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Essential PH-1 Preview: Is Andy Rubin's first flagship really essential?

01 September 2017 5

Android OS co-founder Andy Rubin announced his company's first smartphone Essential PH-1 back in May. The device was much hyped ahead of its official unveiling. The company's CEO stated the device will be released in one month after the announcement, however, the company took almost two months to release the device. However, the device is released at a very challenging time when almost all smartphone manufacturers are gearing up to announce their second flagships of the year.

Like always whenever a new smartphone is released, everyone is keen to know how well it will compete against its competitors. To answer this question we already compared the Essential PH-1 against the Samsung Galaxy S8, HTC U11, and LG's G6. Finally, after a long delay, the device is finally released. It is now the perfect time to have a preview of the device to know each detail of the device. We are sure this preview will certainly help out our readers to decide whether they should grab Essential PH-1 or not.

71.1 x 141.5 x 7.8 mm
5.71 inches - 2560x1312 px
Go to comparison page

No doubt, the Essential PH-1 is one of the most luring smartphones announced this year. The Essential PH-1 chassis is made up of titanium whereas its rear covering is manufactured using ceramic. It looks quite premium in hands without any logo of the company. On the rear side, the device is adorned with the dual rear camera setup. The dual sensors aren't protruding like iPhone 7 Plus. The fingerprint scanner is on the rear side below the dual cameras in the center. On the top right side, it has two silver pins to attach magnetic modular accessories.

The best thing is device ceramic rear doesn't attract fingerprints like glass rear body. Due to metal chassis and rear cover, it is slightly heavier than traditional smartphones at 185g. However, it is not a bulky smartphone. The front facing display is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 5.

The front facing side of Essential PH-1 features an all front facing display with minimal bezels around the edges similar to Galaxy S8 and LG G6. Despite having a small notch for the front facing camera, it isn't distracting at all. We have to admit the company designed the device pretty well. Despite having an overall small footprint of a compact smartphone, the device features a large display of 5.7-inches. The volume controllers and power buttons are on the right edge. The Type-C connectivity port and SIM slot are on the bottom edge. Unfortunately, the device didn't have 3.5mm headphone jack. Most of the smartphones in the market are IP68 certified but the Essential PH-1 isn't water and dust resistant.


The Essential PH-1 is featuring a 5.71-inches display with Quad HD screen resolution of 1312 x 2560 pixels. The device aspect ratio is 19:10. The company opted LCD display panel instead of AMOLED. However, still, it is one of the vibrant and colorful displays available in the market. The display is bright enough to use perfectly in both low-light and day light conditions. The best thing is having a compact body you won't feel any lag in holding it single handily. Despite it is Essential's first try but they did a commendable job.


Being the latest flagship smartphone the Essential PH-1 is packed with top-notch hardware to match the class of current gen top tier smartphone. Almost all flagships announced so far this year are running on the Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 SoC, same is the case with the Essential PH-1. The Octa-core chipset is accompanied with 4GB RAM. Samsung adopted similar setup for their Galaxy S8.

The hardware is powerful enough to handle multitasking and hi-fi games. The device won't bogged down at any stage. In terms of built-in storage, there is only one variant with 128GB memory which isn't further expandable using MicroSD card. The device opens apps in a blink of second and multitasking is quite fluid.

The Galaxy S8 managed to score 155,253 points on AnTuTu whereas the HTC U11 with similar hardware scored 175,748. The performance of both these devices showcases how much the Essential PH-1 is powerful. Although Benchmarks are not the clear indication of how well the device will perform in daily life still it gives sneak peak view of how much power these smartphones have as opposed to predecessors.

Specs Essential PH-1
Display 5.71-inches LCD
Screen resolution 1312 x 2560 pixels
SoC Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835
Storage 128GB non-Expandable
Rear camera Dual 13MP
Front camera 8MP
OS Android Nougat 7.1.1
Battery 3,040mAh
USB Type-C
IP68 No

Operating system

One of the best thing about Essential PH-1 is its vanilla version of Android Nougat 7.1.1. Those who like stock Android OS UI of Pixel lineup smartphones but want a similar experience on another device, they can opt Essential PH-1 as it is offering similar clean UI experience like stock version. Another plus point is the device is confirmed to receive the latest Android Oreo 8.0 update pretty soon. One of the reasons behind the smooth performance of Essential PH-1 is its clean UI without any added bloatware.

The device support NFC which means the device can be utilized for contactless payments using Android Pay service. The Galaxy S8 was the first flagship smartphone with Bluetooth 5.0, Essential PH-1 also offers latest Bluetooth 5.0. It supports network bands of almost all carriers across the globe.

Modular Accessories

Last year Motorola unveiled their Moto Z lineup smartphones with modular design, the company also releases few Moto Mods as well. Same is the case with the Essential PH-1, it is also a modular smartphone company. The two silver pins on the rear side attach magnetic Mods. In case of Motorola, there are 16 pins on the rear bottom. Essential unveils a 360-degree Modular camera which can be attached magnetically on the rear side. These Mods can be utilized to further enhance the device capabilities. Although currently only one Mod accessory available for Essential PH-1.

In case of Moto Mods, mostly pins are used to transfer data but that's not the case with Essential PH-1 as its two pins are only used to draw power. Essential's approach of Modular accessory is better than Motorola.


The dual rear cameras aren't something special for the top tier flagships. Essential also adopted dual rear camera setup for their PH-1. One of the sensor captures color shots whereas the other sensor captures in black and white similar to Huawei's P10 lineup smartphones. Essential stated their smartphone “can capture up to 200 percent more light” which means it can capture more light during low-light.

The primary rear color snapper is 13MP with f/1.85 aperture whereas the monochrome lens is the 13MP sensor with f/1.85 aperture. Both the sensors combined results are pretty great and detailed. Users can utilize monochrome sensor exclusively to capture in black and white. The company brought manual HDR mode so you have to add manually all time and they confirm Portrait Mode is on its way. Unfortunately, there isn't any burst or manual mode available for Essential PH-1 users.

One area where Essential PH-1 doesn't excel at all but instead the device shutter took a long time to capture. The user have to wait at least a second after clicking the shutter icon. Both the sensors lack Optical Image Stabilization that's why results are shaky while moving. To capture crisp photos, you have to make sure your hand is still while capturing images. Even after capturing images, the device took some time to open images from the camera app. Up front, the selfie capturer is the 8MP sensor. The camera sensors performance/ results are pretty good but the Essential should also pay attention to the frustrating software problem.


A non-removable 3,040mAh battery cell is on board to keep the Essential PH-1 lights on. Like most of the Android flagships, the device last one day on a single charge on medium to heavy usage. However, the best thing is it can be quickly charged thanks to fast charging support.

Price and Release

At the moment initially the Essential PH-1 unlocked variant is available in the US, it supports all carriers network. The device cost $700. However, if you want a carrier locked variant, only Sprint is selling it. The 360-degree camera accessory cost $200 separately. Well, soon after the release Essential PH-1 along with camera mod are available at a promotional price tag of $750. The company is currently selling the black variant only, So if you want to grab the Essential PH-1 you better hurry before the promotional time ends.


The Essential PH-1 takes lead in software, design and performance department. However, the device lacks in camera department because of its slower speed. At the moment it is still in the dark when Essential will be releasing more Mods in future. Despite having a number of plus aspects, it lacks IP rating which is available on almost all smartphones of this range. The Essential doesn't have 3.5mm headphone jack neither it has MicroSD card slot for memory expansion.

Essential PH-1 owners can expect latest updates pretty quickly. The company already confirmed the device will be updated to Android Oreo pretty soon. We can expect the device will receive latest Android OS updates at least for next couple of years. The solid titanium body with Gorilla Glass 5 protection, the device can bear accidental drops pretty well. The device build quality is pretty great. However, the only issue is the camera which the company confirms will be settled with an update pretty soon.

At the end, we would like to hear our readers thoughts in the comments section below. Stay tuned

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Essential PH-1 Preview: Is Andy Rubin's first flagship really essential?
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Well, I really can't answer if this phone is essential or not. But we could have done without one too... especially considering the distance it has to travel.

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