When you look at the Essential Phone’s unique design compared to the phones that have been released since it first arrived a year ago, there’s no denying who was first to this notch craze and who had the initial vision for where the industry was headed. But when you take a look at phones that have just been announced or teased or leaked as upcoming, you realize just how far ahead Essential was in the design game. They were at least a year ahead of everyone else.
I know that many forget about Essential, since their first phone flopped out of the gate, has only been purchased in recent months because of dramatic drops in price, and that there isn’t much hope for a sequel device, but they really did do this first and deserve some credit. From that first teaser from Andy Rubin to the unveiling, the focus from Essential was all about its striking design with a notch that looked both silly and impressive. Since then, Apple has done it, as has LG, OnePlus, Huawei, ASUS, and a bunch of other companies that I don’t have time to name. Google is going to do it too.
The thing is, all of those companies did notches on the bigger-side like Apple rather than the minimal approach of Essential. Some even bragged that theirs was smaller than Apple’s, even as Essential’s device had been available for months. And that’s fine, if that’s what they think their customers will be OK with. But what we’re seeing now, through announcements from Oppo and Vivo, as well as leaks of upcoming Huawei phones, is that Essential is where they all really want to be, it’s just taken them a year to get here.
For example, here’s the new Oppo phone that has been widely praised, partly because people are hoping that this is the blueprint for the OnePlus 6T:
And here is the next Vivo phone that showed up in our inbox this morning:
And here is a supposed render for the next Huawei Mate phone:
Seeing anything familiar? Yeah, we’re now doing the smallest possible notch we can, something Essential did when it released a phone in August 2017. These companies, particularly Oppo and Vivo, have basically copied the exact design of Essential, where they embedded the phone’s earpiece within the frame and then dropped the tiniest notch they could into the display to house a front camera. Assuming that Huawei render is accurate, it’s looking like they’ll do the same.
So as the next wave of notched phones arrive, not including Google’s, and the companies that announce them brag about display ratios and how quickly they’ve moved to reduce the size of the notch from their previous phones, remember who did it first.