An Essential Patent showing a pop-up camera has surfaced online, which was apparently granted to the company in 2017 after having filed for it back in 2016. The patent shows multiple images, all of which can be seen below, that depict diagrams of what this phone would look like and the documents also briefly describe how the pop-up camera would operate, and it looks similar to the Vivo Apex which was shown off during Mobile World Congress 2018.
Interestingly the design elements of this device in Essential's patents have more than one single commonality with the Vivo Apex, namely the device also having a nearly bezel-free display with no notch at the top of the screen. The patent is labeled as an apparatus and method for maximizing the display area of a mobile device with that method being the removal of the camera from the bezel area above the display where front-facing cameras are usually located, and having it placed within a unit which extends out from inside the phone. The one difference between the Vivo Apex concept phone and this one in the Essential patent is that the camera module pops up from the phone's frame on the opposite side, popping out from the left instead of the right corner.
For Essential it's all about saving screen real estate and allowing the user to have as much of the display at their disposal as possible. The pop-up camera is one way to do this, but Essential also envisions another method of potentially freeing up some of the display. According to the patent the front-facing camera could be integrated into the display as a camera icon which would be capable of taking pictures and recording video when tapped, would activate the camera and allow it to function. Since Essential was granted this patent in 2017 it's not clear what if anything will happen regarding the use of a similar method for the front-facing camera on the Vivo Apex. There's also the possibility that Essential won't end up using either of these designs for the camera implementation and may choose to integrate the front-facing camera in some other way, or in the same fashion as most other manufacturers at this point by keeping it in the top bezel.