The Essential Phone – the anomaly of the Android world. It was pegged to make waves. Essential, who is run by Andy Rubin, one of the co-founders of Android, was destined to take on the likes of the Pixel and OnePlus phones due to the pure Android experience. Not only that, it was designed to look like something straight from the future – and one of the first Android devices to rock a notch, albeit very minimally.
Since its release in August 2017, it has received camera updates and software updates to make it even finer than the day it was released. Although Essential didn’t even sell more than 100,000 units in 2017, it still has a special place in many Android purists’ hearts.
Is picking one up in 2018 still a good idea?
The Essential Phone is a futuristic looking device. Made of titanium and ceramic glass, it definitely earns a spot on the set of movies like Bladerunner 2049 and Minority Report. It has no branding, which a lot of people may like. Also, that notch, it’s still one of the smallest notches you can find on an Android device, with the OnePlus 6T perhaps trumping that soon enough. In hand, it’s weighty and sturdy, feels a lot more solid than other lighter Android devices. Like you’re actually handling something worth handling. It is definitely one of the best designed Android devices rocking pure Android that I’ve ever used. I’d put it in the same category of build as the Nexus 6P.
A year later, it still puts a lot of Android devices to shame in terms of aesthetics.
The Essential Phone runs stock Android, that’s no shock. But a year after, and it’s running Android 9 (Pie) with a commitment from Essential to support it until Android 10 (Q). So, if you’re going to pick this up today, you know it’ll be supported until at least late next year.
With regards to ram management, the Essential’s 4gb of rams runs really well, without skipping a single beat. Not only that, the Essential has virtually no bloatware. I remember when I first set it up, there were only about 10 apps on the phone, all of which were… Essential… to the phone (like dialer, messages, browser). This may be a win to a lot of people that can’t stand the dreaded bloat that companies like Samsung and LG place on their devices.
The camera in your pocket is usually very important. You’re taking pictures of food, funny people at Walmart, and your shoes while you wait for the bus. I’m being facetious of course. The Camera on the Essential Phone has improved substantially, but it’s not in the same category as the likes of the Pixel, S9, or iPhone X. Yes, it may be considered a budget phone and not in the same category as the ones I mentioned above, but know that you could probably get a used Pixel 1 for the same price and have a wicked good camera. There’s definitely a few trade-offs.
You can download the Google camera app, which improves the experience, but it still is one of the cameras I enjoyed using the least. Well-lit conditions are decent, a little bit over-saturated, and low-light – get out, not good at all.
For around $200 USD or $300 CAD, you get what you pay for. Don’t pick this up thinking you’re going to take awesome photos in this price range because you won’t.
Should you get the Essential Phone in 2018?
If you you’re an Android purist and design is important to you, as is value, then definitely get the Essential. You may even see deals on Amazon or your local buy/sell apps where you can pick it up on the cheap. Just know you’ll be combating the crumby camera while you’re taking a picture of your food. But you’ll apply a filter anyways, so is it that important?
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