Hands On With the Essential PH-1

August 21, 2017 - Written By Alexander Maxham

The Essential PH-1 is the first smartphone from Andy Rubin’s new smartphone company, Essential and the PH-1 is definitely an interesting device. It sports all of the usual high-end, flagship specs you’d expect in 2017. Including a 5.7-inch Quad HD display, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There’s also a 3040mAh battery inside, which does have Quick Charge 3.0 available for charging pretty quickly. But what makes the Essential PH-1 unique is the display, which is bezel-less, but also the fact that the phone is made of titanium. We’ve had a little bit of time to play around with this smartphone and really experience all that it has to offer, and it’s a pretty interesting device to say the least.

The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the Essential PH-1 is the fact that the bezels are basically missing, and you’ll see a camera inside the display. Essential did this to keep the bezels small without having to put the camera at the bottom of the device like the Xiaomi Mi MIX had done. It also makes it a bit more natural to use that camera for video chats, instead of having to look up to look at the camera, you can continue looking at the display to see how you look in the video chat. Which is what everyone does anyways. Essential worked hard on the dual cameras on the back of the device which have produced pretty good pictures for us so far, but of course, it’s still early and this is also early software and there are bound to be bugs.

The build of the Essential PH-1 is rather unique as well. It is made of titanium, which is something we haven’t really seen with a smartphone. Essential wanted to do something unique, but also wanted to protect the display. When you make a smartphone with hardly any bezels, there’s not much material there to protect the display if it gets dropped. That’s where titanium comes in. It makes the PH-1 much more rugged. Now this doesn’t mean that it is drop proof, but it is far less likely to shatter if it should drop from your hand.

With the Essential PH-1 not having curved sides, the device does still feel really nice in the hand, which actually surprised me a bit. It’s a tad slippery, but it is much less slippery than a device made of glass like the Galaxy S8, which is also good to see. Port-wise, there is the USB-C port at the bottom with a speaker and microphone. There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack here, which sucks a bit, but Essential does include an adapter in the box, so there is at least that. As an added bonus, both the USB-C cable and the adapter are braided cables, so they are also fairly rugged.

On the back of the Essential PH-1, you’ll see two pins towards the right side at the top of the device. This is for attaching accessories, which right now Essential only has the 360-degree camera, which is not yet up for sale – as the company is still finalizing software and fixing bugs and such. But the 360-degree camera was on hand to check out and try out. This camera is actually a powerhouse. Inside is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 powering the show. Obviously that sounds like overkill for a camera that is so small, but it does mean that it has its own power instead of needing to run off the Snapdragon 835 inside the Essential PH-1. There is also a fan inside, which is meant to keep it cool, but so far it doesn’t do that great of a job. It does seem to get pretty hot. But for now, we’ll chalk that up to early software and hardware.

The Essential PH-1 is really the phone that Android enthusiasts want. It has stock Android with virtually no bloatware – in fact, I’d go as far as to say it has less installed apps than a Google Pixel smartphone. Which is pretty impressive to be honest. As Essential is giving you the essentials and that’s it. Speaking of essentials, you’ll find no logos at all on this device, nor FCC information. So it is a very clean looking smartphone, and that is something you definitely do not see everyday, or any day really. The Essential PH-1 is available for purchase now from Sprint in the US, as well as Best Buy and Amazon as unlocked versions.

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