When it comes to a brand which has no track record for giving smartphones, the Essential Phone is quite an impressive offering in its first attempt.
This phone is officially termed as Essential PH-1, is quite phenomenal and it looks like a slab of glass and ceramic which seems quite basic in what it is trying to achieve, but it does come with a variety of features which is not quite ready to showcase yet. It does have lot of other significant offerings which we will discuss later.
With launch price at $699, it is quite a bold move for this new player in the market of smartphone, especially comparing with the success of OnePlus.
You might take edge-to-edge screens of the phone like Essential Phone for granted in coming future, but right now it is something attractive and special. There is a special cutout at the top of the selfie camera along with a couple of sensors, which is shaped like U, also segmenting the status bar in half, all the way between the notifications and radio status icons.
Its cyclops eye may seem distracting, but from our experience, it is almost insignificant after some time. In most smartphones based on Android, the screen is not the significant detail, and most of the apps are kept in truly full screen letterboxed in. In most cases, you will experience something like an image which will be full screen and will feel like cut off by the camera, but it is not that common. The important aspect of Essential Phone is its screen. It is LCD instead of OLED which means that this phone is not up to the mark when it comes to VR headsets.
The aspect ratio is 19:10 which appears taller than other phones such as Galaxy S8. This is quite an interesting feature for Android which often needs you to pull down the notification bar from the top. Reaching out to the notification bar, it is way too easy on the Essential Phone. However, this design benefit is not easy for fingerprint sensor gesture present on the phone. Talking about its display, it is quite phenomenal. It comes with wide viewing angles bringing rich experience. It is completely viewable in sunlight and has great screen resolution like most of the modern smartphones.
It had good aesthetic and built sturdy and robust. It is quite rectangular and weighs as much as iPhone 7. However, it does feel mall but it is substantial and in some sense, dense. For most smartphones, they look like they are derivatives of other phones, but this phone is unique and appeals in a different way. It is its unique built that is quite attractive for the users who are looking for something new when it comes to the plethora of smartphone present in the market which looks quite similar. Its ceramic back looks stunning, but it does pick up fingerprints quite easily. It is made of a unique material, a mixture of titanium rail and ceramic back panel. When it comes to its screen, it has Gorilla Glass 5 in front. This is a great feature as it provides the user, a safe experience as he doesn’t have to worry about breaking the screen due to minor falls or keep thinking about leaving scratches.
However, there are few lines of plastic around the screen, and it does cause a discontinuity in the titanium edge for antennas. However, it is built in titanium makes it quite rigid and less prone to cracking. Its ceramic is also scratch-resistant, and it easily allows radio signals with ease. We did some drop tests, and we found this phone reliable in terms of robustness and rigidity.
Talking about the 360-degree camera, it is quite convincing as it comes with a sensor which matches with the sensor inside the Google Pixel camera. However, the camera does seep power from the phone in order to operate, while the data is transmitted in wireless mode and it works without any flaw. Although Essential only had few camera as pre-production units to showcase, it does leave us quite concerned that different accessories which may come with PH-1 are distant.
In terms of camera, Essential has invested a lot of time to showcase its dual lens array and its capability. Each lens is 13 Mega Pixel, with one capable of shooting in color along with black and white and the other one is a dedicated monochrome lens. We have done the extensive checking of the camera of PH-1, and we have considerable samples of its images and the inherent capabilities. However, we will show them in our catalog within few days.
Talking about the contrast, it is quite nice, even though it doesn’t deliver inspiring photos. Monochrome does produce great results immediately. However, its auto mode is not that we fund outstanding. We do like the scenes with dramatic look offered by monochrome. We were quite excited about the off-the-hip shot. When it comes to black and white sensor, it doesn’t have to other with color information which results in the cleaner image without any significant noise, especially when it comes to low light. Pairing this with a color image, and you will definitely get better performance. Essential does use smaller camera modules, which means that it can situate its cameras in crammed up position delivering monolithic aesthetic without the requirement of camera bump.
Essential Phone manages to fit a screen of 5.7 inch which has a display of 2,560×1,312 into its chassis, and this doesn’t feel large. When compared with Google Pixel XL, it does seem like similar size in hand, but the screen is way too much in comparison. One of the salient feature of Essential is the bezel reduction, which it has taken to whole new level. You can easily find a significantly small bezel “chin” right at the bottom of the phone, but talking about the screen, it does spill over the top where you can see the selfie camera. This is quite an impressive feature since the LCD display is wrapping the front-facing camera, not shoved into bottom like phones such as Xiaomi MI Mix.
Essential comes with a titanium frame which offers higher durability and is quite hefty in comparison with the often used aluminium frame that we see in most of the smartphones. It, however, means that it shouldn’t break or at least bend under most circumstances where other phones often do. The exterior of Essential is made up of ultra-glossy ceramic which appears great and looks fantastic. However, it does invite a lot of fingerprints while handling.
Talking about the edges of the phone, Essential has installed a grippy material which doubles as its antenna pass-through. While it is difficult to find 3.5 mm headphone jack in this phone, the volume rocker along with power button as well as USB-C charging point are quite visible. In terms of the first impression of these tactile buttons are quite easy to spot and comes with a nice click to them.
The back side of the phone is similar to the front, flat as usual. 80% of the back is without any marking. It doesn’t come with any marketing gimmick and there is no Essential logo to be found on the device. It is like saying that Essential wants to convey the message that it is your phone, not theirs. The fingerprint sensor is situated on the top by a dual lens camera, flash and it comes with accessory connector ports, which will be discussed later.
It is well-known fact that solid performance of a phone is a most sought feature that consumers look for and in this term, Essential PH-1 scores high points. It comes with Snapdragon 835 processor which is quite fast and responsive along with 4GB of RAM, which makes the smartphone easy to handle the recent apps with quite an ease. It performs phenomenally well and provides great user experience.
But when it comes to VR, it can’t handle Google Daydream since the phone doesn’t have the required OLED screen. Other than that, this phone performs just like another top of the line smartphones, which is great for this new company.
This phone comes loaded with Android Nougat, and Google has put out the statement that Android Oreo will be coming for this smartphone soon.
When it comes to this phone’s accessory port, the two holes are duly aligned with the array of rear cameras. It does mean that Essential will be constantly introduce new accessories but its 360-degree camera mod is not shipped yet. This can be quite disconcerting for the users who have pre-ordered this device. The accessory port is what Essential not ready to showcase yet, although it is one function proposed by the PH-1 which stands out to provide a great advantage over the competition.
At first, we experienced poor battery life with this phone. The phone had less battery charged which is not satisfactorily at all, especially when judged first. After some research, we found that it was due to an app we had which was draining the battery, so we uninstalled it and found that its battery is quite satisfactory.
The Essential PH-1 comes with a 3,040 mAH battery capacity, which is quite good for a phone of this category and it easily lasts a day. Even on medium and heavy usage which included web browsing, taking images, watching YouTube videos, gaming, etc. it reached to 30% in our test for 10 hours. The salient feature associated with battery life is that this phone supports fast charging which makes it quite easy to recharge in significantly low time compared to other phones in the same category.
Talking about the pros and cons of this phone, we stumbled upon various factors which stand out in our test. Following points highlight the major concerns and advantages.
- Striking design – It comes with great design to show off and definitely catches the eye.
- Technology wise this phone is packed with great features and fit for advanced users.
- It comes with latest Android.
- Its camera performance is quite good and delivers decent images.
- The battery life is considerably better and supports fast charging.
- Its Accessory port doesn’t have much use especially due to lack of accessories available.
- Compared to other flagship phones of similar capability, this phone is expensive.
- Owing to its glossy back surface, it is a fingerprint magnet which does decrease its appeal.
The statement that this phone is has the look of the future phone, won’t be wrong. It does have rich and compelling appearance due to its ceramic build and its fine screen. It appeals the user with its looks and has definite grace associated with it.
It is hard to judge that whether this phone will fit Rubin’s vision of connected home, but at present, we are still far away from knowing what it will actually look like. At present, the wireless module connector doesn’t give any idea, whatsoever about the practicality.
This phone has performed well but this does have some drawbacks which we have discussed. However, this phone is aesthetically way above the rest of the Android phone available in the market, it is quite a nice Android phone to hold on to. In order to achieve the monolithic design, it does feel like that Essential has cut some corner, as you can’t simply cut on a feature like a camera in flagship phones.
With its elegant design, big screen, along with long battery life and high-performance software, this phone presents a great picture to hold on to and makes it a good choice. The only major issue is its camera, which may be disconcerting for many users as there are many good alternatives are available in the market. This makes a lot of difference especially to those customers who like to take tons of photos. In terms of comparison with Galaxy S8, the price is quite similar, as Galaxy S8 price at $700. Talking about another phone, Google Pixel which comes with less price, at $650, the Essential faces a tough competition. Then there is OnePlus5, which provides similarly great performance and does come with a phenomenal camera at mere $480.
So, in the end, we would like to make this conclusion that if you want to stand out of the crowd, then Essential PH-1 is the phone to pick. Just ignore its camera performance, and you are good to go.
Let us know what you think about our review. Comment in the section below and we would like to hear year thoughts.