Interface and Functionality

Stock Android and no bloat

Essential Phone Review

One of the core elements of Andy Rubin’s vision for Essential is not forcing its customers to endure unwanted software or services on their devices. It could be argued that it makes the decision to go with a stock Android build to be more fundamental, rather than “essential,” but the result is a clean, unobtrusive interface that delivers swift performance.

Android purists and general consumers alike will appreciate the no-frills approach. Google’s apps and services are more than capable to manage the fundamentals (there’s that word again) and provide a uniform experience.

The caveat in taking such a direction is that the feature set is much smaller than what may be found on competing premium smartphones from HTC, LG, or Samsung.

One conceivable advantage to using stock Android (except for the camera app) is being able to provide prompt updates. Whether that will prove to be the case remains to be seen. The Essential phone ships with Android 7.1.1. Now that Android 8.0 Oreo is just entering the stage, we will have to wait and see how soon the Essential phone receives system updates.

Unfortunately, with our retail unit, the high-end hardware and top-of-the-line specifications do not seem to be perfectly tuned to leverage the buttery-smooth performance of the Android UI or many of the popular Android apps. For whatever reason, our Essential phone would exhibit some stuttered performance, across multiple apps, then it would clear up as spontaneously as it began. We never could replicate it on demand.

Some of that performance may be attributed to the touch screen not being 100% responsive, a frustrating affair which also proved very hard to duplicate. We know that we are not the only ones experiencing the issue, but as of the time of this writing, no known root cause has been found, nor has there been any acknowledgment from Essential. Outside of that, however, there is something hampering performance, whether using popular social media apps like Facebook or Twitter, or the Essential’s own camera app – easily the worst offender out of the bunch.

Processor & Memory


It is a shame to see such performance hiccups too, because beneath the tidy dress of this Essential phone is the current crop of top-shelf specifications, including Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 835 CPU, and Adreno 540 GPU. Those components get by with 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of non-expandable storage.

During the periods of usage where we did not observe any jitters in performance, the Essential phone feels very fast, on par with the class leaders. Though, it does not run away from the pack in any particular performance area, as evidenced from our benchmark scores.

AnTuTu Higher is better
Essential Phone 157483
Samsung Galaxy S8 166646.66
LG V30 174456
Apple iPhone 7 168795
JetStream Higher is better
Essential Phone 61.371
Samsung Galaxy S8 55.503
LG V30 55.338
Apple iPhone 7 144.71
Basemark OS II Higher is better
Essential Phone 3202
Samsung Galaxy S8 3201.66
LG V30 2690
Apple iPhone 7 3355
Geekbench 4 single-core Higher is better
Essential Phone 1905
Samsung Galaxy S8 2008.33
LG V30 1903
Apple iPhone 7 3464
Geekbench 4 multi-core Higher is better
Essential Phone 6231
Samsung Galaxy S8 6575
LG V30 6495
Apple iPhone 7 5605

Connectivity


Essential Phone Review

The Essential phone steps into the ring with a single USB Type-C port and a dual-power pin accessory port, designed for modular add-ons like Essential’s 360-degree camera. Those that want to use a corded set of headphones will not find a 3.5mm jack, and must instead use the included (and handsome) braided adapter. The adapter supports line-in microphone equipped headsets, so you can make and receive calls.

In terms of cellular connectivity, the Essential phone supports all the common GSM, CDMA, and LTE frequency bands, including those of Sprint, the only US carrier that sells the device. We used the Essential phone with AT&T’s network in Northern California and experienced no connectivity issues. Bluetooth 5.0 is along for the ride, as is 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi.

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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: 2264; 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: 6746; 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: 2013; 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: 635; 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: 2264; 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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