The Essential Phone, brought to us by the person who created Android, is finally ready for the spotlight. It’s an incredibly audacious and ambitious project, with an outlandish screen and the beginnings of a modular ecosystem.
First, the Android phone basics: the Essential Phone costs $699 with top-of-the-line specs and features. As you can see, it prominently features an edge-to-edge display that one-ups even the Samsung Galaxy S8 by bringing it all the way to the the top of the phone, wrapping around the front-facing selfie camera.
It’s a unique take on a big screen that makes the phone stand out — and it’s smart, too. Often, the status bar at the top of an Android phone doesn’t fill that middle space with icons, so it’s efficient. The screen does leave some bezel at the bottom of the phone, but nevertheless it’s as close to the whole front of a phone being display.
Essential is launching the phone in the US to start, and it’s filled the phone with radios that should make it work on all major carriers, alongside usual Android flagship internals like a Qualcomm 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
Essential is clearly planning on releasing a very well-made phone: the screen looks promising, it has no annoying logos, and it is built with a combination of titanium and ceramic so it can survive a drop test “without blemish, unlike the aluminum competitor devices.” Andy Rubin claims that the Essential phone’s titanium and ceramic build is better able to withstand a drop test.
Speaking of ports, there is no traditional 3.5mm headphone jack — which is a bummer. We’re told that it will ship with a headphone dongle in the box. It’s possible that other audio accessories could be made that could clip on to the magnetic accessory port.
The Essential Phone also has a good take on the dual-camera systems we’ve seen on other phones. Rather than use the second lens for telephoto or bokeh, it’s using it for a monochrome sensor, just like Huawei has been doing with the P9 and P10. That second sensor will be able to take in more light than a traditional color camera, meaning it can be combined with the regular 13-megapixel for better low-light shots. The front-facing camera is in line with current expectations, too: an 8-megapixel sensor that can also capture 4K video.