The market for android phones has entered into a plug and play scenario. Many companies, when deciding on the specifications, tend to just look for the best hardware available and try to put it together in an elegant manner (we are talking flagships here). Its like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, the most difficult part being the outward appearance. I would not like to name names but some manufacturers are emulating even the appearance from their well off (R&D wise) counterparts. This has led to the enthusiasts tracking events of only the companies that ore original manufacturers in true sense, which are only a handful.
First things first, it is really not a surprise that the phone packs in a qualcomm snapdragon 835 chipset, octa-core CPU and adreno 540 GPU with 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage space. There is no card slot to enhance storage capacity. You can compare these specs with any other flagship that runs on android and you will find similar terms reflecting in their spec sheet as well.
Although some manufacturers have topped the RAM at 6 or 8 GB and they still stand out, 4 GB of RAM in our times, and that too in a flagship, is kind of a disappointment. And that is especially so because the founder of this manufacturer is responsible for inventing an OS that now runs on 65% of all smartphones globally. Even the battery specifications confirm to our plug and play theory as the essential packs a 3040 mAh Li-ion battery which is good enough for 4-4.5 hours of screen on time.
This is one aspect where the essential engineers seem to have put maximum amount of effort in. The entire body does not have any branding whatsoever. Even the accessories, which have really good built quality and feel to them don’t have any branding. The fingerprint sensor is located at the back. The phone uses a titanium case with polished ceramic back, both of which have been used and abandoned by other manufacturers. If you’re really curious, apple last used titanium cases in iPhone 4 and Sony last used ceramic back in Xperia Z5.
Ceramic is theoretically much harder than glass, so it is less prone to scratches, but more so to breakage. Ceramic is also heavier, resulting in increasing the weight of this phone to 183 gm, around 30 gm more than usual competitors. And although the back has a glossy finish, it is very hard to keep clean. The finger marks, which keep appearing at the back are a bit irritating. The phone also lacks any waterproofing which is quickly becoming the norm for the flagships.
Check this link for the essential phone drop test.
The back of the phone has twin cameras along with LED flash. You will also find two holes which house strong electromagnets inside them to connect modular devices. The inclusion of these holes speaks volumes about the key focus areas of the company in the near future and the philosophy that they are going to adopt. Also, this phone comes sans 3.5 mm jack. But the good news is that you get a separate cable to connect the wired earphones inside the box.
The display is a 5.71″ LCD screen. Essential team insists that when they set out to design the phone, they were unable to find a supplier who will provide a screen with the cut-out, hence the choice. It is a first of a kind display which sweeps around the front camera. The thought behind this design is quite true but easily overlooked – that the central portion of notification bar is not effectively used anyway. This philosophy helps in packing a large screen in a size that is otherwise the norm for 5″ display phones.
In an era of OLEDs, AMOLEDs and retina displays, there are certain drawbacks of using a LCD. For one, the diodes can be lit up locally unlike in LCDs where entire screen has to be lit up. This helps in reducing battery consumption if used efficiently while also enabling functionalities when screen is off, such as time display on Samsung phones. You can explore more on this link if you’re really interested in the differences.
The phone comes equipped with two sensors at the back. One is a 13 MP color sensor and the other is a 13 MP monochrome sensor. The front camera is of 8 MP and is capable of capturing 4K videos.
The essential team insists that the two sensors working together help in increasing the contrast and sharpness, thus improving the detailing. They also help in capturing 200% more light than traditional phone cameras, making low light photography better. The company is in the process of making a 360 camera which captures views all around you. We will have a look when we get it.
Although this is a very different philosophy to the other manufacturers and people may like it or not, we certainly should applaud the courage and faith that the company has shown in diverging from the norm. And this faith and courage is not just limited to the camera but other aspects of the phone as well.
The phone comes loaded with android 7.1.1 which will get regular updates. The android version used is a stock version without any add ons or third party apps whatsoever (except for the camera app). The team has only added a feature to send reports to the essential team.
This a very good option for those who want pure android experience without any added clutter. Another benefit of using the stock OS is that it uses very less resources to run. So you can expect a pretty smooth interface experience on this phone.
The entry of essential in the flagship market is certainly a welcome one, simply because the name Andy Rubin brings a lot of credibility with it and also because the essential team has shown intent to diverge from the set standards to present its own take on the entire experience. We need to be considerate of the fact that this is only their first product and they seem to have done a decent job at it. The presence of those two magnetic holes at the back is just the tip of the iceberg and we hope to see a lot more of the modular ecosystem coming in.