Let me start this review off by saying that the wait for the Essential Phone to officially arrive in the UK continues. However, following the recent price drop to $499 in the states, I couldn’t wait any longer so I ordered one from the US.
If you are a regular DLS Tech reader, you will have noticed that we have been immensely excited for this phone since it was first announced way back in May. The question is; does it live up to the hype, and was it worth the wait?
I’m delighted to say that the answer to both these questions is a resounding yes! The Essential Phone is a thing of beauty. It’s clear that this phone is a passion project between the world class team that Andy Rubin has assembled.
I’ve never heard of Essential before, what makes them so special? I hear you ask. Well this relatively new company is the brain child of industry legend Andy Rubin, the man behind the Android operating system (the most popular operating system on the planet). This incredibly ambitious and talented team set out to create a smartphone that stands out from the competition, free from branding and pre-loaded bloatware. Boy did they deliver on their promises.
The Essential Phone is a truly outstanding piece of hardware. This thing is both solid and beautiful thanks to the Ceramic back, titanium sides and jaw-dropping edge to edge display. The Essential Phone isn’t just beautiful though, it’s got brains too. Packing the latest and greatest Snapdragon 835 paired with 4GB of RAM, dual 13MP cameras and a 5.71″ QHD display, it goes toe to toe with any 2017 flagship when it comes to specs.
But Essential didn’t stop there…. They also incorporated a never before seen magnetic wireless accessory solution that allows you to snap accessories to the back of the phone. As if that isn’t cool enough, the phone wireless powers any connected accessory as if by magic! The first of these revolutionary accessories is the world’s smallest 360° camera that takes the camera experience to the next level. Unfortunately, we don’t have one in house to test but we’ll update this review if we manage to get our hands on one (and the upcoming wireless charging dock too).
Turning on the Essential Phone for the first time is an amazing experience, the screen covers the entire front of the handset and feels like it’s been pulled from the future! Dive a little deeper though and you’ll find an almost stock Android experience out of the box and the most recent update even added the swipe down on the fingerprint scanner to view notifications gesture that was so popular on the Pixel phones.
Speaking of updates, Essential are on top of their game here too. It’s currently running Android 7.1.1 at the time of this review but the team are constantly rolling out software and security updates with Android 8.0 Oreo promised in the not too distant future (in Beta form initially).
The camera was initially a subject of concern when released in the US but I’m delighted to say that the updates have significantly improved things here too. This camera is great and a true testament to Essentials commitment to improving things with software updates. The camera app is now smooth and responsive with pictures showing excellent colour and detail.
Is the camera perfect? No. Will it continue to improve? Yes. I’d like to see an iPhone-esque portrait mode but I believe the team are already working on it!
In summary, stunning hardware, top of the line specs, great camera and an incredible price make the Essential Phone the best buy in smartphones right now – It really is astonishing that it’s only $499. If only they’d officially release in the UK so that more people could experience it!
Ohh, more news on the Essential Charging dock & Essential Home would be great too….