Essential, Andy Rubin's smartphone startup, is now dead

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

Essential Products, the technology company created by Android co-founder Andy Rubin, is shutting down.

Most suspected that Rubin’s start-up wasn’t long for this world when its debut device, the Essential smartphone, flopped. The company reportedly sold less than 90,000 units in the first six months, prompting a massive round of layoffs in late 2018.

Still, the start-up persisted and back in October, announced a new phone with a very unusual form factor.

Project Gem was the company’s vision to “invent a mobile computing paradigm that more seamlessly integrated with people’s lifestyle needs." Despite its best efforts, the Essential team said on Wednesday, they have taken it as far as possible and have no clear path to deliver it to consumers. As a result, a decision was made to cease operations and shut down the company.

Project Gem more resembled a touchscreen TV remote than a smartphone with a tall, narrow body that was unlike anything we’d previously seen in a modern smartphone. You have to applaud the company for trying something different but really, it’s hard to see what Essential hoped to accomplish here with such an unusual form factor.

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Well this is kinda sad. The launch was 0lagued on a marketting level I think that really was the first bullet.

I have a ph1 and I absolutely love it by far the best phone ive owned of played with. Stock android. Updates at the same pace as pixel phones, super long lasting battery amazing screen.


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I got a PH-1 as a replacement phone almost two years ago since they were clearing them out and my old Motorola X was about to keel over. I had originally gotten it as a cheap replacement, not expecting it to last for very long. And here I just did that last security update the other day, before anyone else I know who has a Samsung or even a Pixel. That team worked hard, and its sad to see their last bit of work is now ended.


They screwed themselves with the pricing and failed to advertise, two critical factors every startup needs to consider. At launch, the device was dinged in reviews for not being feature complete. Had they launched at a lower price, they would have been compared to phones that also had a paired back feature set.

I have no idea what they were thinking with that smartphone remote. No media is designed to play at whatever aspect ratio that thing has. Not to mention, that's not going to fit in your pocket.

I think the smartphone market is essentially out of revolutionary ideas. Current phones are pretty refined and work well. Bendable phones are nice but don't fundamentally change the way you use the phone.

Whatever comes next likely won't be called a smartphone at all. If you ask me, it's only a matter of time before AR replaces smartphones.