Andy Rubin – the co-creator of Android and now CEO at Essential Products, has finally revealed its first smartphone called “Essential”. The new Essential Phone was announced at the Code Conference of this week along with two other Essential products – a 360° camera accessory and a smart home, called Essential Home.
The phone is currently targeting US market with the price tag of $699 for a flagship package. Powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 SoC, the Essential Phone has a titanium build with very thin bezels around the edges leaving a little part of the bezel on the lower part of the screen.
Put everything a part, the build is what distinguishes the Essential phone from most of the high-end flagship phones out there. It’s combined with the ceramic back.
The display has rounded corners like Galaxy S8 and LG G6 but more similar in design with Mi Mix. The Essential Phone opted to put front camera behind the screen on top, unlike Mi Mix’s on the bottom. The front camera on Essential makes its way through the display which you can easily observe on top. For that, Essential Phone has used mostly customized components including camera sensors or display size etc.
Essential PH-1 Key Features
The Essential Phone, model name PH-1 is a flagship smartphone carrying inside the latest SoC from Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with octa-core CPU and 4GB of RAM. The phone packs with a 128GB UFS 2.1 internal storage. The Snapdragon X16 LTE modem connects on a really wide range of frequencies around the globe.
The CGS/LTPS display is 5.71″ diagonal protected by Gorilla Glass 5. As mentioned above, its rounded corners are much similar to what Galaxy S8, LG G6 or Mi Mix offer. However the display on Essential is just like another custom size of a screen.
It’s also not the standard 16:9 wide display – where Samsung used a 18.5:9 display aspect ratio on Galaxy S8, LG used 18:9 on G6 and Xiamoi’s Mi Mix has a 17:9 display, this new Essential offers a 19:10 aspect ratio of the display resolution. G6 and S8 sure have the wider/narrower displays. Another factor distinguishes Essential Phone’s display from the Mi Mix’s display – the former uses LTPS whereas the latter used IGZO.
The Essential supports the latest features in connectivity including 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 LE and NFC. The phone is backed by a 3040 mAh battery which is nearly the same capacity as the Galaxy S8’s 3000 mAh. Company has not rated its battery life usage in different conditions.
The phone features dual-camera on back that contains a 13MP RGB/color sensor and a 13MP monochrome sensor. It’s more like a dual-camera configuration we have seen from Huawei in its P9 initially and more recently in Huawei P10. Other Huawei smartphones like Honor 8 and Huawei Mate 9 also feature similar dual-camera stacks.
Technically, the monochrome sensor captures about double the amount of light than a color sensor as it doesn’t have an RGB Bayer filter to block incoming photons. While it can produce more realistic black and white photographs, when combined the luminance data of this monochrome sensor with the color data from the RGB sensor, the phone can should produce brighter and sharper color images with less noise and better contrast. You can find more technical details about the camera here.
The front camera is placed on the top side of the screen in the middle where the display cuts through like U-shaped neckline. It’s an 8MP camera along with ambient light and proximity sensors. You can tell that this part of the phone resides in the middle of the status bar on screen. It feels odd as you have not been used to see such a design but it indeed is a clever design to use mostly wasted space on the status bar.
Essential’s Build & Design
Essential PH-1 has a titanium built frame that is stronger than the aluminium but heavier too. However the company seemed to have kept things in control where the phone didn’t weigh more than enough. Weighing under 185 grams, it matches around the Huawei Mate 9 which of course has a larger build.
On the back there is polished ceramic build which is sleek and glossy, however a matte finish is also available as Rubin disclosed in his interview.
There’s a fingerprint scanner on the back and the dual-camera on top with the LED flash. Right there on back there are two magnetic connectors which are there to facilitate Essential accessories and one such is the 360-degree camera.
The 360-degree camera magnetically attaches itself to the phone. The camera only carries the sensor and the lens – means it only has the camera module while it gets the power from the phone. The two pins transfer the power while the data is transferred wirelessly via 60GHz, 6 Gbps connection. Yes! you can take this as modular type phone as they say as well – examples are LG G5 and Moto Mod.
What does the Essential Phone Miss?
Well, you won’t have an option to expand memory as there’s no microSD card support for memory expansion. The phone doesn’t support today’s more common feature of dual SIM – sure it’s available for US right now and they use single SIM. More importantly, the phone also doesn’t have traditional 3.5mm headphone jack as it comes with a USB adapter which is included in the retail package.
Pricing and Availability
The Essential Phone is now available for pre-order from Essential Products website for $699 in United States only. For a limited time, you can get the 360° camera accessory for an additional $50 which originally costs $199. The Essential Phone is available in Black Moon (with black frame) and Pure White (with silver frame). Two more colors Stellar Grey (with grey frame) and Ocean Depths (with green & gold frame) will be available sooner than later.