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

PhoneArena Rating:


User Rating:

16 Reviews



1. jellmoo

Posts: 2620; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Oh sweet baby corn, a 4???

34. combatmedic870

Posts: 986; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

whoa....a 4

2. pixel_ftw

Posts: 84; Member since: Jun 19, 2017


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: 2620; 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: 460; 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: 83; Member since: May 02, 2017

4 really? The bias is real

24. libra89

Posts: 2290; 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: 6938; 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: 2051; 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: 669; 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: 182; Member since: Mar 10, 2017

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

18. YeahYeah

Posts: 250; 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: 1354; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

LOL. it Figures

19. lallolu

Posts: 732; 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: 2290; 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.

  • 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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