Essential, a company founded by Andy Rubin with an aim to create easy-to-use devices tailored for the most important needs, this week announced its cease of operations.

Andy Rubin, the man who headed creation of Google’s Android operating system, founded Essential back in 2015. It took the company two years to develop and build its first Essential PH-1 smartphone that came in a titanium body with a ceramic back, featured a minimalistic iPhone 5-like design, had a large edge-to-edge display with a raindrop camera for selfies, and ran ‘pure’ Android without any fancy UI. The handset looked rather innovative in 2017, but all of its main features (except expensive materials) appeared months later on cheaper or more popular devices, so the product lost a substantial part of its appeal. As a consequence, sales of the PH-1 were negligible.

After the company launched its first handset, it promised to release more hardware and software products, including a smart home assistant, a variety of accessories for the PH-1, and even its own operating system. Eventually, only a 360-degree camera, and a 3.5-mm audio jack adapter emerged on the market.

Back in October, the company introduced its Project Gem mobile experience, which involved a small smartphone with basic functionality, which was supposed to turn the company around, or at least attract new investors. Apparently, Essential does not have ‘a path’ to finish development of Gem, which is why (at least officially) it has to close its doors. (This means they had 'no avenue to deliver the product to consumers'.)

The statement from the company reads as follows:

“Despite our best efforts, we’ve now taken Gem as far as we can and regrettably have no clear path to deliver it to customers. Given this, we have made the difficult decision to cease operations and shutdown Essential.”

Essential will cease offering updated Android OS to its PH-1 customers starting immediately and its February 3 security update is the last one for the PH-1 to be released by the company. Also, Essential will shut down Newton Mail service on April 30, 2020. Fans of the device who know how to build software, will be able to get prebuilt of the PH-1 vendor image and everything else needed to keep hacking the smartphone on Essential’s github.

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Sources: Essential

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  • p1esk - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    Damn, this is a good looking phone! But yeah, they had little chance from the start, I didn't get one because I didn't want to end up with a phone from a failed company.
  • leo_sk - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    Their only phone was already beyond retirement by android standards, so you would have been safe
  • Operandi - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    "An aim to create easy-to-use devices tailored for the most important needs"; WTF does that even mean....?

    I really had no idea about this company's linage though.... When the phone came out I thought it was just another China 'andriodafication' of Apple design language with the Android OS. I don't know that much about Andy Rubin really but I find it odd that someone so influential to the modern smart phone would have come with such a lackluster product.
  • peevee - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    The product was not "lackluster", it was (and is) very very good.
    But without large sales you cannot be profitable, and without A LOT of marketing (like, hundreds of millions of $$$) a startup company cannot achieve large sales on their first device.
  • Spunjji - Friday, February 14, 2020 - link

    You also can't get large sales when your phone is overpriced and under-specified on release.

    The truth is that they made a lot of missteps on the road to failure.
  • peevee - Tuesday, February 18, 2020 - link

    It was not overpriced or underspecced.
  • JoeyJoJo123 - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    Wow, that Essential GEM phone would actually be a pretty awesome form-factor for a sort of Logitech Harmony remote competitor. I know it's not supposed to be a smart remote, but rather a budget smartphone, but there are phones/tablets with IR blasters and some apps which support a universal remote usage, so if Essential stuck around, it'd be cool to have seen what kind of custom software would be tailored for it.

    It's a shame they're having to close up shop, they were one of the few phone manufacturers that still understood there's still a need to have quality, but affordable cell phones, especially since Google abandoned their affordable Nexus line, OnePlus keeps raising the prices and trying to compete as a flagship-killer despite having poorly tuned camera software, then there was Essential phone + a bunch of Chinese brands like Xiaomi making affordable phones. And Essential being an American tech company gives more credence to being free of *puts on tinfoil hat* baked-in chinese botnet/DRM features *removes tinfoil hat*.

    Hopefully other manufacturers fill in that gap in the market.
  • Reflex - Thursday, February 13, 2020 - link

    You seem to have left out some rather important details about Rubin, Anton.
  • Spunjji - Friday, February 14, 2020 - link

    I second this. He doesn't deserve to have his personal misdeeds overlooked.
  • Reflex - Friday, February 14, 2020 - link

    Joel approached this best, in my opinion:

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