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CTECHSmartphonesThe Essential Phone Review

The Essential Phone Review

Andy Robin’s phone, dubbed The Essential Phone, was released on the 1st of September, 2017. The phone was initially delayed after Robin said it was originally supposed to be released earlier this year. Robin’s idea behind The Essential Phone is to provide users with just the essentials, (hence the name) without all the bloat offered on other carrier phones and stripped down in an effort to perfect the basic features of what users really care about. But did The Essential Phone deliver?

I have been using The Essential Phone for alittle short of a week now. Here is my take!

Specifications

Essential Phone
Display 5.71-inch LTPS LCD
2560 x 1312 resolution
503 ppi
19:10 aspect ratio
Processor Octa-core (2.45 GHz Quad + 1.9 GHz Quad) 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 10 nm processor
RAM 4 GB
Storage 128 GB
No MicroSD expansion
Cameras Rear cameras
– Dual 13 MP sensors (RGB + Mono), ƒ/1.85 aperture, Hybrid Auto Focus combing Contrast, Phase Detect and IR Laser Assist FocusFront camera
– 8 MP sensor with ƒ/2.2 aperture
Battery 3,040 mAh
Non-removable
Fast charging on wired
No wireless charging
Water resistance No
Software Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Dimensions and weight 141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8 mm
185 g

Design and Build

The Essential Phone is incredibly heavy at 185 g. This is in-part due to its premium construction. The phone is made of titanium and ceramic. The frame is of titanium and the ceramic is placed at the back creating its shell. However, because of Essential’s choice in material, the device easily becomes a fingerprint magnet especially in the dark edition – the sheen and symmetry definitely help keep the phone eye- catching without trying too hard. Luckily it can be easily cleaned by just a quick wipe.

Essential forgone overtures and fancy curves for a more blocky design. There is definitely a sharper feel to this phone unlike to the more rounded Samsung Galaxy S8, but even though of its somewhat sharp edges, the phone does feel pretty good in the hand. This is partially as a result of its small footprint, thanks to its incredible screen-to-body ratio.

Display

The biggest reason for the design is because Essential wanted the screen to be the focal point of the phone. Its unique design was carefully planned so as to cater for the Bezel-less design it now boast.

The movement for bezel-less is strong in smartphone users today. The Essential Phone delivered when it comes to this. Its clear Essential wanted users to feel like they are basically holding just a display. The phone is one that delivered the more bezel-less design as ever seen before in a smartphone. The only noticeable bezel on this phone is the chin which stretches a mere half of an inch long in height. The camera just beautifully cuts into the screen just at the center leaving the left and right sides with just display. The phone has a Quad HD 19:10 aspect ratio screen that stretches throughout the majority of the front, cut by only a respectable chin and a small dip at the top for the front facing camera. The feeling of having all this screen available is pretty great and hasn’t gotten old yet – it is definitely one of the biggest draws of the Essential. It offers a substantial screen real-estate to users.

Essential opted for an IPS LCD display instead of AMOLED. The screen boast a 5.71-inch LTPS LCD
at 2560 x 1312 resolution with a pixel density of 503. The only real gripe with the display is its IPS LCD nature – AMOLED would have been a great step up, but that’s not to say the IPS doesn’t do the job. In fact, its colors have been dialed in fairly well and the display is pretty visible when cranked up under sunlight.

Software and Performance

Essential had made it clear earlier, months prior to the phones debut that it was going with Stock Android. This was not surprising after all, Andy Rubin has spent years working at Google on Android. We did not expect his company to compete with the software he built.

The Essential Phone ships with near Stock Android with its only alteration being a custom written camera app and a settings entry to send usage and diagnostic information to the company. Other than that, the software is no different than what you would expect on the Google Pixel. Essential said that because the phone runs near stock, users should expect timely updates to Android and is scheduled to get Android Oreo in a matter of weeks.

Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone performs on average, based on my usage experience. Considering this is a US $699 phone, its performance is nothing short of disappointing. The phone’s performance is one that burdens its users with lags and jitters. What is even more disappointing is that fact that the PH-1 runs a very stripped-down version of Android, practically stock. We do hope Essential fixes the many issues with this phone’s performance because as it is, a US $200 phone performs better than this.

Camera

The Essential phone comes with a dual lens setups. For their first smartphone, a combination of RGB and monochrome sensors are utilized to bring what should be highly detailed photos. Meanwhile, the front-facing camera is an 8 MP shooter that is actually capable of 4K video recording. The camera app is very minimalistic and barebone.

The performance of the camera app is extremely poor. Shooting with the Essential has gotten better in terms of shutter to file speed, but changing between the different lenses can still be slightly delayed and getting the right focus can take a bit of time. The camera app doesn’t have too much to offer other than the basics. Aside from a slow-motion mode, there is little else by way of extra shooting modes or even a manual mode. This isn’t a bad thing when the camera is a good automatic shooter, but unfortunately, the results have been less than stellar.

The results the camera produced seems to the lacking of proper processing. The pictures are flat and pale and falls short of adequate or overblown exposure. While the major issue lies in poor hardware coupled with an insufficient and poorly written software, the issue seems to partly negate when using the Google Camera app; which seems to improve overall picture quality if only by a fraction.

Battery Life

The Essential phone features a Non-removable Li-Ion 3040 mAh battery. Battery life on this phone has been spectacular. An average day usage will deliver roughly 4 to 5 hours of screen on time. Average day being approximately an hour on Facebook and other social medias, 15 mins of camera usage and and on and off browsing. On a heavy day, the phone delivers around 2-3 hours of screen on time. At the end of the day, I am usually left with around 20% battery life. All in all, the battery is more than satisfactory and is perhaps one of the biggest strengths on this phone.

Conclusion

By now this might sound a little cliche but it still stands true even after receiving updates from Essential, for a phone whose name is Essential and was intended to be the one device that brings all things that are essential to the users, falls short big time. Hopefully, The Essential 2 will deliver something more appealing.

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