The Essential Phone was an incredible phone, but a flawed one. A very flawed one, especially at launch. The software was a bit buggy, the camera was not very good, and the price tag was simply too high for most people’s tastes. Over time, the price tag fell, the camera was greatly improved, and the software experience was damn near perfected. Even better is that it will continue to get better.
The device offers so much to Android enthusiasts. It runs pure, stock Android and gets updates quicker than any other manufacturer. Hell, it’s gotten a few security patches quicker than some of Google’s own devices. It’s also gotten multiple Oreo betas (as well as a final 8.1 release) and even the new Android P Developer Preview. Not to mention the Treble support for easy future-proofing and ROM support.
It offers a pure Android experience not unlike Google’s old Nexus line, and that’s something that’s special. Most Android phones are running heavily modified software, get official updates months or even over a year late, and get security patches every 3 months, if that. Essential took a different path, a path I wish most manufacturers took. A path I know any Android fanboy appreciates. If Essential disappears, yet another company offering stock Android disappears with it. And those are rare enough.
Support was claimed at 2 years of software updates and 3 years of security updates. And the company has proven that it is serious about support too, as the camera software (and the camera app itself) have gotten constant updates and almost every security update brings something new. Whether it’s customizable notch support, portrait mode, Tiny Planet support, Bluetooth 5.0 support, or scrolling sensitivity customization, Essential has proven they both strive to improve their phone and listen to their community.
Essential also offered premium materials without the ridiculous price tag. Sure, we saw Vertu phones with diamonds and 24 karat gold, but that’s not what I’m talking about. The Essential Phone dropped the aluminum frame for a titanium one, which not only felt great but resisted denting during drops (and a dent would put pressure against the glass, shattering it). It dropped the glass back for a ceramic one, a material far harder (and sexier) than even Gorilla Glass.
Essential also pioneered the notch, and it may possibly be the best use of a notch so far. It’s so small, it disappears after a day of use and never gets in the way. At the same time it’s an interesting feature of the device. The bezels are still thinner than most, if any, other “bezelless” display on the market.
What about other manufacturer’s egregious use of labels? Company logos front and back, FCC text, and random text all over an otherwise beautiful design. Essential ditched all of that, giving us a clean front and rear. Not a single letter to be found. The company instead hid identifying info on a little tag in the SIM tray slot. This makes the device truly feel special.
Essential’s first try at a phone was extremely flawed, anyone can see that. Scrolling that’s not as smooth as other flagships, poor signal on T-Mobile, a still less-than-ideal camera, and few first-party accessories (where are the charging dock and high-end DAC attachments for that click connector, Essential?). But the lessons learned could have resulted in an absolutely amazing successor. One that might have sold very well. Unfortunately we may not ever see one, as the PH-2 was officially cancelled while Essential’s fate is uncertain. And while many prefer other phones over the Essential Phone, any hit to competition is a hit to the entire industry. I mourn the loss of an Essential Phone 2, and maybe you should too.