Essentially a Disaster
Aside from the hardware, every other aspect of my Essential Phone experience has been about frustration. Mostly, it boils down to horrendous software stability and performance. Despite dozens of updates and the anecdotes you may have seen that indicate performance issues have been "fixed," it most certainly hasn't. The Essential Phone is handily outperformed by a Moto G5, and that's just unacceptable — at $699, for sure, but at $499 as well.
The sun is rapidly setting on the Essential Phone launch to the point where no amount of updates or good press can make this phone appealing or sell in the numbers required to make it a success. That window has closed, and it's time to build up to the next launch — hopefully with software, camera performance and an ecosystem that's worthy of the hype bestowed on the original.
The Essential Phone looks really cool, but man the software seems like an unholy mess. For the record, the only “custom” software on this phone is supposed to be the camera app. The camera app is supposed to be terrible and the rest of the phone somehow has major issues despite being basically what you get on a Pixel.