The first thing anyone will notice about the PH-1 is its 5.7-inch screen, or, more accurately, how it stretches almost completely over the phone's face. Other phones, like Xiaomi's Mi Mix "concept," might technically have smaller bezels, but I doubt most people would care; there's something sumptuous and even a little thrilling about a phone that's basically all screen. It sometimes looks as if someone cut an actual photo down to these weirdo dimensions and plopped it onto a titanium slab where the screen would go. Still, it's not perfect: There are brighter displays out there, and colors look slightly washed out compared with AMOLED panels.
The notch cut out of the top for the 8-megapixel camera is a little peculiar too. The important thing to note is that it never really gets in the way, thanks to how Android fills up the notification bar from the sides in. Not every app takes full advantage of this unique screen, though. The phone dialer and Chrome, not to mention popular services like Twitter and Spotify, look like typical, boxy apps that don't spill across to the phone's top edge. It's definitely a bummer to get the full-screen effect only sometimes, and it's not clear what kind of work, if any, developers will have to do to ensure compatibility. Given how young Essential is (just 18 months old), I wonder how many app developers would even take the time.
Beyond the screen, the PH-1 is a dense slab of a smartphone. And I mean it when I say "slab" -- not only is it reassuringly weighty, but it lies totally flat on a table no matter which side is facing up. This was a very deliberate design choice, and after years of using phones that curve at least somewhat to fit my hand, it took a little getting used to. The company also assured me that the phone's boxy ceramic-and-titanium build can take a lot of punishment, and it feels almost impeccably sturdy, but who could blame me for being concerned? Xiaomi's Mi Mix was also made of ceramic, but that didn't mean its screen was impervious to damage.
Oh, I should also point out that the glossy black model I received picked up fingerprints faster than almost any other phone I've tested recently. If I didn't know better, I'd think the PH-1 was sucking my greasy fingerprints off from across the room.