about an ounce-and-a-half more than a Samsung Galaxy S8. Those do not look like big numbers, but to put it in context, the Essential phone weighs just 0.3 ounces (10 grams) less than a Samsung Galaxy Note8, a device that is physically about 20-percent bigger. The point being, the feel of the Essential in the hand is immediately evident. That is not a bad thing, Essential crammed a ton of hardware in a svelte form factor, and the sensation exudes premium build quality.

That sensation also exudes a sense of super slipperiness. Thankfully, the smaller size makes it easier to use the Essential one-handed, as long as you are grasping it.

The volume rocker and power/lock buttons are sufficiently tactile, but we do wish the latter had some texture so it could be more easily differentiated from the former. The flat edges make the Essential easy to pick up, and no camera bump means nothing is rockin’-and-rollin’ when you set it down.


Everything in the physical experience of the Essential phone feels smooth. The SIM tray is along the bottom of the device, along with the USB-C port. What is glaringly missing is a 3.5mm headphone jack. Now, we know this issue has probably been beaten to dust, but frankly, the Essential phone misses on a fundamental, and essential element of the smartphone experience. For as good as Bluetooth is getting, some people simply do not want to be bothered with A) Having another accessory to charge, or B) Having to deal with a separate USB-C/3.5mm dongle (no matter how nice it looks) to use their trusty corded earphones.

In fact, from the current state of Essential’s web-site, there is no means for buying a replacement 3.5mm adapter should you lose the one that comes with the device. Again, that could be argued as an “essential” item to have available. Other features that have found themselves as somewhat in-demand, at least in the American market, is wireless charging and some type of water and dust proofing. Alas, those features are absent from the Essential phone as well.

Essential Phone

Essential Phone

Dimensions

5.57 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches

141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8 mm

Weight

6.53 oz (185 g)

Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung Galaxy S8

Dimensions

5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31 inches

148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm

Weight

5.47 oz (155 g)

LG V30

LG V30

Dimensions

5.97 x 2.97 x 0.29 inches

151.7 x 75.4 x 7.39 mm

Weight

5.57 oz (158 g)

Apple iPhone 7

Apple iPhone 7

Dimensions

5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches

138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm

Weight

4.87 oz (138 g)

Essential Phone

Essential Phone

Dimensions

5.57 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches

141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8 mm

Weight

6.53 oz (185 g)

Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung Galaxy S8

Dimensions

5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31 inches

148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm

Weight

5.47 oz (155 g)

LG V30

LG V30

Dimensions

5.97 x 2.97 x 0.29 inches

151.7 x 75.4 x 7.39 mm

Weight

5.57 oz (158 g)

Apple iPhone 7

Apple iPhone 7

Dimensions

5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches

138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm

Weight

4.87 oz (138 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page



Display

Pleasant to behold, but not very bright


The hard-edged brick design of the Essential phone means you are presented with all of the display, no curved edges for the LCD panel. Save for the small chin on the bottom, and the cutout for the front facing camera, there are virtually no bezels to be found on this device.

That makes the 5.7-inch display appear deceptively small given the physical size of the Essential phone. As far as the divot for the front facing camera, unless you remain obsessed with its placement, you begin overlooking it almost immediately upon using the device. The 19:10 aspect ratio with 2560 x 1312 resolution is something new, but owed to the design which basically extends the display all the way to the top of the device where a forehead-bezel would be found on other smartphones.

The upper corners of the display are rounded, a-la the LG G6 or Samsung Galaxy S8. The bottom corners are too, albeit more sharply. The asymmetrical arrangement does not detract from viewability or usability. The limited screen-brightness does, however, and in bright outdoor conditions, the display just cannot punch out enough visibility.

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134 Comments

1. jellmoo

Posts: 2541; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Oh sweet baby corn, a 4???

34. combatmedic870

Posts: 983; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

whoa....a 4

2. pixel_ftw

Posts: 83; Member since: Jun 19, 2017

Yikes.

3. Tech-shake

Posts: 213; Member since: Nov 14, 2016

I have never agreed with phonearena reviews previously, but I am totally on board with this phone. The essential phone misses the essentials of a decent phones nowadays!

116. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

I have watched multiple reviews, everyone mention that the main camera picture quality is average and a recent camera update made it better. Not sure about the hate though. Maybe the pricing or the high expectation. I would buy a XiaoMi Mix or this when it's more accessible.

5. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I know this phone is inferior compared to the iPhone 7/8 series and Galaxy S8/Note8, but I don't think it deserves a lowly 4. Maybe 6.5 IMO

8. jellmoo

Posts: 2541; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

With those specs and running stock Android it suffers from stutters and performance issues, I'd say a 4 is warranted, especially at that price. What they should do is revisit itin a few months to see if Software Updates fix that and the camera app.

42. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

To be fair that low of a score should be given to phones with lots of hardware issues. Yes I fully agree that they should revisit this one with the updates.

29. g2a5b0e unregistered

How can you rate the device when you've never used it before?

43. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Hence the "maybe", and haven't you heard of something they call "educated guess"?

46. g2a5b0e unregistered

Of course I have, but it doesn't make any sense to rate or even guess what you might rate a device prior to using it. Do you do that with movies too?

37. cocoy

Posts: 455; Member since: Oct 30, 2015

I agree that the "4" rating is very low maybe 6.5 or 7 but giving 4 is way much lower and maybe bias for the company and the phone itself.

6. thetruthhasbeenspoken

Posts: 82; Member since: May 02, 2017

4 really? The bias is real

24. libra89

Posts: 2265; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Considering it's faults for the high price tag, it is justified. No excuse for a $700 phone to not only have stutters in performance but also a meh camera. There are SO many phones that do better for equal or less money.

7. maherk

Posts: 6749; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

No wireless charging is now a con? Lmao And it costs 700 dollars, it is considered cheap when compared to other flagships. Also ip certificate is also a con? And what does costumer service has to do with reviewing a phone? Apart from the average camera, this is another terrible and biased review by PA. And for all the Apple trolls who always criticize us when we complain about PA's bias, remember how we always say that something will become a thing in PA's book once Apple "innovate" it? Well take a look at this review and you'll get it why we say that. Next year when the iPhone 9 also gets OLED screen, PA will find no reason to defend LCD screens no more and will use it as a con every time a phone isn't equipped with AMOLED displays.

39. ph00ny

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 26, 2011

I think you're on point. Also the screen cutout up top wasn't mentioned in the con. Not sure if that's due to iphone x having a huge one or because it's tiny one for the ffc

63. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

It's con when other phone can have it at same price. 'average' is polite way to say its a crap especially at the price where you always expect near perfect camera performance.

9. Rocket

Posts: 636; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

4? really i dont think thats right.

10. black.inco unregistered

I have very little words, other than if the phone was named differently it would have probably gotten a higher score.

14. PhoneInQuestion

Posts: 496; Member since: Aug 20, 2017

Conveniently give this phone a '4' after the iPhone 8/8+ and X are announced...

12. HansP

Posts: 542; Member since: Oct 16, 2011

This reeks of a deliberately bad "review". The phone you had was broken and you kept the review going. Did you break it yourself, one has to wonder?

13. MaryPoopins

Posts: 324; Member since: Jan 15, 2015

4? *grabs popcorn*

16. PhoneInQuestion

Posts: 496; Member since: Aug 20, 2017

I'd give this a 6.5 for the email phishing debacle. '4' is stretching it, but, I'm not likely buying a phone from someone who can't handle emails without screwing everyone over.

17. jonathanfiuwx

Posts: 179; Member since: Mar 10, 2017

all of what you described sounds like a software update is needed to fix the bugs

18. YeahYeah

Posts: 249; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

Since when No wireless charging is a con... Oh i remember, since iphone x.. Joke site

61. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

Since S8 can have it at same price.

119. PhoneCritic

Posts: 1345; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

LOL. it Figures

19. lallolu

Posts: 731; Member since: Sep 18, 2012

The software is the problem of this phone. It needs serious work. Hopefully, they are up to the task.

20. Nicoglx

Posts: 15; Member since: Aug 23, 2017

I have never seen a PA review with any comments about customer serivce. There's something strange about this review. Android Authority gave it an 8.

26. libra89

Posts: 2265; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

To be fair, I'm guessing that Phone Arena did not have access to a review unit so they had to order one, which explains this section.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Phone
  • Display 5.7" 1312 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2450 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 3040 mAh

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