Essential Phone Review Roundup: An Android Stunner With One Big Flaw

The early verdicts are in on the Essential Phone, one of the most anticipated handsets of the year.

Credit: Essential

(Image credit: Essential)

Developed by Android co-creator Andy Rubin, the Essential Phone promises the purest Android experience out there, in addition to a premium design that supports modular add-ons such as an attachable 360-degree camera. It's designed for folks who don't like all of the bloat and restrictions of modern smartphones.

Is Essential Phone truly the next big thing in Android, or just another unsuccessful shot at Samsung's throne? Here's what the critics are saying.

The Verge

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The Verge's Dieter Bohn gave big props to the Essential Phone's overall design and performance, but was let down by its camera.

"The Essential Phone is an artifact from a future that doesn't yet exist." Dieter Bohn, The Verge

The Good

“The Essential Phone has the most appealing hardware design of any phone I've used in at least a year.

“I've found battery life to be excellent, at least when compared to other big-screen Android phones.”

The Bad

“In achieving its monolithic design and in getting it to retail store shelves so quickly, it seems like Essential cut the one corner you just can't cut on a premium smartphone: the camera.”


David Pierce from Wired praised the Essential Phone's slick display and impressive design in his 8/10 review, but came down on its ho-hum camera and lack of waterproofing.

"In some ways, the Essential Phone appears genuinely exciting and new. In most, it just feels like a really good smartphone. And in a few frustrating ways, it’s not yet good enough." - David Pierce, Wired

The Good

"The screen is everything a phone screen should be."

"I like having a phone with no logos, no fine print, no camera bumps. Especially when otherwise, it’s about as powerful as you’d want."

The Bad

"Like most new phone manufacturers, Essential has some tweaking to do with the camera. Ditto the app, which is easy to use but way underpowered."

"The Essential Phone isn’t waterproof, which I consider an absolutely necessary feature on a great phone these days, nor is it impervious to destruction."


As with other reviewers, Mashable's Karissa Bell had great things to say about the Essential Phone's design and lack of bloatware. However, she found the camera experience buggy, and noted that the phone hasn't quite reached its full potential yet.

"Even though the Essential Phone is, for now, far from perfect, it's hard not to be excited about what it could be." - Karissa Bell, Mashable

The Good

"It's difficult to look at the Essential Phone up close and not be impressed."

"Essential’s Phone runs stock Android and is refreshingly free of the crapware Samsung, and so many other OEMs, fill their phones with."

The Bad

"For the rear camera, there's a noticeable couple seconds of lag between when you push the shutter and when the image is done processing. This makes it difficult, or in some cases impossible, to quickly shoot multiple photos and then immediately view them."


Echoing the sentiments of many of his peers, VentureBeat's Blair Hanley Frank calls the Essential Phone "groundbreaking but flawed." Frank praised the phone's edge-to-edge display, but noted that the phone's features just don't feel fully baked.

"When judged against its more established competitors, the [Essential Phone] feels less complete." - Blair Hanley Frank, VentureBeat

The Good

"It’s visually striking to see an image stretch all the way to the top of a phone, and something that I still haven’t become quite used to — in a good way."

The Bad

"Speaking of the phone’s fingerprint sensor, it’s one of the least reliable fingerprint sensors I’ve used on a recent flagship phone."

"The software user experience felt clean, though the phone was weirdly unresponsive in certain scenarios, like trying to scroll a long YouTube video."

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.