Thursday, April 5, 2018

Essential Phone: 8 Months Later

Many of you who don't have Sprint may not know what the Essential Phone is. Let me catch you up real quick.

Essential is an Android Smartphone designed by Android Co-founder Andy Rubin. As the name would suggest, this phone is very minimalist. There is absolutely no branding on the phone, and yes, this includes carrier branding. The construction of the device screams quality with a ceramic back, Titanium frame, and the screen is Gorilla Glass 5. It features USB C, and has 2 magnetic pin holes on the back of the phone for (currently non-existent) modular accessories. Currently the only modular accessory is the 360 degree camera. They have a charging base coming out in the near future as well, but details are still not released. As most other current generation phones, they chose to Eighty-Six the headphone jack, so I would recommend a nice set of Bluetooth Headphones.

I got my Essential PH-1 (get it? PH-ONE) very shortly after launch. My initial impressions were less than favorable. This is a new phone from a new company, so shortfalls and setbacks are to be expected. The phone definitely had issues. First and Foremost, the camera was terrible. I hoped and prayed that the issue was software and not hardware. Essential was very timely with software updates, and after a rocky couple of months, they slowly fixed most of the issues.

I also had a nagging problem with frequent freezes, and very odd behaviors. Some resulted in random reboots, and others ended with me having to force reboot the device. I was very close to selling the device around month 4. I took to Reddit to complain about the issues with the device, but I was met by fanboy mods. Ill speak of the device found my Reddit account banned for 2 weeks from the Essential subreddit, but that is a story for another time.

Not too long after that, I decided to take the plunge and flash the Oreo Beta build on my device. I had decided that if the Oreo update didn't fix the issues, then I would sell it and move over to the overpriced Pixel 2.

Much to my delight, Oreo fixed ALL of my issues. The device has very excellent battery life, typically getting 12-14 hours per charge. Thanks to the fast charging, it typically fully charges in about 45 minutes.

It's not all rainbows and butterflies though. Unfortunately, the device had very weak early sales. I think this is mainly because Sprint had exclusivity to the Essential Phone. With a starting retail price of $599 for the unlocked variety, people avoided it. Mainly because they were asking people to invest in a device from a company that was unknown. This resulted in a lackluster line up of accessories for the device. You are looking at only a handful of cases. Namely, Tudia and Incipio. I have had each, and I must say that Incipio is the better product. Most cases do not allow access to the modular ports on the back of the phone. In fact, if you are looking for a case that allows access, you will need to give up protection and go with a thin cover instead of a protective case.

I am also disappointed in Essential for dragging their feet on new modular accessories. Modular phones had the potential to be the future of mobile devices. The issue is that no company has released an impressive line up of modular accessories to date. Now it has become more of a gimmick than an exciting way to customize your device to your needs.

This isn't Essential's fault necessarily, but they had the chance to shake up the modular technology, and I'm afraid they missed the bus on this one. There has been talk about a new device from Essential, but with their last device being a loss on their ledger, their lack of accessories, and sales being lost to the marketing of Moto and One Plus, I wouldn't expect much from the new device. Here's to hoping that they get their marketing and development team on the same page, and do something to shake the market up a bit.

While I don't have high hopes for the future of the company, the device itself (when running Oreo) is one of the nicest devices that I have had the pleasure of owning.

All things considered, I would have to recommend that you buy the Essential PH-1. The price point has come down, and I would expect the price to drop again as essential gets ready to release a new device.

This probably won't come as a surprise to my readers, but Essential Phone get a Beard of Approval.