Mobility

Essential Phone PH-1: The smart person's guide

The Essential Phone PH-1 is one of the most intriguing Android devices, particularly because of its connection to Android superstar Andy Rubin. Here's what you need to know about the unique phone.

It looks as if the mobile world has come to a plateau with design. Each iteration of the latest and greatest brings fewer changes to the physical designs. The reason? Most companies seem to have found the sweet spot for their devices. However, the consumer is still in the "what have you done for me lately?" mode and wants more.

Andy Rubin, cofounder of Android Inc. and Danger Inc., computer programmer, engineer, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist, also wants more. After growing dissatisfied with the state of design within the tech industry, he decided to create the Essential Phone PH-1.

This smart person's guide is a quick way to get up to speed on the Essential Phone. We'll update this article periodically when news and updates about this Android device are released.

SEE: All of TechRepublic's smart person's guides

Executive summary

  • What is the Essential Phone? The Essential Phone is a new take on the Android smartphone. The flagship device is made from premium materials, such as titanium for its enclosure, and it has add-on features, including a 360-degree camera. It was developed by Essential Products, Inc., whose founder and CEO is Andy Rubin.
  • Why does the Essential Phone matter? It will be one of the few devices that is completely free of bloatware, and its add-on devices enable cord-free expansion of features and functions. Also, anytime a flagship-level smartphone is released that's even somewhat free from carrier lockdown (Sprint did win a contract with Essential, but unlocked devices can still be purchased from Essential), it is a win.
  • Who does the Essential Phone affect? The Essential Phone affects enterprise users and consumers.
  • When is the Essential Phone available? The Black Moon version of the Essential Phone will be available for purchase August 23, 2107. There is no solid release date for the Pure White edition.
  • How do I get the Essential Phone? In the US, you can purchase either a Black Moon or Pure White version of the PH-1 from the Essential site, Sprint, Best Buy or Amazon; in Canada, it's available through Telus.

SEE: Android App Development: Easy & Quick Programming (TechRepublic Academy)

essential2.jpg

The Essential PH-1 comes in four colors.

Image: Essential Products, Inc.

What is the Essential Phone?

Essential Products, Inc. created a phone that will be simple to use, play well with other technologies, make use of premium materials and craftsmanship, better assist the user (rather than work against the user), and will not be outdated every year.

The Essential Phone offers users a new experience—physical add-ons that "snap" to the device by way of magnets and wireless data transfer. The add-ons available for purchase are:

  • a cradle for charging; and
  • the world's smallest 360-degree camera, which makes taking 360-degree video simple. The camera features dual 12-megapixel sensors for video and four microphones for 3D audio.

The Essential Phone sports a 5.7 inch edge-to-edge display that takes up the entire front of the device, only making room for a small camera cutout.

With the Android platform powering the Essential Phone, it will require zero learning curve for Android users.

Specs for the Essential Phone

  • OS: Android 7.1.1
  • CPU: Snapdragon 835
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Internal storage: 128 GB
  • Battery: 3040mAh
  • Cameras: 13-megapixel rear and 8-megapixel front
  • Fingerprint reader on back
  • Dimensions: 5.57 inches tall, 2.8 inches wide, and .31 inches thick (141.5mm tall, 71.1mm wide, 7.88mm thick) and weighs 11.1 oz (185 grams)

The bands the device will function with are:

US bands:

  • CMDA EV-DO Rev. A (Verizon, Sprint, and US Cellular)
  • GSM (AT&T and T-Mobile)
  • UMTS (AT&T and T-Mobile)

Outside the US:

  • LTE-FDD
  • LTE-TDD
  • TD-SCDMA

Additional resources:

Why does the Essential Phone matter?

One of the more impressive feats Essential has pulled off is crafting a smartphone using materials that will last. The Essential Phone enclosure is made of titanium, which is significantly stronger than aluminum. By using titanium, the device will be far less prone to scratching and denting; so if you frequently drop your mobile device, this might be the phone for you. The back side of the device is crafted of ceramic and does not sport a logo to distract from the clean design.

Essentials has stated that its phone will ship without bloatware. This is a very unique proposition, considering nearly every phone shipped by every manufacturer carries some form of bloatware. If Essential pulls this off, it will offer more space for data and apps, and users won't have to deal with apps they do not need nor cannot delete.

Clearly the Essential Phone is an attempt to compete with the Moto Z and its Moto Mods. However, the Essential Phone is truly a flagship device, whereas the Moto Z phone falls more in the middle of the spectrum, shipping with only 4 GB of RAM and either 32 or 64 GB of internal storage.

SEE: Ebook—Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (TechRepublic)

Essential plans to release the Essential Home. The product works in conjunction with the Essential Phone to serve as a personal assistant, speaker, and centralized hub to integrate with security cameras, music systems, and smart light bulbs. Essential Home takes the concept behind Amazon Echo and Google Home and operates even smarter—for instance, turning down music when it detects you're having a conversation and letting you know if a light was left on. The Essential Home could be a game changer, as no other company has yet to truly integrate the smartphone and the home hub.

Additional resources:

Who does the Essential Phone affect?

The Essential Phone could have lasting effects on the consumers and the manufacturers of other smartphones and smartphone-connected devices. For consumers, the Essential Phone will bring to market a must-have flagship device that isn't locked to a particular carrier, and one that will outlast every other device on the market.

If Essential delivers a phone that plays well with all devices, it will go a long way to show other manufacturers that it can be done without compromise. This means competing manufacturers could start feeling the pressure to bridge the gap between their products and other devices.

On top of that, being able to purchase a device without added bloatware could put serious pressure on other manufacturers and carriers to follow suit. For the consumer, that would be a big win. For too long consumers have had to suffer through the added bloatware forced on devices by carriers, and bloatware takes up crucial internal storage space.

The initial release of the Essential PH-1 saw a price of $699.00 USD. Soon after release, that price was dropped to $499.00 USD, making it fall well below that of the iPhone. Because of the materials used and the specs, the Essential Phone could be the last mobile device you purchase for quite some time. So, in the end, you will save money by not having to upgrade yearly or every other year, and fewer devices purchased equals a much more environmentally responsible market.

Additional resources:

When is the Essential Phone available?

The Essential Phone was first teased on March 27, 2017. A week prior to the launch, Rubin tweeted an image of the device with the 360-degree camera attached.

On August 16, 2017, Essential emailed buyers who registered for the device and had this to say about the release date:

Great news, your phone has been built! We now just need your payment details and we will ship within 7 days.

If you would like to change the items in your reservation prior to checking out, please contact our support team at support@essential.com. If you reserved an Essential 360 Camera, you will receive a separate email as soon as it's ready to be shipped.

Your Essential Phone is unlocked, future-proof, and designed around you. For a limited time, we've also made it easy for you to get the phone for as low as $29.13 per month.

Additional resources:

Who are the Essential Phone's competitors?

The Essential Phone has a few competitors in the unlocked smartphone arena. The primary competitors are:

How do I get the Essential Phone?

If you're interested in getting the Essential Phone, you can purchase one in the US for $499.00 USD from the Essential site, Sprint, Best Buy, or Amazon; it's available in Canada through Telus. We'll update this article with details about the international release when Essential provides that information.

You can buy the PH-1 in Black Moon or Pure White. The phone will eventually also be offered in Stellar or Ocean Depths.

The add-ons available are the 360-degree camera and the dock. You can add on the 360-degree camera for an extra $50.00 USD; once the device is released, the price of the camera will shoot up to $199.00 USD.

When you get your Essential Phone, associate it with your Google account and start using it as you would any Android device.

(There is no price or release date set for the Essential Home.)

Additional resources:

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox