Call quality

Call quality with the Essential phone is excellent. The earpiece resides within a tiny sliver ensconced just above the front facing camera. Sound quality and volume was more than adequate for the phone calls we made and received.

Since the device uses Google’s stock Android dialer, you get to enjoy all the benefits that are available, such as spam-call flagging, and the ability to use Google search within the app.

Even with the blocky, and heavier form factor, the Essential phone is easy to hold, and the volume rockers are responsive to input during calls. In all, there is nothing unusual about the calling experience.

Battery Life

For a device that is only a few millimeters larger than a regular iPhone 7, Essential managed to pack a battery that is 45-percent larger than the cell found in the iPhone. At 3040mAh, the Essential phone has more than enough juice to get you through a day, but heavy users may get a little anxious by the end of a long day. There is no wireless charging, but the Essential phone does ship with a beefy 27W charger. Coupled with fast charging, you will have no trouble refueling your device in a short period of time.

With efficient processors on board, and stock Android having become a bit more frugal with its demands over the years, the Essential phone’s battery life is better than adequate. In fact, you could say it covers the essentials, but it does not break any new ground.


The Essential phone is a beautifully crafted piece of technology. Despite the bugs, the device feels really, really good in the hand. The phone’s design works. The screen’s design works too, regardless of concerns one might have had with the front facing camera placement. Unfortunately, that is where the allure begins, and ends.

The beautiful ceramic backplate is a fingerprint magnet of monumental proportions. The display has that annoying twitch of not always being responsive. Lightning fast performance runs into simply weird hiccups that escape explanation given the silicon inside, and the stock UI outside.

We have probably said enough about the cameras, but even if that is not your primary feature concern, you should probably avoid the Essential phone anyway. The same monochrome photo features can be found on equally attractive hardware, like the Honor 9, or last year’s Honor 8, each of which can be purchased for a fraction of the price, and a fraction of the headache.

Between the disjointed customer experience, funky logistics of broken shipping deadlines, and half-baked execution of some of the software, the Essential PH-1 commands a $699 price tag on good looks alone. Based on that, every other flagship, be it the HTC U11, LG V30, any of the Samsung Galaxies, even last year’s Google Pixel, are a better value with no real sacrifices, and offer practical gains in features.

For a device whose mission was to handle the “essentials,” it gets some of the “basics” right, and misses some of the “fundamentals” altogether. The Essential phone is beautiful though, unfortunately, beauty is only skin deep.


  • Build quality that is a step above everything else
  • Stock Android and the desirable Google features that come with it
  • Plenty of storage


  • High price reflects cost of materials, and little else
  • Stunted and wonky performance during basic user interactions
  • Screen responsiveness not consistent
  • Picture quality does not measure up
  • The Essential camera app is a disaster
  • Hit-or-miss customer experience
  • No wireless charging
  • No water or dust resistance

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