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Essential Phone Review

Essential Phone

Posted: , by Maxwell R.


Essential Phone Review


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

Essential Phone Review
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.


Beautiful, sleek, smooth, and slippery

Essential Phone Review

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.

Essential Phone Review
Essential Phone Review
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.

Essential Phone Review

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
5.57 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches
141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8 mm
6.53 oz (185 g)

Essential Phone

Samsung Galaxy S8
5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31 inches
148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S8

LG V30
5.97 x 2.97 x 0.29 inches
151.7 x 75.4 x 7.39 mm
5.57 oz (158 g)

LG V30

Apple iPhone 7
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
4.87 oz (138 g)

Apple iPhone 7

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


Pleasant to behold, but not very bright

Essential Phone Review

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.

  • Options

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:06 20

1. jellmoo (Posts: 2109; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)

Oh sweet baby corn, a 4???

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 09:12 2

34. combatmedic870 (Posts: 944; Member since: 02 Sep 2015)

whoa....a 4

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:10 3

2. pixel_ftw (Posts: 49; Member since: 19 Jun 2017)


posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:10 10

3. Tech-shake (Posts: 56; Member since: 14 Nov 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!

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 22:27 2

116. joey_sfb (Posts: 6744; Member since: 29 Mar 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.

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:12 14

5. NoToFanboys (Posts: 3144; Member since: 03 Oct 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

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:14 11

8. jellmoo (Posts: 2109; Member since: 31 Oct 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.

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 09:48 5

42. NoToFanboys (Posts: 3144; Member since: 03 Oct 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.

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:57

29. g2a5b0e (Posts: 3910; Member since: 08 Jun 2012)

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

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 09:49 2

43. NoToFanboys (Posts: 3144; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)

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

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 10:04 1

46. g2a5b0e (Posts: 3910; Member since: 08 Jun 2012)

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?

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 09:19 3

37. cocoy (Posts: 73; Member since: 30 Oct 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.

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:13 10

6. thetruthhasbeenspoken (Posts: 39; Member since: 02 May 2017)

4 really? The bias is real

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:41 1

24. libra89 (Posts: 1011; Member since: 15 Apr 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.

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:13 21

7. maherk (Posts: 4984; Member since: 10 Feb 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.

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 09:33 4

39. ph00ny (Posts: 1554; Member since: 26 May 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

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 11:38

63. medtxa (Posts: 1373; Member since: 02 Jun 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.

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:16 3

9. Rocket (Posts: 470; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)

4? really i dont think thats right.

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:16 4

10. black.inco (Posts: 34; Member since: 09 Aug 2017)

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

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:26 4

14. PhoneInQuestion (Posts: 203; Member since: 20 Aug 2017)

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

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:19 4

12. HansP (Posts: 209; Member since: 16 Oct 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?

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:24 1

13. MaryPoopins (Posts: 222; Member since: 15 Jan 2015)


*grabs popcorn*

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:28

16. PhoneInQuestion (Posts: 203; Member since: 20 Aug 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.

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:31

17. jonathanfiuwx (Posts: 27; Member since: 10 Mar 2017)

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

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:33 2

18. YeahYeah (Posts: 75; Member since: 16 Mar 2016)

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

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 11:34

61. medtxa (Posts: 1373; Member since: 02 Jun 2014)

Since S8 can have it at same price.

posted on 14 Sep 2017, 11:07

119. PhoneCritic (Posts: 1049; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)

LOL. it Figures

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:34

19. lallolu (Posts: 566; Member since: 18 Sep 2012)

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

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:36 6

20. Nicoglx (Posts: 4; Member since: 23 Aug 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.

posted on 13 Sep 2017, 08:42 2

26. libra89 (Posts: 1011; Member since: 15 Apr 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.

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PhoneArena rating:
Display5.7 inches, 1312 x 2560 pixels (504 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera13 megapixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2450 MHz, Kryo 280 processor
Size5.57 x 2.80 x 0.31 inches
(141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8 mm)
6.53 oz  (185 g)

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