Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, is making a premium smartphone for everyone who enjoys high-end hardware but loathes being beholden to the massive corporations behind them.
Essential is a $699 smartphone with a dual camera, a top-shelf processor, and a nigh bezel-less display—all without a hint of corporate branding on its exterior. It's unlocked, ready to go on every major carrier, and can be pre-ordered now on the Essential website.
As a device, the driving philosophy of the Essential phone is simple: Your smartphone is your own personal property, and you should be the only one who decides what goes on it. That means no bloatware, no carrier brand names, and no logos. Repeat after me: I will not be a walking billboard for my smartphone company.
But telling big smartphone companies to take a hike wasn't the only goal for Essential's team. After all, it's easy to throw rocks at the throne, but competing with the likes of Samsung and Apple takes some muscle. And when it comes to muscle, the Essential phone isn't messing around—it features a Snapdragon 835 (similar to the one found in the Galaxy S8), runs on 4GB of RAM, and arrives with 128GB of internal storage. And in case there was any doubt, Essential runs on pure Android.
The real star, however, is the Essential's display: a 5.7-inch behemoth whose edges stretch to the very edge of the device itself. Because the Essential's display covers more territory near the top of the phone, it almost makes the Galaxy S8's edge-to-edge display look claustrophobic in comparison.
If photography is your thing, Essential looks to have you covered. The phone's rocking a dual-camera set-up similar to what we've seen on the Huawei P9 and the Mate 9—one sensor captures a color image while the other captures a high-resolution monochromatic image. Ostensibly, the combined image produces higher contrast and better detail, particularly in low-light settings.
Each phone ships with Essential's detachable 360° camera—the smallest of its kind—which clicks onto the back of the phone via a relatively painless-looking docking system. Over time, Essential hopes that its open-source docking system will pave the way for an entire ecosystem of modular accessories. We've seen manufacturers like LG and Motorola try to kick-start modular smartphones in the past (the LG G5 immediately comes to mind), but without proper support, these ecosystems fell apart.
Like everything else Essential is setting out to accomplish, building a modular smartphone ecosystem begins with asking why people tend to abandon these ideas in the first place. Essentially, it all comes down to simplicity—its engineers believe that technology is at its best when it helps you and then gets out of your way, so "you can get on with enjoying your life."
And that's precisely why you won't find bloatware, an invasive UI, or branding anywhere near the Essential smartphone. It's like your phone is telling those bigwigs at Samsung and Apple to "go jump in a lake, pal." We can't wait to get our hands on it.
Get Reviewed email alerts.
Sign up for our newsletter to get real advice from real experts.