After a three-month delay, Essential Phone has landed in the hands of reviewers across the internet. For the most part, the phone is well-received — the camera being an outlier. What was that about Android phones and cameras, again? Anyway, congratulations for Andy Rubin and Essential are definitely in order. That screen is a stunner. Coupled with its adoption of ceramic and titanium, Essential Phone looks like a great first generation smartphone. Will be interesting to see how well it sells.
The only downside of this gloriously full screen lies in the software. More often than not, Android slaps a black border at the top of the phone above whatever app you’re using, which kind of kills the effect. In a few places, content can flow all the way up, giving you more maps or an even wider-angle Netflix, but you’d often never know you didn’t have a bezel. As more phones get smaller bezels, this will change, but the full effect of the full screen hasn’t quite arrived.
Essential’s camera specs meet your expectations for a high-end phone, but the photos don’t. The two 13-megapixel cameras on the back—one in color and one in monochrome, used mostly to bring additional clarity and depth data in your photos—occasionally take beautiful, rich photos. They also, for no apparent reason, occasionally capture well-lit, noisy, poorly focused shots. I like the slightly saturated look of the photos; I don’t like that they collapse into pixelated blobs as soon as I zoom in. At least the 8-megapixel selfies come out better
Essential says the titanium makes the phone more rigid and less susceptible to cracking when you drop it. And the ceramic is meant to be very scratch-resistant and allows certain radio signals through. I can’t say that I did a bunch of drop and key-scratch tests to verify those claims, because I did not.