In January 2017, when the Co-Founder of Android Andy Rubin announced the start of a hardware company called Essential, there was a lot of hype regarding the products it was expected to make. In May, the expectations were amplified after the introduction and the unveiling of the Essential Phone. Now that the Phone is ready for deliveries, it seems like the device has lived up to its hype.
Body, Design & Display
The Essential ‘PH-1’ Smartphone isn’t just an ordinary device. The front full-size 5.71-inch IPS LCD display completely covers the top, even the earpiece is only visible when you have a close look at the top. Having a look at the device, one may wonder where the logo of this Phone is. Well, there isn’t one, as the exterior of the body doesn’t have any logo, text or anything else.
The big size of the screen in a compact size offers a resolution of 2560×1312 at an odd 19:10 aspect ratio. We have seen such odd aspect ratios on phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the LG G6, but the implementation of it on the Essential Phone seems quite good, and arguably better.
The exclusion of any branding or logo is what makes it look totally unique, and might attract buyers who hate brands embellishing their huge logos on Smartphones. This might well be the best looking Smartphone presently in the World. Yes, there I said it. It’s a purely subjective opinion, but the Essential Phone indeed looks better than the Samsung Galaxy S8, from both the front and the back.
It doesn’t have an awkward placement of the fingerprint Scanner like the S8 and is placed conveniently at the middle back. The dual camera module, the flash, and the two connector pins for the 360° Camera Module (which would have a delayed launch) are sleek and don’t protrude out of the device.
The Gorilla Glass 5 cover at the front, the Titanium side-frame, and the Ceramic back of the Essential Phone’s body perhaps make it the most premium handset in the market in terms of Build Quality (The Xiaomi MiMix also uses Ceramic, but the device overall was more like a prototype). However, while the premium materials in the body guarantee a highly scratch-free and dent-free usability, the glossy Ceramic Back is a huge fingerprint magnet. Also, this device might be safe from falls on the ground, but won’t be safe from water as it does not have water-resistance.
Another major bummer here is the absence of the ‘Essential’ 3.5mm headphone jack, but the box of the device does include an adapter to connect any 3.5mm jack supporting headphones and earphones. Coming to the adapters, the quality of the adapter and charger cables is something worth mentioning. The braided cables look good and might have a long lasting life.
The Essential Phone packs in a Dual-Camera setup, which might just become the norm on smartphones by the next couple of years or so. The implementation used here is that of one 13MP color-sensor and another 13MP Monochrome Sensor with a f/1.85 aperture to bring out high-quality images.
The front-camera, which clearly stands out in the front display at the top has an 8MP camera with a f/2.20 aperture. Some might feel that the front-camera position might affect or hide a significant part of the top display, but that is not the case here as the top part of the smartphone displays information only at the sides. The top place occupied by the front-camera in fact only accentuates the overall look of the Essential Phone.
At the back, there is a 2-pin connector for the supposed 360° camera module, which enhances the modularity aspect of the device. The use of this connector would be similar to that of Motorola’s Z series of devices, wherein separate modules can be attached to improve or add functions.
Hardware and Software
The Essential Phone is powered by the current flagship-level specifications, which include a Snapdragon 835 Processor, 4GB RAM and 128GB UFS 2.1 Internal Storage. Do note that there isn’t an expandable memory card slot. However, the internal storage of 128GB negates that requirement for arguably most of the potential buyers of the device.
Other than that, the device sports a USB-C connector and a 3,040mAh Battery. The device, as expected, runs on pure Android 7.1 with absolutely no bloatware, and has NFC and Bluetooth 5.0. The stock Android interface would significantly improve the experience with the high-end hardware present in the device. That said, there isn’t anything that really stands out in the Essential Phone in terms of technical aspects.
The Essential Phone is currently available for pre-order and shipping only in US and Canada at the price of $699 US Dollars (Rs. 44,800 approx.) for just the Smartphone and $749 US Dollars (Rs. 48,000 approx.) for the Phone + the 360° Camera. The device is said to be made available in Japan and the UK soon, however, there is no current word on the availability of the Essential phone in other countries.
The Essential Phone arguably has taken the tag of the best-looking smartphone away from Samsung’s Galaxy S8. Considering its Build Quality, it is the most premium Android Smartphone in the market as well. The reign might not last long if the upcoming iPhone 8 looks as beautiful as is expected from all the rumors and leaks. However, this smartphone, being a creation of Andy Rubin’s company Essential, has a lot of expectations riding on it.
From the looks of it, the does seem like the PH-1 is indeed a masterstroke. But only time will tell if the hype for the device translates into a massive amount of sales.