The Verge’s Essential Phone Review

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

It won’t be long now before we take edge-to-edge screens like the one on the Essential Phone for granted, but for the moment it’s still something special. There’s a cutout at the top for the selfie camera (and a couple of sensors) shaped like a little U, splitting the status bar in half between notifications and your radio status icons.

That cyclops eye seems like the sort of thing that would be distracting, but in my experience it becomes invisible almost immediately. Ninety-five percent of the time Android doesn’t put anything of value in that particular part of the screen anyway, and the phone is adept at keeping apps that go truly full screen (like video) letterboxed in. Every now and then you will have something like an image that will be full screen and cut off by the camera, but it’s rare. […]

Even though we’ve seen the no-bezel trick on phones like the Galaxy S8, it still feels remarkable to have such a large display on such a small phone. The 5.7-inch screen on the Essential Phone is bigger than what you’ll get on an iPhone 7 Plus or a Pixel XL, yet the phone itself is much smaller. It’s much closer in size to the smaller counterparts of those phones, the iPhone 7 and Pixel, and their significantly smaller displays.

It does look like a beautiful device. And it deserves kudos for lacking a camera bump. But: the camera is, in The Verge’s terms, “somewhat disappointing”. There’s one and only one reason why recent iPhones have camera bumps: to improve the quality of the images and videos shot by the camera. I hate the bump, but I’d rather have the bump and better image quality than no bump and worse image quality. Wake me up when someone figures out how to make a best-of-breed phone camera with no bump.

Update: Google’s Pixel phones don’t have a bump, and are top-tier cameras. Neglecting to mention them is an inexplicable brain fart on my behalf, given that I own a Pixel and like it far more than any other Android phone I’ve ever seen. But it’s not like the Pixel achieve a no-bump design without a significant compromise: the entire form factor of the phone is wedge-shaped — the top (the camera end) is noticeably thicker than the bottom. In some ways that’s better, and in others it’s worse. But what I want is what the iPhone SE has: no bump, no wedge — just a perfect slab with a flush camera lens. I fear the bump is here to stay, though.

Monday, 21 August 2017