The Essential Phone - Modular, Beautiful, but Essential?

When I saw pictures of the Essential Phone, my first thought was "Wow". The edge-to-edge display makes it look like a Samsung Galaxy S8 without the curved edge screen (which I'm personally not a huge fan of after owning the S7 Edge for some time).

But on closer inspection, I started to wonder if the Essential Phone was essentially an LG G6 with a reinvention of the LG G5's modularity and a current top of the line processor.

It appears to have a magnetic charging dock in addition to the standard USB-C charging port, a dual-sensor camera (one of them being a monochrome sensor, which they say works in conjunction with the colour sensor to let in more light for improved low-light photo results), and the latest non-standard screen aspect ration of 19:10.

Being someone who consumes a lot of media on my phone, I'm not loving the new trend of stretched aspect ratios. Black bars on each side of a video I'm watching isn't something I want to deal with. But considering the Essential phone's screen wraps right around the top centred front-facing camera, it looks like this space could be used exclusively for notifications... like the LG V10 and V20 phones.

Back to that modular design, the accessory they're promoting is a 360 degree camera which snaps on using a magnetic connection.

There's Bluetooth 5.0 on board and what looks to be all of the 4G worldwide bands covered, which is always nice to see. Though other specs such as the 4GB RAM and 128GB storage is looking a little run-of-the-mill. There's no mention of expandable storage either, which is a shame.

Lastly, the 3040mAh battery begs the question of what battery life will be like in real-world usage. Is this another flagship device that will be out of battery before you get home each day?

With a high-end dual camera setup, modular attachment functionality and a large 5.71" screen, all in a slim, 7.8mm thin, titanium package which promises improved durability over aluminium frame phones, the Essential Phone looks promising. But is there really enough to help it stand out from the crowd and become an essential purchase over other current flagship phones?

What do you think? Given this phone is said to start shipping in June, will it be your essential purchase?

The Latest LG Tone Infinim (HBS-920)

LG is a company who always seems to go out on a limb in the name of innovation. You'd be forgiven for thinking they'd taken a departure from the normal design language of their hugely successful Tone series of neckband-style bluetooth earphones. But it seems they've come through with the goods on another update to their Tone Infinim series, with some not-so-standard but quite exciting features.

In January at CES 2017, LG's unveiled two new gambles on their neckband bluetooth earphone line. The LG Tone Free was a completely (well, sort of) wireless version. The earbuds themselves no longer had cables connecting them to the neckband,  used to charge the earbuds, following the recent trend of "truly wireless" earbud solutions. While this sounded like an exciting idea, part of the simple beauty of their Tone series lies in having everything you need in the one, simple, portable package, without the chance of losing important parts.

The LG Tone Studio seemed more like a home-theatre centred solution. This bluetooth neckband featured four small speaks (two on the top of the band, two on the bottom) which instantly turned the earphones into a personal boombox. The idea being to create a personal sound "bubble" for audio you could hear clearly yourself without too much disturbance to others. Obviously putting these into speaker mode on a bus or train would cause more than a few disgruntled looks. But having them on at home, while your partner is watching TV for example, allows you to hear your media without a noise that reasonably competes with the TV. It's also a great "hands free" solution for doing the housework, cooking, etc. But in reality, with the sound quality being top-notch through the earbuds, it's unlikely you'd prefer the speakers unless you REALLY needed to hear what else was going on around you.

Finally, without too much of a press release fuss at all, LG has quietly released and more standard continuance to their Tone series. Enter stage left; the LG Tone Infinim HBS-920. LG claims up to 12 hours' battery life with their new model, bluetooth 4.2 and the return of the Harmon Kardon sound signature. The innovation they've managed to sneak in here is the adjustable bass that's now placed right on the earbud, allowing you to tweak the amount of bass instantly. Given that the Tone series already have selectable sound modes (usually normal, treble and bass) by double tapping the play/pause button (or on the Tone Studio by pressing down the volume rocker), it remains to be seen how useful this ends up being.

What do you think? Is this the bluetooth neckband you wanted to see this year from LG? Or have they spread themselves too thin with one too many innovations?

Bonus Tip: If you already own one of the Tone products, installing the Tone & Talk app from LG gives you an easy way to access controls for your device, including selection of the sound mode, viewing the remaining battery and configuring the Tone & Talk features for receiving notifications via audio prompts.