The co-founder of Android has now finally launched his new take on smartphones, and it's called Essential. It's every bit of premium a smartphone can get with top-tier specs and a $700 price tag, but what does it bring to the table?
Critics have now weighed in on Rubin's new project, and the response is mostly positive, with some slight qualms here and there.
Essential Phone: A New Kind Of Smartphone
The Essential PH-1's design, one of its love-it-or-hate-it qualities, doesn't borrow from recent aesthetic trends. It's quite odd to see a smartphone resembling a fancy black slab instead of the usual curved and svelte offerings from Apple, Huawei, and Samsung. But the merit here is given to Essential's seemingly unapologetic approach to being a bit different than the rest. Here's a design that's not too different, but different enough to pull in second looks.
"Lots of phones feel like they're derivative copies of other phones, but the Essential Phone genuinely feels like its own thing," wrote The Verge in its review.
"In some ways, the Essential Phone appears genuinely exciting and new. In most, it just feels like a really good smartphone," wrote Wired.
Most of the critics were taken with the phone's design, with some saying its titanium and ceramic back is "sturdy" without feeling unwieldy. Others took issue with its glossy back panel. Business Insider wrote that it's "practically begging for scratches and fingerprint smudges."
Some reviewers, such as The Verge, took issue with the lack of a headphone jack, a recent trend that's half-accepted and half-admonished. Critics, however, praised the inclusion of a USB-C-to-headphone jack adapter.
Essential Phone: Is The Camera Cutout On The Display Distracting?
The Essential Phone features a 5.7-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,312, which means it has a rare 19:10 aspect ratio. Its no-bezel look goes beyond the upper bezel, meaning there's what critics call a "chin," a circular cutout around the front camera which bleeds into a small part of the display.
It looks distracting, but TechCrunch wrote it doesn't actually interfere with daily tasks.
"When apps — take, say, Netflix — go fullscreen, the regions next to the camera go dark, effectively shrinking the size of the display to what it'd look like with a more standard top bezel."
"That cyclops eye seems like the sort of thing that would be distracting, but in my experience, it becomes invisible almost immediately," said The Verge.
Essential Phone: Camera Quality And Performance
One of the most important aspects of a smartphone is its camera. The Essential Phone has two of them: one that shoots in color and one in black and white. Some reviewers say the photos look sharp, strong, and detailed. But some were more critical.
The Verge, for one, was disappointed with the quality and performance but noted software updates could fix this in the future.
Essential Phone: Verdict
We won't go into the phone's performance because it's pretty much what you can expect from a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip coupled with 4 GB of RAM. Reviewers call it "snappy," and that it handled everything "swimmingly."
Some reviewers also gave praise to the Essential Phone's modularity, thanks to the pogo pins on the back that work similarly to Motorola's Moto Mods pins.
Overall, reviewers were impressed by the Essential Phone, but that's to be expected for a phone that costs almost the same as heavyweights in the game. In the end, it seems picking this phone over anything else in the market will be a matter of taste. The Essential Phone is for those willing to buy a phone that took risks in design but made it work.