Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone brand is dead. On February 12, 2020, the company announced in a blog post, that it’s closing for good. The closure means no more updates for the Essential PH-1 and the scrapping of the Project GEM phone.
In their blog post, the Essential team wrote, “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.”
Back in 2017, Essential was hot news. The company was Andy Rubin’s start-up after leaving the Android team at Google. The “Father of Android” departed Google to start his own business.
His post-Google vision brought forth the Essential PH-1 in August 2017. The Essential PH-1 was one of the first smartphones with a display notch. However, its implementation featured a tiny notch dissimilar to the massive notches on iPhones. The PH-1 debuted with modern specs and minimal but high-quality titanium and ceramic design. With specs like a Snapdragon 835 chipset, 128 GB storage and 8GB RAM, the PH-1 was at home among other flagships. Essential also did an excellent job of providing fast OS updates.
Additionally, the PH-1 had a modular design made possible by magnetic connectors on the back. It allows fast, wireless connectivity to accessories. Their accessories included a 360° camera and a clip-on headphone jack.
Unfortunately, the Essential PH-1’s US$700price tag may have turned some buyers off as the device suffered lacklustre sales. The company tried to combat this with price drops. The cuts saw the phone’s price drop to as low as US$250 at one point.
In 2018, Bloomberg reported that Essential had laid off a whopping 30% of its staff. These signs indicated turmoil within the Essential camp.
Along with the company’s woes, Rubin’s reputation took a hit when a string of sexual misconduct accusations dating back to his time at Google, showed up in the press.
Essential’s follow up device, codenamed Project GEM, surfaced online in October of last year. The remote-looking smartphone showcased an elongated design and a user interface to match. The phone was said to be in the testing phase. Sadly, all plans by Essential to revolutionise the way we use our smartphones are now dead.
Current Essential PH-1 owners won’t be getting any more updates either. The blog post also revealed that the security update released on February 3 was the last to come from the company’s software team. Although the phones will continue to work, they won’t be getting any of those consistently quick updates.
Additionally, their cross-platform Newton Mail service will also shut down. However, users will have access to their emails and files until April 30, 2020.
Although Essential is shutting down, the company did leave tools on GitHub so developers can continue “hacking”, thus keeping Essential alive in a small way.