Essential Phone Review: A Debut Phone from a Founder of Android

Built out of a ceramic behind and titanium sides, Android owner Andy Rubin’s Essential startup’s eponymously named smartphone gets tip billing in craftsmanship, eschewing a walking aluminum and potion components on many complicated flagships. The luxuriously crafted hardware is a marvel to spy and hold, and Essential is picking adult a flame of a aged Vertu, a spinoff of Nokia that once ordered prices upwards of $5,000 for a devices, that were clad in changed metals estimable of jewelry. Yet, notwithstanding a lush exterior, a Essential Phone is a mostly understated phone, accessible in possibly an all-white finish or a tongue-tied jet black colorway.

I had a event to use a Essential Phone as my daily phone over a past dual and a half weeks, and in that time, a device has seen cost cuts by as many as $200 from a strange launch cost of $699. Our examination ratings currently are formed on a value that Essential brings to a Android space during a new $499 cost point.


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As a strange phone with a notched design, a Essential Phone beats a iPhone X’s launch by a few months. The phone was announced in a spring, and delays forced Essential to skip a strange launch timeline. When it was accessible in August, a Essential Phone delivered on a pattern with bezel-less top, right and left edges, with a slight chin on a bottom of a device. This near-bezel-free entrance gives it an entrance not distinct Dell’s Infinity Display on a XPS 13 laptop, and it is distinguished in appearance. There is a U-shaped cutout during a top—the phone’s notch—that houses a 8-megapixel front-facing selfie camera.

Along with a notch, usually above that is a really skinny cut that’s secluded between a potion arrangement and a titanium vituperation for a earpiece orator and an LED presentation light. The skinny cut does a illusory pursuit of gripping a Essential Phone’s purify lines, nonetheless if we have lint-filled pockets, a downside is that a pattern traps lint and other container foam in a orator opening.

The phone has a really complicated entrance with loyal edges and rather winding corners. The device takes on a boxy appearance, nonetheless a 7.8mm of thinness does a good pursuit of creation a phone not feel like a brick. The front of a device is lonesome in Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5. The device has a 5.71-inch LCD row with a 2,560 × 1,312-pixel resolution, giving a device a 19:10 aspect ratio. The LG V30 and a Samsung Galaxy S8, for example, both use AMOLD shade technologies with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The outcome is that a Essential Phone feels rather wider in a hands, nonetheless a new 19:10 aspect ratio along with a bezel-free pattern make a phone feel many some-more compress for single-handed use than 16:9 phones from final year.

And while a phone comes with a sizeable shade with a high resolution, it’s not rated as Daydream VR-ready, so we can’t use a Essential Phone for practical existence games and applications with Google’s headset.

The sides are assembled of titanium, and notwithstanding a sleazy well-spoken backside, a behind isn’t done of glass. Instead of a potion sandwich pattern used by Apple’s iPhone 8, LG’s V30 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8, Essential is forging a possess trail with a rather singular ceramic back. Ceramic, according to a company, is some-more durable, nonetheless in a hands, a effects are really identical to glass. My black examination section shows all smudges and fingerprints, and when placed on a prosaic surface, my Essential Phone is disposed to shifting off a list all on a own. The upside is that a sharp feel creates it easy to slip a phone in and out of your pockets, nonetheless if we have butterfingers, stealing a third-party box is endorsed as Essential, distinct Huawei, doesn’t gold one in a box.

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During my testing, a Essential fell off a brief list and face planted itself onto a tiled floor, and it survived unscathed, maybe a covenant to a a combined continuance of a materials used. A identical random dump several years ago on my Galaxy S6 Edge with a aluminum sides resulted in a heavily injured corner, nonetheless a Essential showed no signs of conflict wounds here.

And while a phone isn’t waterproof, it can tarry a dash interjection to a IP54 rating for H2O and dirt resistance.

On a bottom, there is a USB Type-C pier that accepts quick charging—wireless charging isn’t built into this phone—along with a mono shrill speaker, nano SIM tray and a microphone opening. The Essential Phone has a important battery life, and is means to final a full day of use nonetheless any emanate during my testing.

Given that a SIM tray is sandwiched between a tiny hole to subdue to eject a SIM label and a microphone opening, users should compensate tighten courtesy to not insert a SIM ejector apparatus into a microphone slot.

Dual cameras and a center-mounted fingerprint scanner are found on a behind of a devices. Additionally, a Essential Phone also comes with POGO pins on a back, that is used to magnetically insert modular accessories that enlarge a facilities of a phone. At launch, a usually accessible appendage accessible is a 360-degree camera attachment, that Essential claims is a many compress 360-degree camera of a kind.


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The Essential Phone comes with dual 13-megapixel cameras on a rear. There is an f/1.85 RGB sensor for tone and a second monochrome camera. The camera is a churned bag on a Essential Phone for several reasons, nonetheless a association has aggressively been updating a phone’s program and camera app to urge camera performance.

First, Essential’s camera program is basic, giving we 3 modes—Auto, that captures tone photos, a monochrome mode for black and white shots, and a video recording mode. The cameras can’t be used in tandem, like on Huawei’s phones, to combine images from both sensors to supplement some-more sum to photos, nor can it be used for feign bokeh effects driven by program algorithms. Essential promises that a mural mode is entrance in a future, nonetheless a timeline was not given. Pro-shooters won’t advantage from some-more modernized primer controls during this time, so you’ll have to rest on Essential’s camera program full-time. Other smartphone manufacturers come with a pro mode that allows for primer adjustments of white balance, shiver speed and ISO.

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The certain thing about a camera is that it comes with a dedicated monochrome sensor, that can be useful for those who cite a black and white demeanour nonetheless carrying to request a filter for those shots. The camera does a good pursuit in this mode and is a good choice for Huawei’s dual-camera phones, that aren’t common nonetheless during this indicate for a US market.

Overall, a Essential Phone does a good pursuit with a camera setup, nonetheless with a smaller orifice than many competing flagships, it can onslaught with low light performance. If we prefer, there is a dual-LED peep on a behind to assistance irradiate your theme in darker environments.

While a built-in dual-lens setup of a Essential Phone might not be means to tip smartphone photography charts, a $179 discretionary 360-degree camera procedure was a blast to use. Photographers and videographers will be means to tell constrained 360-degree visible stories for VR with a camera, that comes with dual 12-megapixel camera sensors and 4 microphones. The appendage magnetically snaps onto a behind of a phone and draws energy from a POGO pins, nonetheless it transmits information wirelessly. To keep a whole setup cool, a connection comes with a possess fan, and you’ll be means to hear a slight whirring when it’s attached.

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When we snapped a connection on, a 360-degree camera launches—the interface is really identical to a camera app on a phone, and we can use your fingers to vessel around your shot in real-time regulating a phone’s arrangement as a viewfinder—and stealing a camera closes a 360-degree constraint app. The routine of rising a app is a bit slow, and if we spin off your phone’s arrangement while a appendage is still attached, you’ll have to mislay a appendage and re-attach it to get a 360-degree constraint app to work again. Essential has expelled several program updates to urge a camera’s opening while we was reviewing a phone, that softened a launch of a 360-degree camera app when a appendage primarily attaches, nonetheless we wish a knowledge was some-more seamless.

If we haven’t used a 360-degree camera while traveling, it’s a good apparatus to capturing a universe around you—literally—and your selfie during a same time. If you’d rather not be front and core in your 360-degree capture, a program UI now comes with a timer mode, so we can mountain a phone to a tripod. we had a possibility to exam a 360-degree camera connection on new trips to Las Vegas and Japan, and a camera works good when there is copiousness of light. Overall, a program does a good pursuit of stitching images prisoner from a front and a behind cameras together with minimal banding, even when a lighting condition changes in a shot. In low light, there is utterly a bit of noise, nonetheless a images still exceeded my expectations.

Performance Software

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With a latest program updates applied, opening of a Essential Phone is really speedy. The phone ships with mostly a pristine Android experience, and, distinct many other Android phones in this space, is abandoned of a bloatware that hogs memory and slows down a phone over time. Like many new flagships, a Essential Phone ships with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor along with 4GB RAM.

For storage, you’ll find 128GB standard—a monument for Android phones—but there isn’t room for a microSD label to grow in a future. You’ll instead have to rest on a built-in memory and a cloud if your storage needs extend past what Essential gives you.

During my contrast of a phone, we found a Essential Phone to be really quick and fluid, pang no loiter or stutter, and opening is really allied with inclination like a LG V30 and a Huawei Mate 9. Given a miss of bloatware on a phone, we pattern a phone’s opening to be unchanging over a life of a device.

Essential did request a few tweaks to a phone, creation it wandering ever so rather from a pristine Google knowledge device like a Nexus or Pixel phone. The camera UI is all Essential, for example, and there is a monochrome shade to arrangement notifications when we lift a device up. This arrangement is useful, nonetheless we wish Essential would have implemented an always-on LCD arrangement for notifications and arrangement a time, identical to what LG did with a V6 progressing this year. There is no double daub to fast spin on a screen, so unfortunately, you’ll possibly have to strike a energy symbol on a side or collect adult a phone, if it’s sitting on a table, to activate a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. The camera, fortunately, could be launched quickly, by double dire a energy button.

At a finish of a day, Essential gets we flattering tighten to a batch Android experience, relying on Google’s apps for many things.

Keeping a Status Quo

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While Essential should be lauded during gripping grow off a phone, we doubt a company’s plan in relocating a needle when it comes to Android. Rivals LG and Samsung, for example, have been criticized for being complicated handed in their proceed to Android, nonetheless in loading their phones with features, they have helped Google adopt some of their innovations in destiny releases of Android. An instance is multi-window multitasking, that was pioneered by Samsung and LG usually to be adopted as an Android recover feature.

I consider Essential can bake in some-more user-centric facilities and innovations while still staying loyal to a Android knowledge envisioned by Google nonetheless resorting to complicated skins and themes. The association valid it can do this by building a 360-camera app, and given that this phone comes with Andy Rubin’s startup, we would have desired to see some-more innovations on a program side.

A large missed event that Essential could have leveraged is to rise program to concede apps to widen to fill a whole screen. While some apps can fill a screen, many do not, and instead, you’re left with letterboxing during a tip and bottom. Fortunately, during this time, a letterboxing is rather useful—the tip black bar houses a presentation bar, while a bottom is where you’ll find a on-screen Android navigation keys. Compared to a scarcely all-screen Galaxy S8, Samsung done some-more of an try to fill a display, permitting even videos to wizz in and fill a shade to equivocate unsightly letterboxing on a left and right edges of a screen, given a ultra-wide arrangement ratio in landscape mode, and Essential could have done identical moves to concede third-party apps to take advantage of a phone’s incomparable display.

The upside to being minimal—even in a program enhancements—is that a Essential Phone receives really timely program updates. Essential so distant has updated a program several times, and a association continues to make suggestive improvements to a camera app. Hopefully, this trend will continue in a future.


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The Essential Phone is a simple black phone with a lot of promise. In a smartphone marketplace that’s built for mass marketplace consumption, Essential’s choice of titanium and ceramic creates a company’s charity feels some-more like a haute couture of technology. Its minimal pattern is understatedly elegant, a all-screen arrangement is overwhelming and a phone feels many some-more costly than it indeed is. It’s an considerable chunk that feels plain in a hands.

Even nonetheless a Essential Phone lacks some of a bells and whistles of a premium-priced competitors—there isn’t an always-on arrangement and a mural mode camera isn’t nonetheless accessible notwithstanding a dual-lens setup—the device still ticks off adequate boxes to make it an glorious phone, generally in light of a new $499 price. The phone’s durable construction, neat 360-degree modular camera connection and dedicated monochrome mode make it a fun to use.

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