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Essential Phone review

7.6/10 AVG.
RATING



7.6/10
Informr score
The Essential Phone currently has an Informr score of 7.6 out of 10. This score is based on our evaluation of 31 sources including reviews from users and the web's most trusted critics.

What's good

  • Crisp, bezel-free display
  • Solid, attractive design
  • Powerful performance
  • Plenty of internal storage

What's bad

  • No microSD support
  • No headphone jack
  • Camera software issues
  • Questionable future of modular add-ons

It’s rare to see new faces in the mobile market. Especially new faces challenging the flagship behemoths on their first release. But Essential’s pedigree involves one of Android’s original founders and a handful of ex-Apple and ex-Google experts.

The phone’s received endless hype since it was announced and the spec sheet looks great. Despite a few release delays, this much-anticipated phone is now available.

How’s this disruptive, minimalist phone sitting with reviewers? Let’s dig in and see what everyone is saying!

The Essential Phone distinguishes itself from the pack out of the gate with a unique choice of materials. The phone doesn’t use the typical aluminum or glass, instead opting for ceramic and titanium.

It appears this decision paid off as reviewers raved about the stylish design and how the phone feels in the hand.

Android and Me declared, “The Essential Phone feels absolutely phenomenal without a single bit of exaggeration.” Engadget noted, “[The phone] feels dense, in a reassuring sort of way.”

Reviewers had no trouble with scratching or grip. Though some noted the ceramic back attracted fingerprints.

The only design complaint from reviewers was the lack of water resistance as this feature is common in today’s flagship market.

Heading around front, reviews continue to stay positive. The phone’s 5.7-inch 2560-by-1312 pixel LCD panel wowed reviewers for both color reproduction and clarity. The screen fills nearly every inch of the front of the phone—including the areas around the front-facing camera. Engadget noted, “It's almost impossible at first not to gawk at the PH-1's screen.”

Many reviewers questioned whether the camera floating in their notification bar would create problems. Fortunately, no one had any issues.

With an octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM, the phone sits on par with many of 2017’s most popular flagship releases. Paired with a near-stock version of Android 7.1.1, reviewers had no complaints about performance.

The Next Web said, “The Essential Phone feels faster than any phone I’ve used to date, except maybe the OnePlus 5 and Pixel.”

The phone is also confirmed to get Android 8.0 Oreo soon.

You won’t find a microSD slot to take advantage of Android’s adoptable storage. However, with 128GB of internal storage, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

Reviewers had little trouble getting a full day out of the 3,040mAh battery either. Digital Trends noted, “Starting at 8 a.m., with medium to heavy usage including browsing the web, taking lots of photos, watching a few YouTube videos, and playing a game, the battery reached 30 percent by 6 p.m.”

Should you need to top off during the day, the 27-watt USB Type-C charger offers as much as 30% in only 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. The camera left most reviewers wanting more. While the 13MP dual-lens rear camera and 8MP front-facing lens sound great on paper. Most reviews noted issues with shutter lag, poor low-light performance and muddy colors.

The Next Web said, “I’ve had better shooting experiences on midrange phones. Fortunately, it mainly seems to come down to software… I installed Google’s camera app for the Pixel, and the results are night and day.”

Many of the later reviewers noticed a considerable difference in picture quality as patches rolled out. In time, picture quality might improve. For now, most reviewers had trouble recommending the phone for those looking for a good camera experience.

Some reviewers also criticized the lack of 3.5mm headphone jack. However, those that tested the included USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter had no complaints.

Modular attachments are still a mystery. At release, only one is available and none of the reviewers tested it. However, general opinions seem to be that the design will leave greater flexibility in mod options once they appear.

Overall, reviewers were split on recommending the device. If you’re looking for a top-notch photo experience, the Essential Phone isn’t there yet. Otherwise, reviewers felt it brought a lot of value to the table.

Engadget summed up opinions well, saying, “It's an exceptionally crafted device and a stunning first effort from a company that didn't exist 18 months ago. While the PH-1 stands as a testament to Rubin's vision, a few shortcomings keep it from being as truly great as promised.”


Operating system
Android
Processor
1.9 GHz
Screen Size
5.71"
Camera
13+ MP


What the Critics Are Saying...


Android Police

As a backup or secondary device for pure Android fandom, it could be a fun buy, but I can't honestly recommend it to general consumers considering it has issues even getting a decent signal — that's pretty basic phone stuff. Coupled with the touchscreen problems and input jank, the PH-1 will always...

- Ryne Hager, Android Police
Android Authority

If you’re in the market for an Android phone under $500 with a design that truly stands out, I’d have no problem recommending the Essential Phone. However, it’s been almost a full year since it was first announced, so we may not have much longer until the Essential Phone 2 (PH-2?) arrives. Those loo...

- Jimmy Westenberg, Android Authority
Android Guys

The Essential Phone easily pulls ahead of the mid-range smartphone competition. None are built like this, have an 85% screen-to-body ratio, and an up-to-date, stock Android experience. The gripes we have are now minor in the grand scheme of things.

- Josh Noriega, Android Guys
Gizmodo

It’s not perfect, but it now it finally feels like Essential has something to build on. With a gorgeous body that is somehow more impressive than before, a tidy UI, improved software, and a price that makes sense, the PH-1 has carved out its niche.

- Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo
Good Gear Guide

As enticing as the new colors might be, don’t be fooled: Even without the $100 premium, the Essential Phone isn’t worth buying over the similarly specced OnePlus 5T. Heck, it barely beats the HTC U11 Life, which costs far less.

- Michael Simon, Good Gear Guide


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Screen Size
5.71"

The Essential Phone's screen size is 5.71 inches with 1312 x 2560 pixels resolution.

Processor
1.9 GHz

There is a Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 Octa core 1.9 GHz processor (CPU).

OS

The phone runs on the Android 7.0 Nougat (Update Available: 8.1 Oreo) operating system (OS).

Camera
13+ MP

You can take photos with the phone's onboard 13+ megapixel camera.

There is also a secondary front facing camera with 8+ megapixels resolution.

Storage
128 GB

Internal memory is 128 GB. No external card slot is available for expansion.

Battery
3040mAh

The phone is powered by a Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion), 3040 mAh battery.

Essential Phone Specs

Overview
Release date August 31, 2017
Regions available USA, Canada, United Kingdom
Mobile / Cellular Data
4G/LTE
Networks
GSM:
850/900/1800/1900 MHz
CDMA:
800/1900 MHz
UMTS:
850/900/1700/1900 /2100 MHz
LTE:
1700/1900/700/2100 /800/850/900/1800/2600/2300/2500 MHz
Data:
GPRS, EDGE, EV-DO Rev. A, HSPA+, LTE
SIM card size
Nano-SIM
Dual SIM No
Operating System Android 7.0 Nougat (Update Available: 8.1 Oreo)

Compare Android Smartphones

Processor Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 Octa core 1.9 GHz
Internal Storage 128 GB
RAM 4 GB
ROM No
GPS Type A-GPS
Hearing Aid Compatible No
TTY/TDD No
Noise Cancellation Yes
SAR Head: 0.28 W/kg
Body: 0.76 W/kg
Languages English
Manufacturer Warranty 1 Year
Accessories Included USB Power Adapter, Manual, Data Cable
Power & battery
Battery Type Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion)
Battery Capacity 3040 mAh
Removable Battery No
Wireless Charging Yes
Fast Charging Yes
Video Playback Time Unknown
Internet Use (Wi-Fi) Unknown
Internet Use (Celluar) Up to: 489 minutes
Talk Time Unknown
Standby Time Unknown
Physical Characteristics
Design type Bar
Multi-Use Smart Phone / PDA Yes
Material Titanium
Colors Black Moon, Stellar Grey, Pure White, Ocean Depths, Copper Black, Halo Gray
Dimensions [H x W x D] 14.2 x 7.1 x 0.8 cm (5.6 x 2.8 x 0.3 in)
Weight 185 grams
Water Resistant / Waterproof No
Rugged design No
IP Rating No
Display / Screen
Type Color
Technology LCD (IPS)
Colors 16.7 million
Resolution 1312 x 2560 pixels
Pixel density 504 pixels
Size 5.71 inches
Secondary Display No
Sensors Ambient Light, Proximity, Motion / Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Digital Compass
Graphics Yes
Themes No
Backlit Illumination Yes
Zoom / Magnification Yes
Screen Orientation Lock Yes
Multi-Touch Yes
Fingerprint-Resistant Coating No
Additional Display Features Capacitive touch screen, Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Input / Navigation
Sleep / Wake Key Yes
Home Key No
Mute Key No
Input Type Touchscreen
Navigation Type Touchscreen
Predictive Text Entry Yes
Physical keyboard No
Voicemail Key No
Any Key Answer No
Voice Commands Yes
Keypad/Screen Lock Yes
External Volume Control Yes
External Media Playback Controls No
Fingerprint Sensor Yes
Call Management
Wi-Fi Calling Yes
Voice over LTE (VoLTE) Yes
Contact List Capacity Depends on system memory
Multiple Numbers Per Contact Email address, Other fields
Contact Groups Yes
Auto Answer No
Voice Activated Dialing Yes
Photo Caller ID Yes
Web / Email / Messaging
Web Browser Yes
Email Client Yes
Email Protocols POP3, IMAP, SMTP, Microsoft Exchange
Additional Email Features Gmail
Messaging SMS, MMS, IM
Push-to-talk (PTT) No
Connectivity
USB USB Type-C
USB OTG Support Yes
Infrared No
Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth Profiles A2DP, AVRCP, OPP/FTP, HFP, HSP
Bluetooth Audio Codecs SBC
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
WiFi Encryption No
Mobile Hotspot Yes
WiMAX No
Memory Expansion Slot No
PC Synchronization Yes
TV Out No
DLNA Support No
NFC Yes
Data Tethering Compatibility Yes
Java Applications No
Brew Applications No
ECML / Digital Wallet No
Camera
Main Camera
Aperture
ƒ/ 1.85
Resolution
13+ megapixels
Multi-camera
Yes
Zoom
Yes
Flash
Yes (Dual LED)
Additional Rear Camera Info
Auto focus, Effects, Face detection, Geotagging, Multi-shot, Panorama, Self-timer, Dual camera feature (13 MP 2nd camera), Phase detection
Video Recording Formats
3GP / 3GPP, H.264 / AVC, MPEG-4, WMV
Video Recording Parameters
Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 pixels), 30 fps
Front Camera
Resolution
8+ megapixels
Zoom
Yes
Additional Front Camera Info
f/2.20
Video Recording Parameters
Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 pixels), 30 fps
Audio / Video
Audio Playback Yes
Audio Formats AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, MIDI, MP3, MP4, M4A, OGG, WMA, WAV
Radio No
Video Playback Yes
Video Playback Formats 3GP / 3GPP, H.264 / AVC, MPEG-4, WMV
Streaming Video Yes
External Speakers Yes
Headset Jack No
Custom Ringtones Yes
Vibration Alert Yes
Downloadable Ringtones Yes
Ringer ID Yes
Haptic Feedback Vibration Yes
Speakerphone Yes
Apps
To-Do / Task List No
Calendar Yes
World Clock Yes
Alarm Yes
Stop Watch Yes
Timer Yes
Calculator Yes
Currency Converter No
Weather Yes
Stocks No
Maps Yes
NotePad No
Voice Memos / Recorder Yes
Games Downloadable
Apps Downloadable
Included Software / Apps -
More
Additional comments Other Names (AKA): Essential PH-1

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