Posts Tagged Essential Phone

The best budget Android smartphones you can buy right now (September 2018)

You need a new device but (rightly) think spending north of $800 is insanity, right? Well, you’re not alone. An entire segment of budget flagship devices has sprung up and they’re surprisingly good! Today we’re taking a look at the best phones you can purchase if you have between $300 and $500 to spend.

Without further ado, here’s our list.

OnePlus 6

Okay, right out of the gate, we’re going to cheat a little bit– but stay with us! The OnePlus 6 starts off at $529 and offers excellent specs, build quality, and a second-to-none software experience.

The OnePlus 6 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC. The octa-core chip is clocked at 2.8 GHz and is fast as hell. Backing up the SoC is either 6 or 8 GB of RAM and 64, 128, or 256 GB of storage. While there’s no expandable storage here, OnePlus offers a ton of storage standard and it’s only about $50 to purchase a model with higher capacity.

Read more: OnePlus 6 review: The best value smartphone of 2018

On the back of the phone, we find a dual 16 + 20 MP camera setup. Both of the sensors have a f/1.7 aperture, while the main sensor has both EIS and OIS for extra stability. The front-facing camera is a 16 MP f/2.0 sensor that promises excellent selfies.

One of the biggest changes for OnePlus is going to a glass back. Previous iterations normally had metal backs, but this year we’re seeing a gorgeous black or white glass that gives the OP6 an even more premium look.

Unfortunately, we still don’t have wireless charging, but OnePlus does include its excellent DASH charging that promises a day’s worth of battery in just an hour of charging.

OnePlus 6 purchase links: OnePlus | Amazon

Xiaomi Mi 8

Xiaomi has a reputation for making the best phone possible then charging the least amount it can. The Mi 8 follows that trend.

With true flagship specs, the Xioami Mi 8 represents a fantastic value for just under $500. The phone has a top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 6 or 8 GB of RAM, and anywhere between 64 and 256 GB of storage depending on which model you pick up. Unfortunately, there’s no expandable storage in the Mi 8 this year.

No expandable storage is one of only a handful of compromises Xiaomi had to make to keep the price down. We’d have like to see an IP rating, wireless charging, dual speakers, and a headphone jack. None of these features are dealbreakers, but other phones at this price do have them.

Those missing features aside, there’s plenty to love about the Mi 8. It features face unlock akin to Apple’s FaceID, extremely good build quality, and dual 12 MP + 12 MP cameras that do a fantastic job. Battery life is another standout feature with users getting close to two days of usage. And when that battery finally does run dry, you can recharge quickly because the Mi 8 supports Quick Charge 4, the latest quick charging standard.

Xiaomi Mi 8 purchase links: Gearbest | DealXtreme | Geekbuying | Trading Shenzhen | Ali Express

Nokia 7 Plus

Nokia is back in a big way and the Nokia 7 Plus is one of the best choices for people on a budget. While it’s specs won’t blow you away, its performance surely will.

The Nokia 7 Plus comes standard with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage. Those are solid specs for a phone at this price. We really like the inclusion of the Snapdragon 660 processor here. It’s not as powerful as the flagship Snapdragon 845 processor, but can still chew through tasks and isn’t as power hungry.

There are also a ton of little features to love here. We get a microSD card slot that supports up to 256 GB of additional storage. This is fantastic if you live in an area without the best service because you can save all of your movies, music, and pictures directly onto your memory card and avoid trying to stream.

But, we have to admit that one of the best things about the Nokia 7 Plus is software. Nokia has committed to using stock Android on its devices and that’s a decision we support. It’s clean, it’s fast, and updates come quickly. We love Google’s software vision (we are the AndroidGuys, aren’t we?) so if we can pick up a device with stock, we’re going to.

Nokia 7 Plus purchase links: Amazon

Huawei Honor 10

If you want a phone that thinks too, the Honor 10 might be your best bet. Honor built in a ton of AI features into the Honor 10 and included a processor with a Neural Processing Unit. It almost sounds like SciFi, doesn’t it?

Well, it isn’t. It’s science fact because the Honor 10 includes the Kirin 970 that has a dedicated processing unit just for AI. This helps the phone identify scenes in the camera to give you better pictures and a whole host of other options within the software. While some people think AI a buzzword (and perhaps rightly so), Honor is trying to prove them wrong.

Read more: Honor 10 review: a compelling option in the affordable flagship niche

The device includes a notch and very, very small bezels. It isn’t much larger than the (extremely nice) display and is very easy to handle. We found it to be a great one-handed device in a world of ever-expanding phone sizes.

Huawei Honor 10 purchase links: Amazon

Honor View10/V10

Huawei’s sub-brand Honor released one of the best phones of the year in the Honor View10 (also called the Honor V10 in some markets). The $499 device combines high-end specs, simple yet elegant design, and a great camera to offer great value to customers.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Honor View10 is the display. The display itself won’t blow anyone away, but Honor somehow managed to get a 6-inch 18:9 display on the device and keep the front-facing fingerprint scanner too. The button sits just below the screen and can also go back and open the multitasking menu via swipes and taps. We’ve seen this tech in phones from Motorola, but never on a phone with this aspect ratio.

Read more: Honor View10 Review: The budget flagship king?

Just because you’re spending a little bit less on a device doesn’t mean you should miss out on the best processor available. Honor included the Hisilicon Kirin 970 chip, Huawei’s in-house flagship processor, in the Honor View10. The chip also includes a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that helps the phone process AI-related tasks. Not bad for $500.

Not only do you get a great processor, but the rest of the specs are impressive too. There’s 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage standard. A 3750 mAh battery keeps the show running all day, and a dual 16 MP + 20 MP camera provides great pictures even in low light.

So, what’s the biggest problem with the Honor View10? Availability. Right now it’s hard to get the phone in the United States. The only official outlet we can find is Amazon. If you are out of luck there, you can try importing it from a site like GearBest or AliExpress or take your chances with eBay.

Honor View 10 purchase links: AmazoneBay | GearBest | AliExpress

Essential Phone

The Essential Phone has had an interesting journey. The phone was teased in early 2017 by Android co-founder Andy Rubin. It wouldn’t ship for another five months, but the hype around it built to a fever pitch. And then…. disappointment.

While the Essential Phone is a fantastic phone, missed deadlines, broken promises, and leaking customer data killed the shine on the device. But, that’s all in the past. What matters now is the device you can purchase today for as low as $250 during Prime Day. The phone now normally sits anywhere between $300 and $350 on Amazon.

Read more: Essential should open source its accessories platform

When picking the best looking phones on the market, the Essential Phone should be near the top of your list. The almost all screen design looks absolutely gorgeous. Sure, the notch isn’t for everyone and we’d prefer AMOLED over LCD, but the phone looks great and feels fantastic in the hand.

The Essential Phone runs stock Android and received frequent updates. It’s one of the first major devices to get an Android 8.0 beta while flagships from Samsung, LG, and others are stuck on Nougat. Not only that, but the Essential Phone received a day one update to Android 9 Pie. How’s that for quick software updates?

Essential Phone purchase links: Essential | Sprint | Amazon | Best Buy

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Essential should open source its accessories platform

Essential hit the ground with a nice buzz last year with the launch of the PH-1 Android phone. Fans, including this guy, loved the idea of super solid hardware running very stock Android. For the most part, Essential accomplished this but had glaring issues with the camera being rather crappy. It also had pricing completely wrong. The company failed to identify its competition being Moto and OnePlus. Instead, it priced the phone at $700 in a flooded premium market dominated by Samsung, LG, and Google.

With all these shortcomings, the company has struggled under the father of Android, Andy Rubin. Sales estimations of the PH-1 have come in well below 200,000 units. Subsequently, the rumors have been rampant that the company is up for sale to get out from under its debts. Another struggle has been its proprietary accessory system. That’s the topic I’d like to take on in this post. Essential should open source its plans for mods.

I know I will have some haters on this, but Moto has laid the groundwork for this model and Essential should consider a similar route. Motorola went to the community to help fund ideas for new mods via an Indiegogo campaign. While the company continued its own in-house development as well, I think it really helped to outsource R&D and consumer interest on just what kind of mods people are willing to spend money on.

This crowdsourced effort is where many of Moto’s current mod lineup originated from. The wireless charging shell, Gamepad, and QWERTY keyboard mods all started with hobbyist users and the Motorola reference program. Essential could easily leverage a similar situation with its user base.

Honestly, Essentials followers may be the perfect market. They seem to be Android purists who really embody the hacker mentality behind AOSP and the heritage of Android’s rise to becoming Google’s behemoth operating system. The company should find a way to harness this community and maybe the accessory platform is the perfect place to do it.

I strongly believe that the Android community is an extension of the Linux nerds at heart. They thrive in a challenge and love a good hack job. The extreme hobbyist techie would have to take a look at Essential designs for it’s charging dock, or a true Qi backplate, and find a way to make it work. They could then even sell them directly through Indiegogo/Kickstarter or have a partnership with Essential to produce them. Either way, the onus of the prototype and testing phase isn’t financially connected to Essential.

Oh, and it could also offer them a profitable venture. Again, Moto set the standard. The phone should come at a discount because the profit is in the addons. Essential could help fund its current ventures with a healthy mod ecosystem and possibly rebound from some of the losses they accrued during the growing pains of the PH-1 launch. That is, if they can find a compromise that gets more accessories in its store.

I don’t think this solution is a cure-all for Essentials woes. The company has had more than one misstep, and really looks to be in a financial crisis, but it might offer a spark. Community goes a long way with a company’s success. Andy Rubin has stood by his promise of industry-leading turnaround time on OS updates, but he needs to find a creative way to get accessories for the PH-1’s pin system back into play. And who knows, he might even find a new revenue stream in the process.

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In Brief: Big tablets, cheap phones, Verizon’s dirty tricks (Episode 20)

Join us as we sit down and discuss some of the hot tech topics out there today. We’re taking on Verizon for some seemingly shady behavior by Verizon, one of our favorite indie phones coming to an American carrier, the future of Essential, and Google Assistant’s attempt at putting a smile on your face.

What we talked about today

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Deal: Essential Phone at its lowest price ever on Amazon

The Essential Phone didn’t turn out to be the breakout hit that creator Andy Rubin hoped for. Instead, it has seen complaints about the camera since day one and seen continuous price drops.

The latest sees it drop down to $224 on Amazon, the cheapest price it has ever been. Even cheaper than the Prime Day deal of $250 or the deal for $240 over the weekend, which was already a steal for this phone.

The Essential Phone offers premium materials including a ceramic back and was the first phone outside of a Pixel to get the official Android Pie update. Not only is it made from premium materials and running the latest Android OS, but it also has 2017 flagship worthy specs at less than half of what you’d expect to pay from others.

Specs

  • 5.71-inch 2560 x 1312 QHD display w/ notch
  • Snapdragon 835
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128GB Storage
  • 13MP f/1.9 dual rear camera
  • 8MP f/2.2 front-facing camera
  • 3040mAh battery
  • Android Pie

Honestly, when you add up the specs for the price this is an insane deal for a phone already running Android Pie officially. However, Essential’s future is a bit up in the air at the moment. They have canceled their next phone and been rumored to be up on the auction block.

Buying this phone may mean there are no future upgrades in your future. At the same time, with it already on Android Pie there won’t be any new upgrades in the near future either. If you’d like one, I’d say grab it quickly because at these prices it’s not gonna last.

Buy from Amazon

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Android Pie Review: The reason why I gave up my iPhone X

It’s August which means that we were greeted with a new version of Android. This has been Google’s MO for the last few years, and Pie is now available on your Pixel devices, along with the Essential Phone.

Android Pie made its debut after being unveiled at Google I/O 2018 and then came to handsets through Google’s beta program. Then, in a move that surprised most, Android 9 Pie was officially made available.

Read Later

For the purpose of our review, we have been using Android Pie for the last month through the beta program and final release. This is also the reason why our review is a bit later than others, because we wanted to spend some time with Google’s final product.

What’s new?

At first glance, you probably won’t think that there is much packed into this latest release. But the real fun comes when you start diving deeper. Here is a list of some of the features coming with a “higher profile”:

  • Adaptive Battery
  • Adaptive Brightness
  • Digital Wellbeing
  • Gesture Navigation
  • Notch Support (up to 3)
  • App Actions
  • New App Switcher

These are just some of the new features, and while that’s all fine and dandy, you probably want to know about the important ones. So let’s get started with the most surprising one – Battery Life.

Battery Life

Android Pie has provided a pleasant surprise in the battery department. In my usage, I was seeing all-day battery life with around 15% left with at least 4 hours of screen on time (SOT).

In fact, there were a few nights where I forgot to plug in my Pixel 2 XL, only to find that the battery drained just a little bit. Most recently, I went to bed at 1 AM with around 50% remaining, and woke up with 42% battery remaining.

This is no doubt in part to the new Adaptive Battery features. Google explained that this new functionality was intended to learn which apps you use, when you use them, and when to shut them down.

It seems that Android Pie really takes things into overdrive, as my battery life has just been incredible. From time to time, I noticed that an app (like Twitter) was closed when it had been a few hours, but notifications continued to come through.

Adaptive Brightness is another feature that is undoubtedly helping with the battery life race. The only issue that I found came when I was looking at my phone at night. The dark light of my room seemed to cause confusion with my device, as the brightness would fluctuate randomly and annoyingly.

What is making these new battery tweaks exciting is Google’s initiative to integrate Artificial Intelligence into its software. This is nothing new, but it will be interesting to see how everything holds up over time and with newer devices launched with Pie.

How are the gestures?

The next biggest change that users will be able to see is the removal of the good ole’ navigation bar. Instead of having three buttons to tap at the bottom, you are now greeted with a “pill”, which acts as the navigation for your device.

Android Pie ‘pill’ button

As someone who switched from an iPhone X to the Pixel 2 XL with Android Pie, the learning curb was not all that bad. Here are how the gestures work:

  • Tapping the pill button will take you home
  • Swiping to the right once will take you to the previous app
  • Swiping and holding will allow you to scroll through your open apps
  • Swipe up once to reveal the multi-tasking drawer
  • Swipe up twice to reveal the App Drawer

In practice, this makes quite a bit of sense, other than the whole App Drawer debacle. You can do a slow drag to reveal the drawer, but having to swipe up twice to reach all of your apps is rather annoying.

Android Pie Multi-tasking

To help combat the issue, I resorted to placing more apps on my home screens. My home screen has turned into folder-central and it is rather annoying for someone who doesn’t want a whole lot going on.

One extra feature that has been added is for those who make use of rotation lock. If you are using rotation lock but want to view one specific app in landscape mode, a new icon shows up in the navigation bar. This will allow users to view content how they want to, with just the tap of a button.

Visual enhancements in Android Pie

Something else that you may notice when you start poking around Android Pie is some slightly redesigned panels. Most notably, there has been a slight redesign to the notification tray, as the toggles are a bit brighter and more vibrant.

Additionally, since more devices are launching with notches, the clock has been moved from the right side to the left. This is to help make sure that you can see all the necessary notifications, while still seeing the time.

For some reason, Google has placed a limitation of three notches for Android OEM’s to be able to use with Android Pie. Hopefully, this doesn’t mean that Google knows something that we don’t and a phone is incoming with too many notches.

Notifications for messages have also been slightly revamped, as there are new quick reply features. You may remember an app called “Reply” which surfaced earlier this year that added smart replies to your favorite messaging apps.

This has been integrated into the system of Android 9 Pie, making it possible to quickly respond to your friends or family. The API has been also opened for developers, which hopefully means more apps will take advantage of this in the future.

The fight to improve your “Digital Wellbeing”

At Google I/O 2018, during the Android P introduction, a new feature/app was announced called Digital Wellbeing. Google stated that the purpose of this app was to help provide users with a way to see exactly how much you are using your phone.

Not only can you now see that you are spending way too much time on Twitter, but you can also limit yourself. This is done with the help of App Timer, which is a setting that you set up for your “problematic” or “time-wasting” applications.

As someone who has no penchant for restraint, app timers seems like something that could be really useful. However, I ended up being more annoyed that I couldn’t access the app I was trying to view on my smoke break.

It was also a bit alarming to see just how many times I unlocked my screen or how many notifications that I received. Suffice to say, Digital Wellbeing really has given me a different look at how I should be staying off my phone when I don’t need to be on it.

READ MORE: What is Digital Wellbeing and how to sign up for it

The odd thing here is that it’s not automatically built into Android Pie. Instead, you have to sign up for a beta program and then wait for it to auto-magically appear in your settings menu.

As a side note, Chris Lacy (of Action Launcher fame) developed an app that allows you to view Digital Wellbeing as an application. It creates a direct shortcut, so you won’t have to dive into your settings to see what is going on.

Download Pixel Shortcuts

What’s next?

For owners of the Pixel, Pixel 2, and Essential Phone, you likely have already been enjoying the fruits of Android Pie. However, the real question remaining is when are other OEM’s going to jump on board.

As much as I would like to sit here and give you a rundown of what each manufacturer will be doing, I can’t. We have seen failed promises time and time again, and it just wouldn’t be fair for us to convey those failed promises to you, the readers.

So instead, I will say that it’s time to just sit back and play the waiting game.

Final Thoughts

Android 9 Pie is one of, if not the best, iterations ever released. My personal excitement drove me to pick up a Pixel 2 XL of my own, and put my iPhone X in a drawer.

In the time spent with Pie, I really fell back in love with Android and enjoyed all of the new features. I can safely say that once Pie arrives on more devices, it will be a joy to just about everyone to use.

Sure, gesture navigations may be annoying, but I feel that this is the way to full experience bezel-less devices. Google is making all of the right moves, and the Pixel 3 will be interesting to see how the latest version of Android works with the latest hardware

We want to hear from you. Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think about Android Pie. Have you been using and enjoying it? Have you run into any issues? Let us know if you have any questions!

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4k 360-degree camera accessory going for $499 with the Essential Phone

The Essential Phone was somewhat of a design standout when it came to comparable smartphones but early reviews couldn’t warrant the price tag. But with the major price job it put the device back on the charts for a pretty decent purchase. The deals keep coming with the Essential Phone as you can pick up […]

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Essential Phone is now getting Oreo Beta 2

Android Oreo on the Essential Phone is getting ever more of a reality as the second beta release has been issued as an over-the-air update. Currently Android Oreo is only in beta form and is being publicly tested to iron out the kinks before the official stable release. The second release of the software has […]

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Huawei’s upcoming P11 flagship might come with an iPhone X-like notch

Some Chinese smartphones makers like Ulefone have already signaled their intent at launching an iPhone X clone complete with the controversial notch. But it seems that copying the design of Apple’s latest and greatest flagship is not only reserved for China’s more obscure brands. According to a report coming out of the xda-developers, Huawei – […]

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Essential Camera updated with portrait mode and more

Essential has rolled out a pretty important update that will make quite a few people happy. We’ve previously reported that the camera software on the Essential Phone was somewhat underperforming and in fact sideloading the official Google camera on the device improves the picture quality. Essential hasn’t stood still with improving the performance of its […]

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Android Oreo Beta is now available for the Essential Phone

Are you one of the people who purchased an Essential Phone? Then you’ll probably be interested to know that starting this week the beta build for Android 8.0 Oreo is available to download and install on your device. Now, since this is not the final version of Oreo, you need to be prepared to encounter […]

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