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I’ve used quite a few Android phones over the years, and I can say for sure that the Essential Phone is, hands down, my favorite. Here are some qualities unique to the Essential Phone that make it a phenomenal device.
1. This Is Essential’s Only Phone
Samsung, LG, and HTC each put out buckets of phones a year. Developers have to prepare and test software for each device. This takes time and effort, which is part of the reason so many Android phones receive few, if any, updates.
The Essential Phone is the only phone that Essential has released. This means the company can focus its attention on one product. While other companies may not care all that much how consumers feel about a specific model, the end user experience on the Essential Phone is one of the company’s main priorities.
2. A Fast and Long Support Cycle
We’re proud to bring Android 9 Pie to Essential Phone the same day it’s released! Check your phone now for the update. ? pic.twitter.com/pniUDl9yr8
— Essential (@essential) August 6, 2018
When Google officially announced Android Pie, the first phone to receive an update was not a Pixel. It was the Essential Phone. Essential pushed an over-the-air update out to devices on the same day as Google’s announcement.
Fast updates are not new for the Essential Phone, but it’s not just the speed of updates that’s commendable here. Essential has pledged support for the device until August 2019.
Android Oreo and Pie both arrived in August. If Android Q (Quince Jam? Quiche? We don’t yet know) does the same, or even if it’s a few weeks late, Essential plans to provide that update.
This will mean that the Essential Phone launched with Android 7.0 Nougat, and by the end of its support cycle, it’s expected to run Android 10. In the Android world, that’s essentially unprecedented.
3. The Essential Phone Gets Better With Age
Many phones start out great only to degrade over time. Comparing later reviews to those that came out around the phone’s launch, the opposite has been the case with the Essential Phone.
Essential’s small but focused team has pushed out fixes to address the phone’s early software problems. The camera app is faster and more stable. Apps have also had time to adjust to the front-facing camera notch. That’s all in addition to two major Android version upgrades.
That doesn’t mean the phone is free of issues. Some users reported seeing more dropped Bluetooth connections. Nonetheless, the consensus seems to be that the phone provides a better experience now than it did when it was new.
4. There’s No Branding
There isn’t a giant logo on the back of the Essential Phone. Not only has Essential resisted any temptation to etch its name somewhere, but you won’t find certification details or any other text either.
I find logos garish and a form of advertising I don’t need in my life. I’m willing to risk damaging a device if I believe there’s a chance I can remove the logo. In the past, I managed to scrub the bright red BoomSound branding from the bottom of my old HTC One without leaving behind any marks. But there was no way to remove HTC’s own logo on both the front and back of the device, unfortunately.
I love that this is not an issue with the Essential Phone. It’s nice to see a company that not only shares this view of logos (see marketing text in the image above), but is willing to put its money where its mouth is.
5. 128GB of Storage on Every Phone
Not long ago, smartphones limited us to 16GB or 32GB of internal space. Now, 64GB is commonplace. But on the Essential Phone, you get 128GB.
Most phones that offer 128GB treat it as an upsell. For instance, the 128GB Pixel 2 costs $100 more than its 64GB counterpart. With the Essential Phone, one size fits all, and that size is 128GB.
That said, I’d still like to see a microSD card slot.
6. It’s Both Comfortable and Solid
The Essential Phone is among the sleekest smartphones ever made. I don’t think that’s much of a contentious statement. Still, I’m surprised by just how usable this phone really is.
While it’s around the same size as previous phones I’ve owned, the Essential Phone feels much less unwieldy in my hand. It doesn’t feel like a bigger phone, all while having a larger screen than older devices of the same size. The metal frame feels solid, and the ceramic back does a great job of resisting scratches.
I’ve dropped the phone several times now, and none of the components have shattered (though I have scratched the screen after absentmindedly putting my phone in the same pocket as my keys).
In short, the Essential Phone isn’t a shallow pretty face. There’s substance to this design.
7. Photos Are Great
The differences between smartphone cameras and DSLRs have shrunk over the years. My Essential Phone’s photos look great even on pixel-dense displays, like my Pixelbook’s. With older phones, I could tell which camera I used just by the difference in photo quality. Now I need to check the image resolution, because the Essential Phone’s images appear just as clear.
I still carry around a DSLR camera when I’m going out with the explicit purpose of taking pictures, mainly due to optical zoom. But when zooming isn’t an issue, I know my Essential Phone will capture the moment just fine.
8. It’s a Blank Slate
While I prefer Android to iOS, I’m not exactly Google’s biggest fan. I only install a few apps and disable most of what Google provides. Indeed, I don’t like having extra software lying around on my phone, including the likes of Google Assistant or Samsung’s Bixby—I view them as unwanted distractions.
The Essential Phone provides a clean version of Android similar to what you get on a Google Pixel phone, but with even fewer extra features. Essential developed its own camera app, and that’s it. This fits my temperament so much more than the overabundance of apps and features you get from a Samsung, LG, Huawei, or HTC phone.
9. That 360 Degree Camera
The Essential Phone has two magnetic connectors on the back intended for attachable accessories. So far, only one has hit the market. That’s the Essential 360 degree camera.
Just like the phone itself, Essential has cut the price of the camera. So if you already have the phone, this add-on is an affordable way to try creating your own 360 videos.
What Do You Think of the Essential Phone?
A year after the Essential Phone’s release, this device provides an excellent experience. After recent price drops, it’s hard to overstate how much value you’re getting for your money.
But I’m not claiming the Essential Phone is best for everyone. If you consider 3.5mm jacks or microSD card slots as must-haves (and I wouldn’t blame you), then this phone will disappoint you in both areas. Fortunately, there are alternatives that still have headphone jacks.