Julie’s gadget diary – I just ordered an Essential Phone

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essential phone

I have been happily using a Pixel 2 XL smartphone that I bought back in October. At least I’ve been happy with it until recently when I started having issues with Bluetooth connectivity. At first, I thought the issue was with the gadgets that I was reviewing and not the phone itself. But when the third product failed to connect via Bluetooth to the Pixel, but worked fine with my Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, I started digging and found some forums where other Pixel 2 XL owners were talking about having Bluetooth problems.

Having issues with Bluetooth makes it tough to review gadgets that require that type of connectivity so I’ve already been thinking about my next phone. I thought I would probably pick up the new Samsung S9 or S9+ when it comes out next month. But then fellow Gadgeteer Dave Rees texted me this morning to tell me that the Essential Phone was on sale on Amazon for around $400. $434.99 to be precise. That’s a pretty good deal for an unlocked 128GB phone that’s constructed of titanium, has an edge to edge display, and will work on all the major US carriers (Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon).

The Essential Phone hasn’t been on my radar after hearing the complaints about the camera. A great camera is the most important feature that I look at when buying a new phone. I rely on the camera more than I do the telephony features.

Just a couple weeks ago Gadgeteer supreme wizard and man behind the server Rob Tillotson bought himself an Essential and sung its praises to me until he accidentally dropped and shattered the screen. He said he loved it. So in my usual buy now and regret later fashion, I put the phone in my cart and bought it with the snap-on 360 camera. I figure if I hate it, I can return it. Good ole Jeff B won’t care will he?

The Essential Phone is due to arrive on Monday. Anyone interested in me doing a review? I asked Rob if he’d be interested in doing a dual review with me after he gets his replacement phone and he said sure, so we might get a two-person perspective.

In the meantime, if you want the same great deal on this unlocked phone, head over to Amazon where it’s currently on sale for $434.99.

20 thoughts on “Julie’s gadget diary – I just ordered an Essential Phone”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
    1. You’re right, the iPhone has great Bluetooth. But I’ve found time and time again that I prefer Android to iOS. As for the roasting, from what I’m hearing the initial problems are being resolved quickly. I’m curious about the phone given the premium materials and design.

      1. Cornelis Steinitz

        Hey Julie, that was a good point where I’d like to follow up on… you perfer Android over iOS. I can see why.
        Since you’re a software engineer, would you consider writing an article about Android, security (data) as opposed to iOS?

        1. I’m sorry, but that’s not really a topic that I’d be interested in researching in order to write an article. That would feel more like a school assignment/homework rather than something fun to do 😉

  2. Cornelis Steinitz

    I bought the Essential PH-1 about a montha nd a half ago from Amazon USA. I had it shipped to me to Switzerland and it took exactly 2 days! I was very pleased, also since the swiss pricing for it was and still ist too steep.
    For now I still like it except for the weight and I still couldn’t pair it via bluetooth with my older Jawbone Jambox bt speaker. Am looking forward to your review and the pairing subject.

    1. With my Pixel, I’ve not had too many problems with pairing audio devices. It works like a champ with my MINI Cooper and some Bluetooth headphones. But I had a LOT of problems with Bluetooth gadgets like the AirSelfie drone, Roadie 2 guitar tuner, and another product called Muse.

  3. Julie,

    As a rabid bluetooth device/gadget addict, here’s one thing I’ve found across Android and IOS devices:

    Bluetooth across all platforms has a finite number of simultaneously connected bluetooth devices before the BT stack falls on its face in my experience. I’ve found Android devices typically fall apart around 3-4, and IOS devices around 4-5, although it depends on how busy each of these devices are when connected. Smart watches, fitness trackers, and audio devices that have a microphone built in tend to cause more problems than others, or “count more”.

    I used to blame my BT woes on my devices as well. First, I thought it was my Pebble watch back when I had one. Then I thought it was my BT headset while connected to my BT receiver in my car. Then I blamed my Lumo Lift. Then my Apple watch. Then my Tiles. It finally occurred to me it was really just how many devices were connected at once.

    I did go by my local Apple store genius bar, and asked them to diagnose what was going on, and they couldn’t tell me anything, despite debugging the BT stack. When I bought up the simultaneously connected devices observation, they just said, “huh, that’s interesting.” I then experimented and confirmed my theory by how many times I had to reset the BT stack. (BTW, in IOS, to do this, you must turn off BT AND wifi at the same time, then turn them back on.) With only three devices, I never had to do it, with four, about twice a week. Five = almost every day.

    I guess what I’m getting at is if you’re connecting a bunch of BT stuff simultaneously all the time, I’m gonna guess you’re never going to find a BT nirvana in any phone. You may have to cut the number of BT devices down.

    Hope this helps!

    1. Thank you! This is very interesting and I’ll have to experiment to see if that might be my problem. I rarely have more than 3 Bluetooth gadgets nearby at any one time, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. It would be nice if there was a way to arrange priority for devices.

      1. No one really seems to know what the limit is, or that there is a limit. Until manufacturers even recognize that, there’s not gonna be a prioritization feature, unfortunately.

        Look at my experience talking to the Apple Genius Bar. They had no idea that was even a thing, which I find amazing since surely I’m not the only one with 4-5 BT devices connected all at once.

        1. Your comments sound like something is wrong with your specific unit. I’ve never had any trouble with have up to 10 BT devices registered since I’ve had an iPhone 4s.

          Your comments are also not precise since you can’t actually have that many BT devices actively connected – that’s much different than joined.

          Explain what 5 devices you have connected simultaneously?

  4. Hi Julie, just a few things to note. People have been sticking the sim card pin in the speaker hole by mistake. The speaker hole is on the farthest right side of the bottom. Also the back of the phone is slippery. It will slide when you least expect it. So be mindful of that. You wrote a camera is important to you. I’ve received 4-5 updates and I think the majority of them address the camera so you have to update before the camera works best. Maybe you can test the camera before and after the updates. If Rob’s camera can still take pics and it’s fully updated you can probably do a comparison of the functionality and Pic quality between his camera and yours before you update. That will really confirm whether the Essential updates are making a difference. The video recording quality is very good but I would still be curious to read your experience using it. I’ve only used it extensively once on a winter hike. Looking forward to your review.

    1. Ken, thank you for your advice! I’ll be sure to NOT poke the speaker with the SIM tool and I might buy a thin skin for the back. I’ll definitely do some tests with the camera before I apply any updates too. I think Rob has already sent his broken phone back to Essential and is waiting for the replacement so we won’t be able to use his for the “before” pics.

  5. I bought an Essential also when it was discounted. My Moto G4 was not getting updates, and for my work I needed a phone that was regularly patched. Essential said they would provide the monthly security patches, and they were true to their word for the short time I had the phone. It was still running Android 7 with 8 to come. They said it was guaranteed to have updates for at least 24 months.

    Out of the box it is “wow!!” Looks and feels amazing, mainly because of the minimal bezels. Super fast, great screen, the camera fix was in the works. It was slippy though, and I felt I was going to drop it constantly. But the value – top end phone for that price.

    At the time screen protectors were not readily available and there was a paucity of cases. Found one that worked, but you lose the svelte design and it becomes less “wow” because of it.

    In the end I returned it- because I am a true “Gadgeteer” and bought an iPhone 8 Plus. I miss Android badly, but the iPhone was likely to receive updates for longer, and I wanted a leather wallet case for my phone, and I have an iPad. The Pixel 2 XL was too expensive – though only a touch more than the iPhone, and I heard that there were problems with the iPhone.

    Regretting sending it back. Yes, and no. I miss Android and Google Assistant. I love the iPhone updates and the caring nature of Apple to throttle back the speed to help me avoid reboots with an older battery. All in all, I probably should have kept it.

  6. Cornelis Steinitz

    About the Essential PH-1 again 🙂
    It is very smooth and therefore slippery. I put an Incipio NGP Pure Essential Clear Case on mine. Since I anticipate selling my phones I always put flexible cases on them. Also I have this nerdy attitude towards phones: a case makes ALL the difference for me wanting to stay with the phone for a while too.
    It makes me want to hold it, not slip out of my hand and help against bumps and small drops, but at the same time it has to not be bulky and be “out of the way”.
    The Essential PH-1 itself is a rather heavy phone, so you can’t afford to have it slip out of your hand.
    The only thing that annoys me is, I have my cell mounted to a car vent via a magnet. No Problem here, other than, when I want to get directions via voice command (Google Maps): I keep having to, first, punch in my PIN code.
    I am aware that you can unlock the phone via voice recognition (Google let’s you do this) but unfortunately not for my language (german). So the placement of the fingerprint unlock, is really unfortunate (as far as language regions are concerned when wanting to use Google Voice recognition). That’s why my daily driver is – again – an iPhone (8).
    Otherwise I was really loving the Essential PH-1

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