I did tons of research before buying the PH-1 and I was a little worried about some of the negative feedback on the device. Happy to say that 5 days in I have not experienced any of the issues people have mentioned. I was really missing my Nexus 6 with its smooth, pure Android experience and fast updates to software which usually feel like a free upgrade when they come. I had a free phone from work, a Galaxy S7 but the Samsung experience just isn't for me. When Samsung was unlocked and I could slap a ROM on top of the hardware that was fine but my GS7 was to jittery, slow and buggy for my tastes. I turned to the Essential for the return to Pure Android but without the massive heft of the Nexus 6 (Which we still use for a business phone, and it works great). So far I am extremely impressed with the PH-1. As widely reported, the hardware is simply the best. Everyone that sees the phone is immediately impressed and it is just great to hold and behold. It is a slippery bugger however and it will slide and fall off of just about anything FYI. The display is fantastic to my eyes with gorgeous, vibrant colors at every turn. The fingerprint scanner is outstanding, a massive improvement over the GS7. I had basically abandoned the GS7 fingerprint sensor due to the failure rate. I also had to set up several prints of the same finger for the GS7 in the hopes of recognition. With the PH-1, I set up 3 different fingers so that I can grab the phone from either hand in different positions and still unlock right away. Setup was fast and accurate as is the sensor in action. Just lift the device and notifications and activity pop up right away. A quick swipe of the finger and you are unlocked and ready to go. It also functions as a notification slider during normal use. Nice touch.
The software is extremely minimal, just basic Android nothing extra at all. The phone comes with about a dozen apps installed, the rest is up to you which is fine. Make the device yours, add what you need. There is an app for about anything you could ever want including any Samsung feature you could think of so don't worry about missing any bells and whistles you may have been used to. So far I have yet to experience a stutter, lag or crash. This has been by far the smoothest device that I have ever used. Perfection. And Oreo is in Beta, coming soon.
The speaker is surprisingly loud and clear. I had to turn down the notification volume, it was obnoxious. A good problem to have. Bluetooth seems to be working flawlessly as well with clearly better quality streaming music to my vehicle than the GS7. The USB C to 3.5 adapter seems to produce quality sound as well although the output is a bit low and bass lean for my tastes. The GS7 definitely had more power and bass although the PH-1 has more refinement and a cleaner sound. I plan on getting some high quality earbuds and there are audio enhancing apps for USB C that should get me where I need to be with the USB C audio out volume and bass. Or the device could be rooted and Viper for Android installed but I am not sure if I will go that route. Expert reviews state that the USB C DAC that was included is a quality unit capable of producing well above average sound. Such units tend to require higher end components attached to take advantage, hence my need for upgraded ear buds. I am a lifelong musician so I am actually looking forward to the excuse of upgrading anyway.
Another big point of contention on this phone are the cameras. So far I can't complain. As good as the best out there? Definitely not. But I have already received an update that added some functionality to the camera app and it is a snap to install the Pixel camera app which I have already done in case the stock app falters. The camera launches quite quickly using the double press of the power button. The images I have captured so far have been clear and detailed and hold up pretty well under zoom. The GS7 is the clear winner here but the PH-1 is brand new. Samsung has had many years to refine their camera game. The front camera also takes detailed, clear shots. I will say that color reproductions does seem a hair off in some situations on the PH-1. The most important thing for me is that I can launch and quickly capture a good photo whenever I want to. Essential does seem committed to improving the experience as well with Portrait Mode included with a recent update. OS and Camera app updates have been frequent and effective from what I understand.
Worth mentioning is the added function of modularity. The 360 Camera is available (I will be receiving one shortly). Hopefully if Essential succeeds more mods will come in the future. A cool concept that Motorola is doing now.
One thing that has been a bit hard to get used to is having the volume up and down and power buttons all on the same side of the phone and the power button on the bottom. I find that array a bit odd and sometimes I miss the mark. Adjust volume when I don't want to etc. Another complaint is that the package includes a charger and quality charging cable however that cable is USB C to USB C, leaving you with no cable to transfer files from your PC to the generous 128GB of storage on the device. I had to order cables from Amazon for that purpose. Not cool. Not expensive, but not cool. Also no earbuds included which most phones do come with. At the price the phone is now selling for it is hard to complain but at the original $700 price tag, hard to swallow.
I had 1 interaction with Essential support so far and I received a same day reply to a failure message that I saw for the Essential audio driver. I received a detailed, logical explanation. The problem has not resurfaced.
Another complaint I had heard about was signal strength and various issues with the Verizon network. I have not had any of these problems. Actually yesterday, I was doing remote tech support work for a customer. I was on the phone on an HD call, using the phone as a Hotspot to run my laptop connected to the customers network through a VPN and running various tasks in their servers. File transfer was not possible with that connection but otherwise I had no issues and the laptop was moving faster than I would have imagined.
Battery life compared to my GS7 is radically better, and supposedly that is not a strength of the PH-1. I am easily making it through a full day with no issues. This is with streaming music, GPS usage, Web searches, emails, texts, videos,phone calls etc. So far so good.
In summary, buy this device if you want a very fast,silky smooth experience on a beautiful piece of hardware that gives you a huge screen in a small form factor. I am choosing to support Essential. The big guys need this kind of competition and so far I am a big fan. And as always, excellent service from Best Buy on this transaction.