The Palo Alto-based hardware startup was founded by Android creator Andy Rubin and raised $300 million in funding. It is said to be looking for buyers, following poor sales of its PH-1 handset, and after allegations against Rubin of an inappropriate workplace relationship while he was at Google came to light.
Essential has also shelved plans for its second phone for the time being; if anything, we might see the release of the Essential Home, a puck-shaped smart assistant device that runs the company’s own Ambient OS to connect with IoT gadgets, alert you about incoming notifications and calendar events, and respond to voice commands. The engineers who haven’t yet left the company have reportedly been reshuffled to focus their efforts on this product for now, and are slated to be included in the sale terms.
The PH-1 got a lot of attention when it launched, not only because it was the result of Rubin’s new venture, but also because it was remarkably designed, with arguably the first ever notch on a phone that was meant to house the front camera.
However, it fared poorly in the market after reviews panned its camera performance and screen quality. Since its launch last August, it’s been discounted by $200 (you can now get the 128GB model for $500), and it’s only sold about 150,000 units.
It’s too early to predict what sort of future awaits Essential at this point: while the company managed to attract top talent and deliver stunning design, its leadership seems to be shaky at this point, and it’ll likely face an uphill battle in continuing to follow its vision with upcoming products (including phone accessories that it was working on) if it’s sold.