Yesterday just before dinner I attended a TELUS-sponsored event showcasing Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone. That Canadian carrier scored exclusive rights to sell the PH-1 in this country, and from their own listing seem to be offering it on payment plans only—$290 CAD down and $95/month or $490 down and $85/month for the duration of a two-year contract.
I always find these carrier events just a little unsavoury, as the money that bankrolls their open bars and extravagant settings comes directly from subscribers’ pockets. However, this one was at least a bit more informative than most, with employees from Essential on-hand to talk about various aspects of the phone. There were three manned stations—Camera, Design and Engineering; I visited each and listened to a short presentation, then tracked down an actual phone and took some photos. Which were of course out of focus.
Anyway, here’s what I learned about the Essential Phone…
There’s no questioning it, The PH-1 is a substantial device to hold in your hand, and definitely feels worthy of its $700 USD price tag. I also got to hold some of its individual components separately. The titanium frame is strong but impressively light, but when you add the ceramic back there’s definitely some heft.
As for the 360° camera accessory, the magnets that hold it to the phone are strong enough that you won’t have to worry about it coming unstuck.
I didn’t realize this, but the cutout at the top of the display for the selfie cam also holds the proximity and other sensors that you’d expect along the top of a typical smartphone. That’s no small feat, and Essential did a better job with this than LG, Samsung or even what’s coming from Apple.
Of course I had to ask to design guy about this… Why does the Essential Phone’s screen not extend all the way to the bottom edge of the phone? It turns out that, even without a headphone jack, some space was still needed for the LCD display driver and speaker assembly.
On at least one of the phones I handled the bootloader was unlocked, and I was able to confirm with its owner that the bootloader on all Essential Phones is indeed unlockable. For Android modders that’s great news.
When it comes to carrier locks things are less clear. Phones ordered from Essential.com are SIM-unlocked but whether the TELUS version is any different is unknown. It’s kind of academic, anyway, as it looks like the only way you’ll be able to buy the phone in Canada is on TELUS through one of their payment plans and a two-year commitment.
Expect to hear more about the Essential Phone if and when TELUS give us a loaner for review.