Update: The Essential Phone has started shipping to customers, Andy Rubin’s startup announced on August 25. Those with their Essential PH-1 on the way will receive tracking info via email.
Our hands on Essential Phone review is also now live! Might we call it… essential reading?
The Essential Phone is a handset by the man behind Android, and it’s looking to shake up the mobile space with a bold design, modular features and a big, bezel-free screen.
It’s a flagship phone and it’s not cheap, but it could do enough different to justify the price tag.
Here is everything you need to know about the Essential Phone, from when you can buy it, to why you might want to.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A flagship phone from the creator of Android
- When is it out? Next week in US, later in 2017 in UK
- What will it cost? $699 (around £535, AU$885)
Essential Phone release date and price
- It’s up for pre-order in the US
- Costs $699 (around £535/AU$885)
- Confirmed for a UK launch this year
You can pre-order the Essential Phone in the US for $699 (around £535/AU$885).
Sprint, the only US carrier to sell the Essential Phone, opened pre-orders on August 17. Customers can save over $260 through the carrier’s Flex Lease payment plan for a limited time.
For US shoppers who pre-ordered already, the Essential Phone will start shipping next week.
The company has also confirmed that the Essential Phone will also be coming to the UK this year, likely as a network exclusive, and that it will also land in other parts of western Europe and Japan.
Essential Phone screen
- An edge-to-edge screen
- 5.71-inch, 2560 x 1312 display
The Essential Phone has a 5.71-inch 2560 x 1312 edge-to-edge display, and when we say edge-to-edge, we really mean it, as there’s almost no bezel here, with just a small sliver at the bottom and a cut-out for the front-facing camera.
Essential is calling it ‘Full Display’ and despite the large size the small bezels should help it comfortably fit in your hand.
It has a 19:10 aspect ratio, which means that, like the 18:9 Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6, it’s more widescreen than a typical 16:9 phone.
Essential Phone design
- A ceramic and titanium build
The Essential Phone is made from a combination of ceramic and titanium. Those are unusual material choices, and the titanium was apparently used because it’s harder, stronger and more resilient than aluminum, so more likely to survive a scratch or a fall.
However, while it’s likely to be durable there’s no mention of waterproofing, so you won’t want to get it wet.
It’s also surprisingly compact given the size of the screen, coming in at 141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8mm and 185g. For comparison, despite having a smaller 5.5-inch screen the iPhone 7 Plus is 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm.
It comes in ‘Black Moon’ or ‘Pure White’ colors, with ‘Stellar Grey’ and ‘Ocean Depths’ shades launching soon. It sports a plain back, with just a fingerprint scanner and camera breaking it up – there’s not even an Essential logo.
Essential Phone camera
- Dual 13MP rear cameras
- An 8MP front-facing one
The Essential Phone has dual 13MP f/1.85 rear cameras, with one color lens and one monochrome (black and white) one.
It’s apparently the thinnest dual camera system built for a phone and the two lenses combine to capture up to 200% more light than traditional phone cameras, which could prove especially handy in low-light.
It’s a similar setup to the Huawei P10, and like that phone you can also use just the monochrome lens for true black and white shots. A blog post by an engineer at Essential dives into more detail of the challenges the company has had in creating its camera tech.
It also shows off the first camera samples from the phone and you can see some of them in the gallery below.
There’s an 8MP camera on the front, and both front and rear cameras can shoot video in 4K.
Essential Phone battery
- 3,040mAh battery
- Fast charging
There’s a 3,040mAh battery in the Essential Phone, which isn’t massive, but is marginally larger than the 3,000mAh one in the Samsung Galaxy S8.
It supports fast charging via a USB Type-C port, and Essential is also launching a charging dock which will connect magnetically, rather than using cables.
Essential Phone OS and power
- A Snapdragon 835 chipset
- 4GB of RAM
- 128GB of storage
The Essential Phone has a flagship Snapdragon 835 chipset – the same as powers the HTC U11 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium.
It’s an octa-core chip with four cores running at 2.45GHz and four at 1.9GHz. That’s been paired with 4GB of RAM, so on paper this is just as powerful as other recent flagships.
The phone also has 128GB of storage (though seemingly no microSD card slot) and runs Android. It’s not clear how heavily skinned Essential’s take on the OS will be, but we know that it will lack bloat, so is likely to be close to stock Android.
Essential Phone other features
- Hardware attachments to add extra functionality
- No headphone port
- A new AI assistant
One way the Essential Phone aims to stand out is through hardware attachments that click into place via a magnetic connector on the back of the phone.
So far Essential has announced a charging dock and a 360-degree camera. There’s no pricing for the dock yet, but the camera costs $50 (around £40/AU$65) if you pre-order, with a standard price of $199 (roughly £155/AU$270).
It’s also been announced that the Essential Phone will have an AI assistant of some kind, much like the company’s Essential Home product does. But details of its capabilities are scarce.
One thing the Essential Phone won’t have is a 3.5mm headphone port, but there will be a headphone dongle in the box.