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Get the Essential Phone PH-1 for $224

Update: That sold out fast! It's now showing at $344. Plus: three bonus deals!

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
4 min read

The Essential Phone PH-1 is a steal at $224, but there's a bit of a gamble involved.

Josh Miller/CNET

If you follow the phone market, you know that Andy Rubin's much-ballyhooed Essential Phone debuted last year to mixed reviews. Critics dinged the so-so battery life, finicky camera and missing headphone jack, but users have been far more enthusiastic.

Of course, with its $700 price tag (later cut to $500), only the well-heeled could afford it. That changes today: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Amazon has the unlocked Essential Phone PH-1 (128GB) in Halo Gray for $224 -- the lowest price to date. 

Update, 8.05 a.m. PT: Proof positive that the universe hates me, this deal ended literally moments after I published it. The Halo Gray model is now showing $365, while the Black one is $344. Those are still good prices (Essential proper sells the PH-1 for $399), but obviously not nearly as compelling as $224. Sorry this didn't pan out. Even third-party sellers appear to be rapidly running out, so you may not find these prices for long either. But my Cheapskate senses tell me there will be more deals on this phone in the future, so stay tuned. The rest of the post follows as originally published. 

The first thing you should know about the Essential is that its future is uncertain. Plans for a follow-up model were scrapped earlier this year, and rumor has it the company may be put up for sale. So if you buy the PH-1, who knows how long you'll be able to get support from Essential and updates to Android?

The second thing you should know: This is a $700 smartphone for $224. It's premium through and through, from its 5.7-inch edge-to-edge display to its 128GB of onboard storage to its blazing-fast performance. There's also a pretty cool magnetic connector for accessories, though unfortunately there's only one at the moment: a 360-degree camera (originally $199, now just $49).

This was to be the phone for Android purists, and indeed it comes with bloatware-free Android Oreo 8.1. But you should be able to get Android Pie immediately, at least according to Essential's home page.

From here I'll turn you over to CNET's Essential Phone review, as I know very little about this model. I do know a deal when I see one, and even if the company goes out of business tomorrow, you still scored a $700 phone for $224.

Your thoughts?

Watch this: We destroyed the Essential Phone

Can your lighter do this?


Bonus deal: One of my favorite products is back on sale! It's a gooseneck lighter, the kind that's good for everything from birthday candles to charcoal grills. Except it doesn't use butane, it uses electricity!

It's the Tacklife ELY01 arc lighter, and it's just $11.98 with promo code CPVF6U5N. That's only $3 off, but this thing is already pretty sweet at its regular $15 price.

For starters, it should last a lot longer than your average butane lighter. Tacklife says you should be able to light it at least 1,000 times per charge, and that the battery can be recharged up to 500 times. I'm no math whiz, but I believe that works out to several million years' worth of candle-lighting.

Plus, it's just plain cool. Instead of a boring old flame coming out the end, you get a little Tesla-style electric arc. The real advantage is that it's windproof. In your face, matches!

I will note that there are a bunch of very similar lighters available for about the same price. All I can tell you is that I own one of the Tacklifes and like it a lot.


Cutest projector ever? It might just be.


Bonus deal No. 2: See that big empty wall over there? Want to turn it into a mammoth movie screen? You can, with the right projector.

Like this one: For a limited time, Anker's Nebula Capsule DLP portable mini projector is $266 with promo code AUGCPSLE. Regular price: $348.

Adorably, the Capsule is the size and shape of a soda can. Impressively, it runs Android, meaning it can directly stream from apps such as Netflix and YouTube -- no need to pair or mirror your phone or tablet, though that's an option. There's also a fairly robust built-in speaker. Anker says the projector can run for up to 4 hours on a charge.

There's one key limitation, though: You can't install additional apps beyond what's included, and there's no browser for big-screen web activities. You can work around the latter by screencasting from another device, but I do wish Anker would make this a little more versatile. Still, for big-screen Netflix just about anywhere there's Wi-Fi, this is a mighty nice option.

Bonus deal No. 3: Some drones are great for long-distance flights and air-selfies. Others are just fun to zip around the yard.

Here's one from the latter category: the Eachine E56 folding quadcopter for just $30. It actually does have an HD camera that can snap some decent flight-photos, just don't expect smooth video recording.

The real highlight is the remote, which has an accelerometer. Tilt your hand left, the drone flies left. Tilt forward, it goes forward. Very cool -- and great for novice fliers.

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones , gadgets and much more. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter!

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