Video Overview

Introduction

There’s a newbie in the smartphone scene, and it’s bringing a whole lot less to the table. That’s right, in a world of "more is better," this phone has just the essentials—like a ceramic back, and a titanium chassis. Okay, it might actually be a little fancier than the name suggests—but we’ll have to open it up to find out for sure! Join us as we tear down the Essential Phone.

Teardowns are an essential part of the gadget world, so make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for all of the necessary teardown and repair news.

This teardown is not a repair guide. To repair your Essential Phone, use our service manual.

Here are the Essential Phone's essentials: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 containing a Kryo 280 Octa-core CPU and an Adreno 540 GPU, paired with 4 GB RAM 128 GB UFS 2.1 onboard storage
  • Here are the Essential Phone's essentials:

    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 containing a Kryo 280 Octa-core CPU and an Adreno 540 GPU, paired with 4 GB RAM

    • 128 GB UFS 2.1 onboard storage

    • 5.71" LCD with 2560 × 1312 resolution (504 ppi)

    • Dual 13-megapixel rear cameras (one RGB + one monochrome) with image fusion technology

    • Front-facing camera with 8 MP resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio

    • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi + MIMO Bluetooth 5.0 LE + NFC

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In their quest for a bezel-less screen, Essential managed to carve out some space for a front-facing camera and a nigh-invisible slit for the earpiece speaker. Around back, we find this phone's party trick—two power pins with built-in magnetic alignment. This is where the unessentials can latch on to the Essential Phone. While more are promised, as of now a 360° camera is the only accessory available from Essential.
  • In their quest for a bezel-less screen, Essential managed to carve out some space for a front-facing camera and a nigh-invisible slit for the earpiece speaker.

  • Around back, we find this phone's party trick—two power pins with built-in magnetic alignment. This is where the unessentials can latch on to the Essential Phone. While more are promised, as of now a 360° camera is the only accessory available from Essential.

    • Modular smartphone systems have yet to take off, but it's an idea we can appreciate—the environmental toll of clipping on a hot new camera module is a lot lower than upgrading your whole phone because the camera got "old."

  • We also spot a built-in dual camera system for those looking for good ol' ~180° photos, plus the fingerprint sensor responsible for securing the Essential's essentials.

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Essential deemed a headphone jack unessential, providing just a USB-C connector instead. Risky. Flanking the connector are the speaker grill, SIM card slot, and lower microphone.  Just like in the Galaxy S8, the SIM eject and microphone holes seem a little too similar for comfort.
  • Essential deemed a headphone jack unessential, providing just a USB-C connector instead. Risky.

  • Flanking the connector are the speaker grill, SIM card slot, and lower microphone. Just like in the Galaxy S8, the SIM eject and microphone holes seem a little too similar for comfort.

  • Essential left us a little surprise under the SIM card. With a totally blank and unbranded exterior, they hid all the identifying marks inside on a cute little tag.

    • We're amused to find that it doesn't come out all the way. Did Essential assemble the phone around this little tag?

Do you think it's possible to break the mic if you firmly insert a pin in the wrong hole (the one *too* close to the one to release the sim card) by mistake? That would be a very bad design...

Pascal Forget - Reply

What's cooler than being cool? Super Cold! After applying more heat and sharper tools than might be advised, we reverse the polarity and start chilling out. After a harrowing arctic expedition, we're finally able to pry the back cover free from its giant pad of adhesive, revealing...
  • What's cooler than being cool? Super Cold!

  • After applying more heat and sharper tools than might be advised, we reverse the polarity and start chilling out.

  • After a harrowing arctic expedition, we're finally able to pry the back cover free from its giant pad of adhesive, revealing...

  • ...Nothing! We only spy the wrong ends of a couple screws and a midframe assembly. Looks like the fragile display is the way in to this phone.

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  • We stay frosty and change our attack vector, now attempting to peel up the frozen LCD panel while dealing with the fallout from previous prying attempts.

  • Looks like we have a different definition of essential than Essential does—our Essential Electronics Tool Kit, designed to tackle all common electronics repairs, wasn't enough to crack this nut of a phone. Some intense reinforcements were necessary.

  • Even after successfully peeling up the LCD panel, the interior continues to be well-guarded. After all that work, all we have to show for it is a busted display, a blank midframe shield, and a stray IC on the back of the display:

    • Qualcomm QTC800S

  • The cover glass separates from the LCD panel rather easily. That could be good if you just wanted to swap out some cracked glass, but the insanely challenging opening procedure makes that prospect somewhat dubious.

Did the “intense reinforcements” include acetone or another solvent? That might have been a less destructive way to separate the bond.

mwarrenus - Reply

After the unexpectedly difficult journey through the outside of the phone, we lift the midframe shield to finally reveal some internal components. We spy: a heat pipe, a bunch of grounding fingers, and a battery with stretch-release adhesive ... that's trapped under another bracket. Credit where credit is due: stretch-release adhesive is the most repair-friendly adhesive, and we wish more manufacturers would adopt it. Unfortunately it's kind of wasted on a phone that's this hard to get into.
  • After the unexpectedly difficult journey through the outside of the phone, we lift the midframe shield to finally reveal some internal components.

  • We spy: a heat pipe, a bunch of grounding fingers, and a battery with stretch-release adhesive ... that's trapped under another bracket.

    • Credit where credit is due: stretch-release adhesive is the most repair-friendly adhesive, and we wish more manufacturers would adopt it. Unfortunately it's kind of wasted on a phone that's this hard to get into.

  • The battery claims an 11.70 Wh capacity—not too shabby when compared with the Galaxy S8 at 11.55 Wh, the iPhone 7 at 7.45 Wh, or the OnePlus5 at 12.35 Wh.

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That little mattress tag we found in the SIM slot removes quite easily from this side. It does indeed look like the phone was assembled with this little guy comfortably in place. Meanwhile, we remove the massive motherboard, including its peninsular (Floridian?) charging port protuberance. The USB-C port is soldered straight to the motherboard. We are disappointed. If you need to replace this high-wear component, you're in for an (expensive) microsoldering job or a (very expensive) full-motherboard replacement.
  • That little mattress tag we found in the SIM slot removes quite easily from this side. It does indeed look like the phone was assembled with this little guy comfortably in place.

  • Meanwhile, we remove the massive motherboard, including its peninsular (Floridian?) charging port protuberance. The USB-C port is soldered straight to the motherboard. We are disappointed.

    • If you need to replace this high-wear component, you're in for an (expensive) microsoldering job or a (very expensive) full-motherboard replacement.

  • Speaking of removing the board...

    • The backside of the motherboard is snaked with antenna interconnect cables and vacant coaxial connectors.

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact had an even bigger tag like this.

Moritz - Reply

yes exactly, sony have been using these tags to hide the regulating symbols for years now.

Paul Chan -

You're right! Good call. We updated the step ;)

Jeff Suovanen -

The vacant coaxial connectors are likely switched test connectors that break the on-board RF connection when a test probe is inserted. These are frequently used for RF calibration without needing a costly anechoic OTA calibration environment.

joshshua - Reply

Qualcomm released a development kit for the Snapdragon 835 showing us some silicon to expect. The chips we find are:

Samsung K3UH5H50MM-NGCJ should be "LPDDR4x" which uses lower voltage than LPDDR4.

JJ Wu - Reply

Who came up with the UFS model number? It's a lot better than a "KLUDG[E]" if you know what I mean.

dgw - Reply

And for the backside:
  • And for the backside:

    • Qorvo QM78012 RF fusion LB module

    • Skyworks Solutions 77360-2 power amplifier module

    • Avago AFEM-9046 and AFEM-9036 IC's

    • Qualcomm PM8998 (similar to PM8920)

    • NXP Semiconductors TFA9891 audio amplifier

    • Qualcomm SMB1381 power management IC

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And the rest of the chips:
  • And the rest of the chips:

    • PM8005 power management IC

    • SiBeam SB6212CZU Snap wireless connector IC

    • Fresco Logic FL1100-1A0-LX USB 3.0 host controller

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With the motherboard on ice, we're finally able to tweeze out the dual camera module. Either Essential accidentally put these camera pop connectors on backwards, or someone had too much fun figuring how to origami them into place. Nearby, the selfie cam lies on a strip of glue and takes a little more work to extract, bringing the front-facing sensor cable along for the ride.
  • With the motherboard on ice, we're finally able to tweeze out the dual camera module.

    • Either Essential accidentally put these camera pop connectors on backwards, or someone had too much fun figuring how to origami them into place.

  • Nearby, the selfie cam lies on a strip of glue and takes a little more work to extract, bringing the front-facing sensor cable along for the ride.

  • Surprise! The front-facing camera and earpiece speaker come as a single part. That tiny port lines up directly with the über-slim grille at the top of the phone!

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De-capping (literally, it looks like a cap) the vibrator, we're surprised there's no rubber dampener between these pieces. The vibrator appears to be a standard pancake style cell motor, albeit a little taller than the usual short-stack. Among the final components out: the sprawling loudspeaker and accompanying contact cable.
  • De-capping (literally, it looks like a cap) the vibrator, we're surprised there's no rubber dampener between these pieces.

  • The vibrator appears to be a standard pancake style cell motor, albeit a little taller than the usual short-stack.

  • Among the final components out: the sprawling loudspeaker and accompanying contact cable.

    • With its odd shape, the speaker kinda looks like it was designed to fill all unclaimed real estate in the phone body.

This type of vibration motor is properly called a "coin" or "button" vibration unit, not a "cap". -- PvdL

Peter van der Linden - Reply

Douchey things I just read in the comment before mine:

- Correcting the author of the teardown for improperly calling it a cap when he only referred to it looking like a cap.

- You quoted yourself

- Referring to yourself as "PvdL"

Andy Salinas -

The cap reference is to the vibrator cover being pulled off in the first photo, rather than the vibrator itself, which lies underneath. It's a coin vibrator, with a cap.

Jeff Suovanen -

Magnets for those modular clip-on accessories are neatly labeled. They'd be tough to replace, but that's okay—you're likely to be rocking a different phone by the time they start to wear out in 700 years or so. Not much remains besides the fingerprint sensor, glued comfortably in place on the back—a location that comes with some drawbacks, but is quickly becoming the de facto smartphone standard. Well, sort of. Not much remains besides the fingerprint sensor, glued comfortably in place on the back—a location that comes with some drawbacks, but is quickly becoming the de facto smartphone standard. Well, sort of.
  • Magnets for those modular clip-on accessories are neatly labeled. They'd be tough to replace, but that's okay—you're likely to be rocking a different phone by the time they start to wear out in 700 years or so.

  • Not much remains besides the fingerprint sensor, glued comfortably in place on the back—a location that comes with some drawbacks, but is quickly becoming the de facto smartphone standard. Well, sort of.

Funny thing about the 1st picture here, the purple word below the magnets is a Chinese word which means 'Party', CCP to be specific.

Clyde Johanson - Reply

It's also a not-so-popular last name, it could be one of the QC's?

Bert Jiang - Reply

For promising just the essentials, the Essential Phone took a lot more out of us than expected. It also took a lot more Super Cold than expected...
  • For promising just the essentials, the Essential Phone took a lot more out of us than expected. It also took a lot more Super Cold than expected...

    • Enjoy this layout shot while we grab the winter coats from our closet and defrost the teardown room.

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Final Thoughts
  • To the extent that screws are used, they are all standard Phillips/JIS fasteners.
  • The battery is secured with repair-friendly stretch-release adhesive. Too bad it's so inaccessible.
  • The USB-C port is soldered to the motherboard, and with no headphone jack it'll be subject to extra wear.
  • Nearly invisible seams and copious adhesive means any attempt at repair is likely to inflict as much damage as it fixes.
  • Did we mention we had to freeze it?
Repairability Score
1
Repairability 1 out of 10
(10 is easiest to repair)

31 Comments

wow horrific phone! 10/10 to iFixit for effort, 0/10 to Essential!

Will - Reply

This is a phone where iFixit will have to determine if it's even worth selling replacement parts.

chris - Reply

the repair score should imo get a zero instead of a 1 because you cant open the %#*@ thing without destroying it.

My1 - Reply

this phone is essentially future trash. too bad

thanks iFixit for the honest repair score!

Andrew - Reply

Why a phone is bad because independent repairs are almost impossible?

OEM has been moving to proprietary components and outta-nowhere configuration to have on purpose to un-motivate people to go to beyond the warranty and authorized repair centers, since YEARS ago.

I appreciate the work from iFixit but saying that you won't buy a phone or it is "DOA" because OEM wants to control THEIR products is so childish at theses modern days.

(Please, spare me the "is easy for you to say because you don't own or work on a workshop and repairs give food to our tables". I know a few owners that although s just more spending, they are working on becoming authorized repair center for most brands.)

TheGeeZus - Reply

When you have to freeze a phone to get it open, that's a new level of WTF.

JJ Davis -

ifixit gives repairability scores, this isn't a review of the phone. That people still don't get this and come to this site to complain about it is beyond me.

tipoo -

Sure, an OEM can control THEIR products. And I can decide not to buy THEIR products if their design is un-repairable. One little drop, splash or sit on it in my back pocket one time too many and it's toast... yeah, they can control their product all the way to bankruptcy court if that's where it takes them. You make it sound like I'm obligated to buy THEIR product - I am not. Thank you iFixIt for yet another informative teardown!

R. Andrew Thomas -

It's a repairability score man, not a condemnation of the phone itself

Akko -

When manufacturer wants me to spend 300$ on replacing the usb port instead of 30$ due to poor design decisions or just to cut down the manufacturing costs they no longer could be considered good in any way.

Smartphone is not something you use for a few days and then toss it to trash replacing with a new one, it's an increasingly complex and expensive portable computers that should be as serviceable as possible.

Alex Lee -

If you're such a big fan of unnecessary electrical waste, I assume it's OK if I dumb a few tons of heavy elements in your back yard?

Repairability is not just about an individual saving a few dozen bucks here and there, but also about environmentalism. The more repairable common electronics are, the longer they stay in use by someone, somewhere, the less waste generated from buying new devices that are just marginal upgrades from the previous.

Ståle Helde -

Thank you for your support, TheGeeZus! It's nice to hear that you enjoy our work, and you bring up a great point about ownership and repair as well. You can find some fantastic information at both ifixit.org/right and repair.org/stand-up.

Richard Suovanen -

Thing is, it’s not THEIR product when you buy it. It’s not a license agreement. Do not repair is nothing other than a way to force us to get new products and giving them more money. Best practice should be to be able to repair a device that you own.

Sebbe -

The IMEI and other certifications in sim tray is nothing new.. My Lumia 920 had it in 2012!

mvadu - Reply

One of my old moto e's had it as well. 2015 I think.

Caspar Caudill -

No one going to comment on the lyric mistake? "What's cooler than being cool? Ice cold!"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qMtsir0...

kirk - Reply

It's called parody.

dgw -

I think Essential set out to do what most people try to do - keep people out of the phone. No company wants someone to get in their product lol

westsidepatriot - Reply

Not an option for most part of Africa and possibly Asia. We depend mostly on local repair shops as the cost of exploiting a warranty is almost impossible. Who wants to mail a phone from Nigeria or Uganda to a service centre in the US or UK? Essentially, this phone is not for some of us.

Abbas Abdus-salam - Reply

I am surprised that people expect highly-integrated, ultra-miniaturized electronic devices to be repaired nowadays. It's like trying to tear down a microchip and repair the transistors inside it, just because 50 years ago you could replace the fried transistors on a board performing the same functions as the today's microchip. This is the price paid for miniaturization, for bezel-less phones, for large batteries. Instead, there is warranty, there is insurance, etc. Things have evolved and ironically, the evolution has been dictated by us, customers, the ones that are now complaining :)

Dennis James - Reply

Demonstrably false. 2017 phones are not significantly different on the inside than 2012 phones,and lots of 2012 phones are extremely easy to repair with inexpensive parts you can order om eBay. I just recently repaired a nexus 5 with a busted USB port, worn out battery shattered camera glass and very ugly back cover for just 25 bucks. The difficulty of repair in phones is mainly because certain manufacturers insist on using pretty materials instead of durable materials. When a phone isn't even waterproof, there is no good reason to make them difficult to open, other than to make them difficult to repair so that they can sell you a brand new phone instead of you replacing a 5 dollar USB port.

Ståle Helde -

Spoken like someone who would pay extra to be able to upgrade a phone every 6 months. Believe it or not there are still a lot of us who buy for the long term. For people like me self repair or local shops are the only way to go. I have had 2 phones in the last eight years and I really appreciate these tear downs. They can actually be a deciding factor in which phone I purchase.

You have obviously not worked all that much, I could be wrong but don't think so, with electronic devices. Usually it is not the miniaturized parts that go bad first rather the battery or the connectors. And these are parts that most people handy with small tools can replace.

Thanks iFixit for your work.

protagonistic -

Why go through the back.

If you look at the Essential website they show an exploded view assembly and clearly you need to go through the front.

The motherboard is remove by front facing screws. You can't do any motherboard repair without getting the screen off first.

denae cole- shephard - Reply

Mainboard is made by Multek a company of Flextronics

Peng - Reply

I'm curious about that when the Essential Phone is in Warranty and send it back to the Essential company, how do they fix it?

Mandy - Reply

@Mandy: Since it's a "startup", you won't be able to get proper service anyhow (like OnePlus). So if you battle through the 1000 challenges, they will simply replace the entire device most likely. But, just like OnePlus did/does, I think Essential will also try to change every claim into non-warrantial. I.e.: "Don't even ty to send it back."

Enjoy! I love underdogs, but this is one fat reason why one would dislike them. This is why I bought Huawei, and before that, Samsung. But I also had HTC, they all had repair centers all around Europe. And they were all really professional and cool with the repairs. !&&*, if I walk into Huawei they do almost all work within hours, it's crazy good and professional.

A анонимный - Reply

OnePlus was not a start-up company, please stop perpetuating this myth.

qwirked -

"Essential" is a joke in my opinion.

Julian Fiallo - Reply

hi

is it a chip exactly upper than Fresco Logic FL1100-1A0-LX USB 3.0 host controller?(or i mis-steakin?)

and abut how repairable is this phone: well it is kinda bad that you need a lot of work to fix it but think from different angle, it will be more shock prof than almost every other phone!

to metal plate supporting internal components!

and most likely if you send it for warranty they will replace it with new one!

Mojarch - Reply

this is what happens when a software expert decides to go into hardware without consulting the big dogs in the business... the result is an essential phone without essential features and repairability.

Ezekielo Tech Vlogs - Reply

Muito bom, Parabéns à equipa.

NPimentel - Reply

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