Hey there, Alex here. It took a while but I’m finally reviewing the Essential Phone. When it was first announced I thought it was a pretty interesting phone, but after seeing the initial reviews for it, it was pretty obvious that it’s not really worth the asking price.
Even though it was from the creator of Android. With the recent price drop to 499 US dollars though, I think it’s worth a look. It’s called the Essential PH-1, which is basically Phone. The idea was to basically create something simple.
Something with just the essentials, but premium at the same time. So the result is this astoundingly stunning looking piece of hardware. It’s not using anything mundane like metal or glass. Instead, you get a titanium enclosure, with a ceramic back plate.
Yeah, not kidding. You just have to hold it in your hand and feel how amazing it is. I love the flat sides too which gives a very nice grip. This premium look extends to the front of the phone as well, and takes what Samsung has been doing to the next level.
It’s a 5.7” screen with a taller aspect ratio, but there is no top bezel at all. All you get is this little cut-out for the front camera, a tiny slit for the call speaker, and a tiny notification LED.
Because of the super thin bezels, you end up with a phone that is about the size of the original Google Pixel, but with a way larger screen. Which is just awesome. Not all apps are able to make use of this area just yet, but for apps that do like Google Maps, it really looks amazing.
It helps that the screen itself is pretty good looking too. Like most other flagship phones around, it’s packing the usual Snapdragon processor with enough RAM and storage for most folks. No surprise here since that’s pretty much essential for a flagship phone these days.
It’s also running a near stock Android software with minor tweaks to work with the front camera cut-out, and just their own camera app. So you would expect the performance to be pretty on point. Well, that’s mostly the case.
I still see some minor stutters and pauses every now and then. The camera app is another area where it’s just sluggish for some reason. Something that’s kind of new too is a sort of modular feature similar to Motorola phones.
It’s what these two connectors on the back of the phone are for. For now, there’s a 360 degrees camera attachment, but not much else. It’s a neat trick, but not what I would consider to be essential.
Something that is essential is fast charging, because if you’re a heavier user, the 3,040mAh battery might not be enough to get you through the day. For heavier usage, I’m seeing around 4 to 5 hours of screen on time with the battery almost running out by evening.
It almost seems essential for flagship devices to have two rear cameras these days, so this phone has that too. So you get a pair of 13MP camera with one of them being a monochrome sensor. I’ll skip through the marketing stuff like how it’s supposed to make the images nicer, because it’s really not that amazing.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, but it’s just not nearly as good as a lot of other flagship devices in the market in terms of the overall image quality, and the lack of OIS means you’ll need pretty steady hands in low light.
The sluggish performance of the camera app itself doesn’t help too. And in 2017, a great camera is pretty much a prerequisite if you want a seat at the big boys’ table. Even the front camera is just about average, even if it does record videos in 4K.
If you’re willing to sideload the Google Camera app with HDR+, it does improve the camera experience a little, and image quality wise sometimes it’s better. But to me, consumers really shouldn’t have to resort to doing this to improve an essential feature of the phone.
And that’s just part of the reason why we’re seeing the price drop now. For a phone that’s supposed to do the essentials of a modern smartphone well, it falls short in a few other areas too. Like while I don’t really consider a headphone jack to be essential, I do think that for a premium phone, proper water resistance is a must-have.
The single firing speaker is able to get really loud, but dual speakers are getting increasingly common for flagship devices. Also, we still don’t know how the software update situation is going to be here.
Being near stock Android doesn’t always mean quick software updates. But I do have to say this though. If you can live with the shortcomings of the phone, I think 499 USD is a pretty reasonable price for one of the most premium phones in the market right now.
Remember, we’re talking about a phone that has a stunning looking bezel-less screen that comes close to the iPhone X. A phone that’s built with titanium and ceramic. That alone makes it worth a look at least.
Thanks for watching my review of the Essential Phone. If you liked it be sure to give me a thumbs up, and subscribe to the channel. Thanks, and see you guys on the next one.