The Essential Phone, see our full review, launched last fall for $699. Despite its stunning titanium and ceramic hardware, the camera and software had some issues and it did not sell well.
After two months at this price, the Essential Phone dropped to $499. We've seen a number of updates to improve the camera and software experience, along with support for Android P beta, inclusion of Essential's HD earphones, a $99 value, and a three-month trial of Tidal Hi-Fi for this $499 price.
Amazon Prime Day specials
Amazon Prime Day started at 12 pm Pacific/3 pm Eastern on 16 July and runs for 36 hours. If you have ever shown interest in the Essential Phone or want a stunning backup phone, then I recommend you consider paying just $250 on Amazon, while supplies last. Update: It appears that the $250 phone-only Prime Day special price has expired, but don't fret just yet.
Check out all of the greatest Prime Day tech specials.
While the phone-only deal appears to be over, you can still buy all three colors (Halo Gray, Pure White, and Black Moon) with the 360 Camera for only $342.98. This is equivalent to a $250 Essential Phone and $92.98 for the 360 Camera (normally priced at $199 as an accessory). Thus, this $342.98 deal is still a $349.02 savings over the regular prices.
Essential is also holding an Amazon Prime Day contest where you can win one of two Ocean Depths color Essential Phones. This color was my personal favorite and the one I switched to after buying a Pure White one late last year.
MQA audio experiences
In early June, I reported on the new MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio experience partnership. Since then, I've been testing out an Essential Phone with Tidal HiFi service playing through the Essential HD earphones. The Audio Adapter HD is not yet available for testing or purchase, but we may be testing that in the future.
The industry has moved on to removing the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, but thankfully Essential includes a high quality USB-C to 3.5mm headphone dongle in the box. The current Essential Phone also ships with the $99 Essential HD earphones and like the Essential Phone itself, these are high quality earbuds with a substantial tangle-free cord, metal USB-C plug, metal earbud housing, and a play/pause remote with microphone.
My smartphones serve as my primary audio source and I enjoy music and podcasts every day during my train commute. I listened to several songs on different devices with HiFi content from Tidal, including the HTC U12 Plus, LG G7 ThinQ, and iPhone X and found the Essential Phone and HD earphones to be a solid second behind the U12 Plus with great volume, super clear audio, and a nice mix of bass and treble. HTC has always focused on great audio and with its USonic earbuds it continues to offer one of the best audio experiences I have ever heard on a smartphone. It's also clear to me that a trial of Tidal HiFi might be a compelling offering for HTC U12 sales.
The earphones stay in your ear through the use of silicone tips. I found them to be very comfortable for long periods of time. They are lightweight and small so should fit any size ear with the use of one of the three optional sizes of tips.
Android P beta
Since I do not have a Google Pixel, I decided to install the Android P beta on the Essential Phone. It's great to see the Android P beta roll out to a variety of Android phones this year and it probably helps that Essential has Andy Rubin at the helm.
One of the biggest differences I am enjoying on the Android P beta is the new system navigation gestures. The single central button take a bit of getting used to, especially after using an iPhone X and OnePlus 6 that use a different gesture methodology. Switching between apps is definitely different, but I honestly rarely even use the task switcher on my phones even though it is a more efficient way to jump between running apps. So far, swiping the center button has me using it more than ever though.
Previous and related coverage
Android co-founder Andy Rubin has launched Essential and a smartphone that aims to put design and craftsmanship first with simplicity. It's a tall order.
A new take on the modular phone with clip-on components, starting at $699.
The Essential Phone was a tough sell at $699, but at $499 it is compelling. It offers flagship specs with lots of potential, but there is some risk in a startup launching its first phone.
There is a lot of potential in the Essential Phone and it is honestly a fantastic piece of hardware with a stock Android experience. Sales must not be going well for such a drastic price drop so quickly though.