Essential Phone review

The smartphone newcomer’s first step is refreshing, yet divisive

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The Essential phone offers a lot of promise thanks to its expandable accessory port, stock Android interface and nearly bezel-less screen design. It’s also one of the most powerful compact phones we’ve ever tested, even though it has a 5.7-inch display. It feels smaller and bigger at the same time.

The problem is it doesn’t fulfill every one of Andy Rubin’s promises – not yet at least. His new Essential company may eventually create a long-lasting smartphone with many useful accessories and expand its use cases, where it stands in its early days leaves too many blanks unfilled. It’s a great looking, slick functioning phone, but its steep price and what Essential deems to be essential isn’t much more than the bare necessities.

Who's this for?

For those in need of an elegantly designed Android smartphone, look no further. Essential’s dedication of squeezing so much tech into a smartphone is admirable, as is its simple and clean interface.

If the idea of buying into a smartphone that will evolve by way of its accessory port over time is appealing, this is a solid choice, but not the cheapest one next from the Moto Z2 Force, which has had more time to prove itself on the modular accessories front.

Should I buy it?

The Essential Phone is impressive in many ways. At the same time, it’s a bit of a let down – though most things under this level of hype suffer a similar fate.

Hype aside, the PH-1 seems to have a solid grasp on the bare essentials of what a flagship Android smartphone should be. But other new options, like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG V30 totally outclass it in terms of value and feature set.

If its lack of headphone jack, waterproofing, expandable storage and wireless charging aren’t deal breakers for you, the Essential Phone is a solid choice today that only stands to grow into an even more essential product. But for others, it's hard to recommend outright unless its price falls.

Cameron Faulkner

Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.