After months of teases and hype, Android creator Andy Rubin has finally unveiled the first smartphone by his new company, Essential. And as expected, it’s a cutting edge Android phone with a minimalist design and a hefty price tag.
The Essential Phone has a flagship Snapdragon 835 chipset featuring an octa-core processor that’s been paired with 4GB of RAM, so on paper this phone is just as powerful as the HTC U11 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium. The phone also has 128GB of storage (though seemingly no microSD card slot) and runs Android. It’s not clear how heavily skinned Essential’s take on the OS will be though.
It’s not just a smartphone, the Essential Phone is part of a new ecosystem designed to offer an alternative to Google’s Android, with a focus on design, performance, and versatility. Here are 5 fast facts you need to know:
1. The Essential phone sports a 5.7″ Nearly Bezel-less Display
It appears that 2017 is the year of the slim-bezel smartphone. The Essential Phone features an 5.71-inch 2560 x 1312 edge-to-edge display that tries to outdo the edgeless displays found on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6, and Xiaomi Mi MIX.
When we say edge-to-edge display, we are not mincing words, as there’s virtually no bezel seen, except for just a small portion at the bottom and a cut-out for the front-facing camera. We can say that it has possibly the strangest implementation of a front-facing camera we’ve ever seen; by slicing a big U-shaped chunk out of the top center of the display.
Moving it off to the side where the selfie camera traditionally sits, along with a smaller profile, would have been a better move. Screen space near the top of the device would have been more usable this way as people rarely look at the top right corner of their screen; putting it in the center just wastes valuable screen space.
The Essential Phone has a 19:10 aspect ratio, which means that, like the 18:9 Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6, it’s more narrow than a typical 16:9 phone. This makes it surprisingly compact given the size of the screen, measuring 141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8mm with a weight of 185g. For comparison, despite having a 5.7-inch edge display, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm because of it’s 16:9 screen ratio.
2. The Essential Phone has a Titanium build
The Essential Phone utilizes an unusual combination of ceramic and titanium materials for its build. The titanium was chosen because it’s harder, stronger and more resilient than aluminum, making the device more likely to survive a scratch or a fall. While it’s likely to be incredibly durable, there has been no mention of waterproofing, so you probably won’t want to get it wet.
3. The Essential Phone features a slick modular design
One other major highlight of the Essential Phone is its modular design that allows for additional accessories, similar to that of the Moto Z. The first one being touted by the company is “the world’s smallest” 360-degree camera that for now is just being called the “360 camera”.
The rear of the Essential Phone is where most of the modular magic happens. Next to the dual camera setup, you see accessory power pins that will power the camera once its clipped. The ‘360 camera’ is an cutting edge smartphone accessory considering how videos today are incorporating 360-degree cameras as social media sites like Facebook and YouTube are adding support for the technology.
4. The Essential phone has no headphone jack
In a move to achieve a near port-less design, Essential does not include the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack with the Phone. It’ll ship with a dongle, however, so all of your wired buds and cans will still work – along with some added bulk.
It’s possible that other audio accessories could be made that could clip on to the magnetic accessory port but we would recommend picking up a pair of bluetooth headphones. Audio quality has really improved with the latest Bluetooth standards and the freedom you get with wireless headphones is unmatched.
While Apple may have been successful in ditching the headphone jack with the iPhone, there has yet to be a flagship Android device that doesn’t feature an analog audio input. Interesting side-note: iPhone-maker Foxconn
is was one of the investors in the company.
5. The Essential Phone has dual cameras, 4K, and a dedicated B&W sensor
Similar to Huawei’s P9 and P10, Rubin’s company has opted for world’s thinnest dual camera system on any phone with a sensor dedicated to monochrome imaging. It can be used standalone for black and white photos, or combined with the color sensor for better detail and improved low-light performance.
The essential has two 13MP f/1.85 cameras around back, we think the most notable feature here is the lack of camera hump found on most other phones. The front-facing camera, meanwhile, is an 8-megapixel f/2.2 snapper that is capable of shooting 4K video.
Price and Availability
The Essential Phone was officially announced May 30 and you can pre-orders are already being accepted in the US for $699 or $749 if bundled with the 360-degree camera attachment. There’s no shipping date yet though and no news on whether it will launch in other markets.
You can get the Essential Phone in your choice from four colors, including Black Moon, Stellar Grey, Pure White, and Ocean Depths. Essential says that unlocked phones bought on its site “will work with any carrier”, and the company adds that its phone supports Carrier Aggregation.