Andy Rubin, co-creator of Android, launched the Essential Phone in an attempt to offer something new and elegant in the smartphone market. Here’s how its specs and features compare to those of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, which are current Android leaders.
The Essential Phone is not small, but it still stands shorter than both the Galaxy phones, (even though it’s a bit wider than the smaller S8).
The Essential Phone is the heaviest – it weighs almost 7-percent more than the S8+ and 16-percent more than the S8.
Essential says its titanium and ceramic build is more robust and fares better in drop tests than aluminum, which does not appear to be the case for the S8 series’ good-looking but damage-prone glass build.
Both come in a number of colors, but exact availability varies. The Essential Phone can currently be reserved in black or white, with teal and grey options expected later on. For the S8 series, the gold and blue options are not currently available in the US.
While the S8 series has an industry-topping IP68 rating, water resistance is conspicuously absent from the Essential Phone.
Diagonal measurements can be deceiving, because these phones have different aspect ratios. The Essential Phone has a 19:10 aspect ratio while Samsung opts for 18.5:9 (which are both fairly unusual proportions in smartphones).
All of the phones have QHD displays, but the S8 wins in terms of pixel density.
The two fall on opposite sides of the IPS/AMOLED fence.
Like most phones, the Essential Phone has a flat front. The S8 series has rounded edges, where the display wraps around the front of the phone.
Considering the size of those displays, both devices put the home button onscreen.
Fingerprint sensors are on the back. The Essential has it centered, while it is placed to the right of the camera on the S8 series.
Samsung has added a face recognition feature of its own, but since there’s already a built-in Trusted Face feature in Android (that seems to offer comparable security), the Essential Phone presumably has Trusted Face recognition as well.
The S8 series has yet another biometric login option: iris scanning.
Both makers opt for the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, though Samsung opts for its own similarly capable Exynos chipset in certain markets.
These options have a matching 4 GB of RAM.
There is only one built-in storage size option on each – and Essential offers twice the amount.
But if storage is a real concern, the S8 series has expandable storage via microSD.
The Essential Phone is the latest premium flagship to ax the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack.
Samsung bundles the S8 and S8+ with a pair of US$99 AKG wired earbuds. There aren’t any headphones packaged with the Essential Phone, but a USB-C to 3.5 mm adapter is included in the box.
The big Galaxy S8+ has a capacious battery to match, while the S8 and Essential have similar capacities.
Both support fast charging.
Only the S8 series support wireless charging (with a charging pad, sold separately). There is even some fast wireless charging capability.
The Essential Phone packs in an extra megapixel in its rear (main) shooter, while the front (selfie) cameras have an evenly matched 8 MP.
Camera aperture (rear)
The smaller the f-stop, the larger the aperture, so the Samsungs have a slight advantage here. Larger apertures can sometimes mean better low-light shooting and depth-of-field effects, but it’s just one of many factors in overall camera quality.
The Essential Phone has a dual rear camera. As we’ve seen in phones like the Huawei P10, it pairs an RGB and monochrome camera.
Optical image stabilization (OIS)
The S8 series has OIS, but there’s no signs of it on the Essential Phone.
The Essential Phone will run Android. While the company didn’t list the specific version of the OS in its spec sheet, Andy Rubin said in a ReCode interview that the phone will run the latest Nougat version of pure stock Android. Samsung skins Nougat with its own TouchWiz UI.
The Essential Phone has NFC, so it will presumably support Android Pay. The S8 series’ Samsung Pay could be more advantageous to US users, since it can imitate magnetic stripe cards as well as work with NFC terminals.
Again, the Essential Phone will presumably support Google Assistant. But since Essential launched a smart home device alongside its phone (a Google Home and Amazon Echo competitor that we don’t know many details about yet) there could be another assistant in the mix as well. The S8 series supports both Google Assistant and Samsung’s Bixby.
Mobile VR support
The Essential Phone does not support any meaningful mobile VR experience beyond basic Google Cardboard functionality. The S8 and S8+ are compatible with the Samsung Gear VR headset.
The Essential Phone has the groundwork for modular accessories – a magnetic strip across the back with wireless data transfer, which appears to be a prong-free variation on the Moto Z’s modularity.
At this point, the Essential accessories include a pocket-sized 360-degree camera and charging dock, but there could be more in the future.
Desktop PC dock
The Galaxy phones support the DeX dock (sold separately) which allows you to use your phone to power a PC-like computing experience on a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse.
The Essential Phones can be reserved online now, but they have not been given an official ship date (we expect it in the coming months). The S8 and S8+ were released last April.
Starting price (full retail)
Samsung prices vary depending on carrier and region, but chances are, even the entry-level S8 will cost slightly more than the Essential Phone, which itself is clearly positioned to be a high-end device.
While the Essential Phone seems to encompass some of the best features from today’s leading flagships, we’ll have to get our hands on one to know for sure. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ have several features – like wireless charging, mobile VR support, expandable storage and water resistance – that are conspicuously absent from the Essential Phone.