Tempted to jump on this Essential PH-1 for $280 deal (UPDATE: I jumped on it when it dropped to $224 but now it's $310)

On Prime Day, the Essential PH-1 went on sale for $250. People jumped on it. I hesitated because Essential isn’t the most solid company right now and the camera is mediocre. But it’s down to $280 $224 $310 and Essential keeps updating the phone, including Android P the same day as the Pixel lineup.

I have my Galaxy S7 Edge that is both good and frustrating in not quite equal measure. I’ve never been 100% on this phone’s bandwagon since I’ve had it. The latest aggravation with it is it’s been very finicky about automatically connecting to the bluetooth in my car. It always shows it’s connected, but often, the bluetooth audio streaming doesn’t work, and I have to go into the settings on the car to disable and then reenable bluetooth audio to get it to work.


I bought the S7E in September 2017 for $475 and I could sell it now for probably $250-275 range so I would at least be not denting my bank account to get the Essential. I don’t want to pay flagship prices, not even like, $600. But I want something new with a warranty.

When the Essential first came out, I had it on my radar, but I didn’t love the notch, the cameras were crap, there’s no headphone jack, it didn’t support high quality bluetooth codecs like aptX, and the price was high. But Essential has kept on updating the phone, it’s on Android P already, the camera is now above-average, and aptX and other bluetooth codecs are now present. Essential has improved the notch software support. They had some custom tweaks for it, which they dropped in favor of Android P’s built-in notch handling, but they’re working to add the Essential notch tricks back in. I only occasionally use wired headphones, and the vast majority of those times are when I have my work bag with me. I can keep the headphone jack dongle in the same pocket in the bag.

Basically, at this price for the Essential, and with my continued frustration with the S7E, this feels like a no-brainer.

The only other phone that works on Verizon that competes in some way with the Essential is the Moto Z3, which has largely similar specs (SD835, 4 GB RAM) but is $480 and is a Verizon-specific phone, not unlocked. The benefit of being a Verizon phone is it can use wifi calling but generally with Verizon’s network I haven’t had to use that. But I’m not 100% attached to being on Verizon so an unlocked phone is a plus, and $480 is still a lot more than the Essential deal.


The other main unlocked options that work on Verizon are the assorted Samsung, LG and Pixel flagships, and most of the Motorola lineup. I guess there are probably some random Verizon-branded cheap phones available direct from Verizon. If I didn’t want/need Verizon compatibility, then the OnePlus 6 and Asus Zenfone 5Z would be on my radar. But again those are both in that $500-ish ballpark.

So...before I click buy on the shit I’m looking at cases and whatnot but I could very well do it.


UPDATE 8/20/18 @ 9:16 am:

Yesterday in between the various other things I was doing, I tried to pick a case for the PH-1 that I actually like. The pickings are a little slim but I decided on one and pulled the trigger on the phone around 9:15 last night.


But then this morning I saw the price on the PH-1 had dropped to $224. Dafuq?! So I called Amazon customer service to see if they could drop the price on my existing order. They said they couldn’t get an override for that but they would cancel the $280 order so I could place the order again at the new $224 price.

I should point out that this deal is on the exclusive-to-Amazon Halo Gray color of the PH-1, and it comes with Alexa pre-installed. It’s not a full “Prime Exclusive” version of the phone—usually those come with all the other Amazon apps installed—and Alexa can be removed if desired.


There’s a deal to get the Halo Gray color with the Essential USB-C headphones. But me personally, I use bluetooth headphones at the gym, and keep a nice pair of wired earbuds in my work bag. So I’ll just keep the USB-C headphone dongle with those headphones. #donglelife

UPDATE 2 8/21/18 @ 11:12 am:

Shortly after I jumped on the lowered $224 price, it went up to $365, but now today it’s back to $310. This is for the Halo Gray color. Black is $344 and white is $359. Those prices actually changed a bit during the course of making this update. They could very well change again. Dunno what Amazon is doing with these prices bouncing all over the place, but there you have it.


I’ve done my usual waffling on cases. My first choice when I originally placed the order on Sunday night was the Poetic Karbon Shield, but when I went to check out with it, Amazon said it would be delivered a couple says after the phone, so I switched to the navy blue Tudia TAMM. But I’m persnickety about cases, and that case might be ever so slightly too big and bulky looking for my taste, so when I re-did the order at the lower $224 price, I also ordered the Poetic case and the smoke gray Tudia SKN. I have a feeling I’m probably going to keep the Poetic of these three, but we’ll see.

Final thoughts on the phone before it arrives: the only thing at this point that gives me pause is the lack of optical image stabilization on the cameras. This helps in low light still photos of non-moving subjects, were you can use a slower shutter speed. But the Essential’s second camera is a black & white sensor that’s supposed to help capture more detail in general and in low light so hopefully the still image performance is at least mostly up to par with my S7E, which is pretty dang decent for a phone camera.


Where OIS especially helps is in videos. I rarely shoot video but I did shoot a few recently with the S7E where I was very impressed. This was on a very bouncy boat and yeah you can tell the camera is moving up and down but everything is nice and smooth.

The PH-1 has no OIS and the sample videos from it have good detail but definitely need stabilizing.

But Google Photos can stabilize videos after shooting them and the samples I’ve seen of it look promising.

So...whatever. It’s probably fine. I don’t shoot so many videos where relying on Google Photos to stabilize them is going to consume much of my time.


I’m planning to get some kind of pocket cam with a 1" sensor that I’ll bring with me as much as possible. Last year I tried to get in the habit of carrying my m43 camera with a couple small prime lenses around with me, and while I did get some opportunistic shots with it, it’s not truly a carry-everywhere camera. Something like a Canon G9X Mark II however, is small enough to take most places without much thought, while trouncing even the best phone cameras. It often goes on sale for $350-375. So basically once I get around to getting that G9XII I’ll have spent less money on it and the PH-1 than say, the $650 that Amazon is currently charging for the unlocked LG V35.

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