Essential <a href='http://www.showsiteinfo.info/sites/knowyourapps.com'>_phone_</a> Review

Introduction


The creator of Android, Andy Rubin, was instrumental in changing the world of technology as we know it. The Android ecosystem alone has catapulted advances in technology few might have imagined. However, for all the benefits gained over the past decade, it also fomented what Mr. Rubin called a "weird new world."

It was that “weird new world” that gave Mr. Rubin an epiphany, and prompted him to create a new series of products that take the “weird” out of that new world. In furtherance of that goal, he created Essential. The result is the company’s first product, the Essential phone, which can best be described as “simple.”

There is more to the Essential PH-1 (PH-one, phone, we see what they did there) than mere simplicity, but it is a good place to start. The beginning of such journeys usually reveal areas that need some improvement and refined development, and that is the case here.

In the box:

  • Essential phone
  • Quick charge adapter
  • Braided USB Type-C to Type-C cable
  • Braided USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio jack adapter
  • SIM tool

Essential <a href='http://www.oldstats.com/history/knowyourapps.com'>_phone_</a> Review
Customer Experience

Not the smoothest execution

We acquired the Essential phone through the company’s online reservation and order system. On the day Essential notified us that orders could be made in mid-August, we confirmed the order, rendered payment, and waited. Then we waited some more.

Two weeks later, the phone finally shipped, direct from its point of manufacture in China. We reserved and ordered the 360-camera too, but that transaction was handled separately. We will have a full review of that modular piece in the very near future.

In broad strokes, those logistics were handled okay, but the long period of time between order processing, payment, and shipping was nowhere near anything that could be described as ideal in 2017. The lack of proactive communication was no treat either. Yes, this can be chalked up to new-company-growing-pains, but the bell-curve for such errors has shrunk dramatically. Essential used its mulligan.

Design

Beautiful, sleek, smooth, and slippery

Essential phone Review

There is a lot to talk about this device’s design. As you have no doubt read or seen already, the Essential phone is a beautifully stunning piece of hardware. The build quality is the stand-out feature, and it arguably surpasses every other flagship on the market today in that area.

The Essential phone is a monolithic slab, simple in nature, yet elegant in execution. There are no discernibly tactile seams anywhere except where the buttons are set on the side, and where the fingerprint sensor resides on the back.

Essential phone Review
Essential phone Review
Gorilla Glass 5 protects the display on the front, and on the back, a lusciously smooth, mirrorlike plate of ceramic. As pretty as it is, and with its ability to show off that high-polish luster, it is equally good at showing off fingerprints, which should come as no surprise. Those two pieces sandwich a titanium body whose overall dimensions are only millimeters bigger than an iPhone 7, but pack a display that is a full inch larger. Use of such premium materials fits one of the tenants of Andy Rubin’s vision.

These compact dimensions do not translate to a compact weight, however. The Essential is a substantial smartphone in the hand, weighing in nearly two full ounces heavier than the aforementioned iPhone, and about an ounce-and-a-half more than a Samsung Galaxy S8. Those do not look like big numbers, but to put it in context, the Essential phone weighs just 0.3 ounces (10 grams) less than a Samsung Galaxy Note8, a device that is physically about 20-percent bigger. The point being, the feel of the Essential in the hand is immediately evident. That is not a bad thing, Essential crammed a ton of hardware in a svelte form factor, and the sensation exudes premium build quality.

That sensation also exudes a sense of super slipperiness. Thankfully, the smaller size makes it easier to use the Essential one-handed, as long as you are grasping it.

The volume rocker and power/lock buttons are sufficiently tactile, but we do wish the latter had some texture so it could be more easily differentiated from the former. The flat edges make the Essential easy to pick up, and no camera bump means nothing is rockin’-and-rollin’ when you set it down.

Essential phone Review

Everything in the physical experience of the Essential phone feels smooth. The SIM tray is along the bottom of the device, along with the USB-C port. What is glaringly missing is a 3.5mm headphone jack. Now, we know this issue has probably been beaten to dust, but frankly, the Essential phone misses on a fundamental, and essential element of the smartphone experience. For as good as Bluetooth is getting, some people simply do not want to be bothered with A) Having another accessory to charge, or B) Having to deal with a separate USB-C/3.5mm dongle (no matter how nice it looks) to use their trusty corded earphones.

In fact, from the current state of Essential’s web-site, there is no means for buying a replacement 3.5mm adapter should you lose the one that comes with the device. Again, that could be argued as an “essential” item to have available. Other features that have found themselves as somewhat in-demand, at least in the American market, is wireless charging and some type of water and dust proofing. Alas, those features are absent from the Essential phone as well.

View more
+ 7 images
prev image
next image
View As Slideshow »

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

Front view | Side view
Essential Phone
Essential Phone
5.57 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches
141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8 mm
6.53 oz (185 g)

Essential Phone

Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8
5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31 inches
148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S8

LG V30
LG V30
5.97 x 2.97 x 0.29 inches
151.7 x 75.4 x 7.39 mm
5.57 oz (158 g)

LG V30

Apple iPhone 7
Apple iPhone 7
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
4.87 oz (138 g)

Apple iPhone 7




Display

Pleasant to behold, but not very bright

Essential phone Review

The hard-edged brick design of the Essential phone means you are presented with all of the display, no curved edges for the LCD panel. Save for the small chin on the bottom, and the cutout for the front facing camera, there are virtually no bezels to be found on this device.

That makes the 5.7-inch display appear deceptively small given the physical size of the Essential phone. As far as the divot for the front facing camera, unless you remain obsessed with its placement, you begin overlooking it almost immediately upon using the device. The 19:10 aspect ratio with 2560 x 1312 resolution is something new, but owed to the design which basically extends the display all the way to the top of the device where a forehead-bezel would be found on other smartphones.

The upper corners of the display are rounded, a-la the LG G6 or Samsung Galaxy S8. The bottom corners are too, albeit more sharply. The asymmetrical arrangement does not detract from viewability or usability. The limited screen-brightness does, however, and in bright outdoor conditions, the display just cannot punch out enough visibility.

Essential phone Review

Introduction


The creator of Android, Andy Rubin, was instrumental in changing the world of technology as we know it. The Android ecosystem alone has catapulted advances in technology few might have imagined. However, for all the benefits gained over the past decade, it also fomented what Mr. Rubin called a "weird new world."

It was that “weird new world” that gave Mr. Rubin an epiphany, and prompted him to create a new series of products that take the “weird” out of that new world. In furtherance of that goal, he created Essential. The result is the company’s first product, the Essential phone, which can best be described as “simple.”

There is more to the Essential PH-1 (PH-one, phone, we see what they did there) than mere simplicity, but it is a good place to start. The beginning of such journeys usually reveal areas that need some improvement and refined development, and that is the case here.

In the box:

  • Essential phone
  • Quick charge adapter
  • Braided USB Type-C to Type-C cable
  • Braided USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio jack adapter
  • SIM tool

Essential phone Review
Customer Experience

Not the smoothest execution

We acquired the Essential phone through the company’s online reservation and order system. On the day Essential notified us that orders could be made in mid-August, we confirmed the order, rendered payment, and waited. Then we waited some more.

Two weeks later, the phone finally shipped, direct from its point of manufacture in China. We reserved and ordered the 360-camera too, but that transaction was handled separately. We will have a full review of that modular piece in the very near future.

In broad strokes, those logistics were handled okay, but the long period of time between order processing, payment, and shipping was nowhere near anything that could be described as ideal in 2017. The lack of proactive communication was no treat either. Yes, this can be chalked up to new-company-growing-pains, but the bell-curve for such errors has shrunk dramatically. Essential used its mulligan.

Design

Beautiful, sleek, smooth, and slippery

Essential phone Review

There is a lot to talk about this device’s design. As you have no doubt read or seen already, the Essential phone is a beautifully stunning piece of hardware. The build quality is the stand-out feature, and it arguably surpasses every other flagship on the market today in that area.

The Essential phone is a monolithic slab, simple in nature, yet elegant in execution. There are no discernibly tactile seams anywhere except where the buttons are set on the side, and where the fingerprint sensor resides on the back.

Essential phone Review
Essential phone Review
Gorilla Glass 5 protects the display on the front, and on the back, a lusciously smooth, mirrorlike plate of ceramic. As pretty as it is, and with its ability to show off that high-polish luster, it is equally good at showing off fingerprints, which should come as no surprise. Those two pieces sandwich a titanium body whose overall dimensions are only millimeters bigger than an iPhone 7, but pack a display that is a full inch larger. Use of such premium materials fits one of the tenants of Andy Rubin’s vision.

These compact dimensions do not translate to a compact weight, however. The Essential is a substantial smartphone in the hand, weighing in nearly two full ounces heavier than the aforementioned iPhone, and about an ounce-and-a-half more than a Samsung Galaxy S8. Those do not look like big numbers, but to put it in context, the Essential phone weighs just 0.3 ounces (10 grams) less than a Samsung Galaxy Note8, a device that is physically about 20-percent bigger. The point being, the feel of the Essential in the hand is immediately evident. That is not a bad thing, Essential crammed a ton of hardware in a svelte form factor, and the sensation exudes premium build quality.

That sensation also exudes a sense of super slipperiness. Thankfully, the smaller size makes it easier to use the Essential one-handed, as long as you are grasping it.

The volume rocker and power/lock buttons are sufficiently tactile, but we do wish the latter had some texture so it could be more easily differentiated from the former. The flat edges make the Essential easy to pick up, and no camera bump means nothing is rockin’-and-rollin’ when you set it down.

Essential phone Review

Everything in the physical experience of the Essential phone feels smooth. The SIM tray is along the bottom of the device, along with the USB-C port. What is glaringly missing is a 3.5mm headphone jack. Now, we know this issue has probably been beaten to dust, but frankly, the Essential phone misses on a fundamental, and essential element of the smartphone experience. For as good as Bluetooth is getting, some people simply do not want to be bothered with A) Having another accessory to charge, or B) Having to deal with a separate USB-C/3.5mm dongle (no matter how nice it looks) to use their trusty corded earphones.

In fact, from the current state of Essential’s web-site, there is no means for buying a replacement 3.5mm adapter should you lose the one that comes with the device. Again, that could be argued as an “essential” item to have available. Other features that have found themselves as somewhat in-demand, at least in the American market, is wireless charging and some type of water and dust proofing. Alas, those features are absent from the Essential phone as well.

Front view | Side view
Essential Phone
Essential Phone
5.57 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches
141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8 mm
6.53 oz (185 g)

Essential Phone

Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8
5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31 inches
148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S8

LG V30
LG V30
5.97 x 2.97 x 0.29 inches
151.7 x 75.4 x 7.39 mm
5.57 oz (158 g)

LG V30

Apple iPhone 7
Apple iPhone 7
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
4.87 oz (138 g)

Apple iPhone 7




Display

Pleasant to behold, but not very bright

Essential phone Review

The hard-edged brick design of the Essential phone means you are presented with all of the display, no curved edges for the LCD panel. Save for the small chin on the bottom, and the cutout for the front facing camera, there are virtually no bezels to be found on this device.

That makes the 5.7-inch display appear deceptively small given the physical size of the Essential phone. As far as the divot for the front facing camera, unless you remain obsessed with its placement, you begin overlooking it almost immediately upon using the device. The 19:10 aspect ratio with 2560 x 1312 resolution is something new, but owed to the design which basically extends the display all the way to the top of the device where a forehead-bezel would be found on other smartphones.

The upper corners of the display are rounded, a-la the LG G6 or Samsung Galaxy S8. The bottom corners are too, albeit more sharply. The asymmetrical arrangement does not detract from viewability or usability. The limited screen-brightness does, however, and in bright outdoor conditions, the display just cannot punch out enough visibility.

Interface and Functionality

Stock Android and no bloat

Essential phone Review

One of the core elements of Andy Rubin’s vision for Essential is not forcing its customers to endure unwanted software or services on their devices. It could be argued that it makes the decision to go with a stock Android build to be more fundamental, rather than “essential,” but the result is a clean, unobtrusive interface that delivers swift performance.

Android purists and general consumers alike will appreciate the no-frills approach. Google’s apps and services are more than capable to manage the fundamentals (there’s that word again) and provide a uniform experience.

The caveat in taking such a direction is that the feature set is much smaller than what may be found on competing premium smartphones from HTC, LG, or Samsung.

One conceivable advantage to using stock Android (except for the camera app) is being able to provide prompt updates. Whether that will prove to be the case remains to be seen. The Essential phone ships with Android 7.1.1. Now that Android 8.0 Oreo is just entering the stage, we will have to wait and see how soon the Essential phone receives system updates.

Unfortunately, with our retail unit, the high-end hardware and top-of-the-line specifications do not seem to be perfectly tuned to leverage the buttery-smooth performance of the Android UI or many of the popular Android apps. For whatever reason, our Essential phone would exhibit some stuttered performance, across multiple apps, then it would clear up as spontaneously as it began. We never could replicate it on demand.

Some of that performance may be attributed to the touch screen not being 100% responsive, a frustrating affair which also proved very hard to duplicate. We know that we are not the only ones experiencing the issue, but as of the time of this writing, no known root cause has been found, nor has there been any acknowledgment from Essential. Outside of that, however, there is something hampering performance, whether using popular social media apps like Facebook or Twitter, or the Essential’s own camera app – easily the worst offender out of the bunch.

Processor & Memory


It is a shame to see such performance hiccups too, because beneath the tidy dress of this Essential phone is the current crop of top-shelf specifications, including Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 835 CPU, and Adreno 540 GPU. Those components get by with 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of non-expandable storage.

During the periods of usage where we did not observe any jitters in performance, the Essential phone feels very fast, on par with the class leaders. Though, it does not run away from the pack in any particular performance area, as evidenced from our benchmark scores.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Essential Phone 157483
Samsung Galaxy S8 166646.66
Apple iPhone 7 168795
JetStream
Higher is better
Essential Phone 61.371
Samsung Galaxy S8 55.503
Apple iPhone 7 144.71
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Essential Phone 3202
Samsung Galaxy S8 3201.66
Apple iPhone 7 3355
Geekbench 4 single-core
Higher is better
Essential Phone 1905
Samsung Galaxy S8 2008.33
Apple iPhone 7 3464
Geekbench 4 multi-core
Higher is better
Essential Phone 6231
Samsung Galaxy S8 6575
Apple iPhone 7 5605
View all

Connectivity


Essential phone Review

The Essential phone steps into the ring with a single USB Type-C port and a dual-power pin accessory port, designed for modular add-ons like Essential’s 360-degree camera. Those that want to use a corded set of headphones will not find a 3.5mm jack, and must instead use the included (and handsome) braided adapter. The adapter supports line-in microphone equipped headsets, so you can make and receive calls.

In terms of cellular connectivity, the Essential phone supports all the common GSM, CDMA, and LTE frequency bands, including those of Sprint, the only US carrier that sells the device. We used the Essential phone with AT&T’s network in Northern California and experienced no connectivity issues. Bluetooth 5.0 is along for the ride, as is 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi.

Cameras

A dual camera affair that fails to deliver

Essential phone Review

Granted, it is possible that some of our criticisms up to this point are not ubiquitous across all the Essential phones delivered to-date. However, the qualms we are expressing about the user experience are nothing compared to the concerns we have with the Essential phone’s cameras.

The Essential phone is equipped with two 13-megapixel cameras, with auto and laser assisted focus. One of those is a monochrome sensor which, by itself, can take black-and-white photos. When color pictures are being taken, the monochrome sensor shares its image data and fuses it with the color data so that the resulting picture is of the best possible quality. That is the intent, anyway.

Indoor pictures, whether in color, or black-and-white, look acceptable given decent lighting conditions. However, zooming in and examining things close-up reveal inconsistent detail at best, and perhaps inconsistent focusing. One of the reasons why cats make ideal subjects for photos (other than being the reason why the internet was invented), is all the detail that can be found (or not) when zooming in on their fur, eyes, ears, or nose. In every instance, the detail seems to be lost to some degree, and the image “fusing” between the two cameras does not display any net-benefit compared to a reliable single-sensor smartphone.


Outdoors, in daylight conditions, the cameras fare much better. The performance is a lot more consistent, though color images still appear a bit soft in detail compared to the types of pictures we have grown accustomed to seeing from devices like the HTC U11, the Samsung Galaxy series, the LG G6 and V30, and Apple’s iPhone. The black-and-white outdoor images do a bit better in living up to the sharpness touted with such black-and-white photos.

Low-light images, something that Essential touts as an optimized feature, are merely adequate. Pictures taken after sunset, in the waning moments of dusk, take a seat well behind the imagery captured by banner bearers like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Where the Note benefits from a larger f1.7 aperture, and adjusts to a slower shutter speed and lower ISO, the Essential phone with a slightly smaller f1.85 aperture keeps a much faster shutter speed and cranks up the ISO. The result is darker and grainier.


Some of fuzziness could be chalked up to the fact there is not any type stabilization, but another culprit is the camera app itself. Essential’s only personal touch in the landscape of stock Android is with the camera interface. While having a camera itself is “essential” in a modern smartphone, the interface barely passes for handling the basics, and performance-wise, it does not even handle the fundamentals all that well.

This is not about the lack of manual controls (there are none). Indeed, had Essential included them in some fashion, they surely would have locked-up and crashed the interface. The camera launches reasonably fast, but the odds of catching that perfect moment at the perfect time are against you. In the transaction of taking a picture, it is the focus that takes the longest, but the inconsistency impedes the camera from immediately taking a picture after you command it to.

In every area where this ultra-simple camera interface should lend itself to being fast, it does the exact opposite. Want to switch quickly between color and monochrome? Good luck. Sometimes it only takes a second, sometimes it chokes on itself and crashes. Want to take a couple rapid-fire pictures in succession? No way, Jose. The fastest we could get this thing to take one picture after another was about 2 seconds. Want the app to save your setting of HDR mode for all your pictures? Can’t do it. Are you observing some beautiful scenery that would be perfect for a panorama shot? Not today. How about setting a lower resolution to save storage space or share faster on social media? Negative, Ghostrider.

Essential phone Review
Such a pity, the Essential phone seems to have the tools to grab some excellent photos; but it needs a lot more work. Simple controls are fine, but “simple” also needs to operate smoothly – smooth equals fast, and right now, the Essential’s cameras are neither. All that said, we think using a monochrome sensor instead of a wide-angle lens for the secondary camera, while not for everyone, is a nice touch – some photos simply look great in black-and-white.

The 8-megapixel front facing camera is, fortunately, a much smoother operator, able to take pictures quickly and has facial tracking. However, if you like to take selfies a lot, the interface will not remember, and you will have to select the front camera every time you launch the app.

You may have seen some observations elsewhere in the tech-blogosphere about pre-retail units receiving several updates, apparently aimed at addressing camera performance issues. Our Essential phone received one update before we could even finish setting it up, but that has been it thus far. It is a certainty that some of these gripes could be addressed through software updates, but it might best be fixed through a forklift replacement with an interface that is just a little more comprehensive. Either way, given the Essential phone’s price point, the camera performance is not acceptable.

Video recording


Video with the Essential phone is comparatively very good. Again, simplicity rules the roost, and lack of image stabilization means you need to keep a steady hand, but the videos look fine. The re-focusing on objects at varying distances is decently quick and playback does not yield any stutters we could see. The interface makes it easy to switch between 4K (captured at 30fps), or HD (captured at 30 or 60fps).

Multimedia

Excellent, with a loud-enough speaker

The Essential phone does well as a media consumption device. The size of the phone and the screen-to-body ratio do not yield a lot of space for anything other than a bottom firing speaker. Thankfully, the single speaker gets plenty loud. There are limits to the fidelity of the sound it pumps out, but there is no distortion.

While the LCD display does not deliver the saturation of color that AMOLED panels present, the Essential phone has no problem being a competent media consumption device. The squared, compact form factor makes holding the Essential phone easy while enjoying content on a large display.

Call quality


Essential phone Review

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


Essential phone Review

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.

Conclusion


Essential phone Review

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.