The world sees billions of mobile devices connected to the internet. Conquered only by a few, many others want to profit from this more than 1 trillion dollar market.
Andy Rubin was the creator of Android before it was acquired by Google. When he left Google in 2014, Rubin wasn't ready to retire. While he certainly created one of the most innovative products in technology, and have built some of the world's first internet-connected devices, Rubin wasn't done.
He saw another future. And with his vision, he wanted to make that happen.
Rubin saw that there hasn’t been an Apple since Apple. To get to that height, Rubin founded Essential on November 9, 2015. He wanted Essential to be the first gadget market since Apple; he wanted it to be the company that builds and distributes the open platform to power the billions of mobile devices and IoT gadgets.
Rubin saw a lot of innovation going on in the business, but realized that big companies didn't advantages of it because they are simply too big. With Essential, Rubin wanted to change this, and that is by first making Essential beat Android, his previous creation.
Unfortunately, the world has its own story, and it is apparently not on Rubin's side.
On February 12, 2020, Essential announced that it is ceasing operations. People started speculating.
First of all, the Essential Phone (the PH-1) ended as a phone with bad reviews. The phone got off with a rough launch and sales due to buggy software and mediocre camera. With a $700 price tag, it was also expensive at the time, even when PH-1 had some of the best long-term support seen from any device on the market, including from Google itself with its Pixel phones.
Then there were the sexual misconduct allegations against Rubin.
Rubin left Google in 2014, but reports started to surface about an inappropriate relationship between Rubin with a subordinate. Then there was the coverup by Google. Rubin said the reports had “numerous inaccuracies” and “wild exaggerations,” but he took a leave of absence after the initial reports.
However, the news came as a surprise to many, since Essential that was already a unicorn startup in 2017, just announced that it was working on a "radically different" smartphone it calls 'Project GEM. Taking appearance like a slim, candy-bar shaped device, GEM was seen as a nice departure from the already common phone slab.
"In October, we introduced Project GEM, a new mobile experience that our hardware, software and cloud teams have been building and testing for the past few years. Our vision was to invent a mobile computing paradigm that more seamlessly integrated with people’s lifestyle needs. 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," said Essential in a blog post.
As a parting gift, Essential on its blog post shared a few videos of Project GEM and its unique interface.
The closure of the company means that all mobile phones from Essential won't be receiving any software security updates anymore. Essential's cross-platform email software, Newton Mail, is also meant to be discontinued in April.
However, the company has shared its software on coding site GitHub so developers can peek and "keep hacking" the device.
Essential may have a short life. But it has at least provided a unique entry in a crowded phone market, conquered by the likes of Apple, Samsung and Google. Essential was one of the most promising companies in the tech industry, also because it was built by the Father of Android.
But again, the trillion dollar market is difficult for anyone to compete. Even for Rubin.
February 2020 has been a tough month in the smartphone world.
Before Essential announcing its shut down, BlackBerry Mobile announced it would stop selling phones. Then companies started pulling out of 2020 Mobile World Congress over the novel Wuhan coronavirus fears, resulting to the organizer GSMA in canceling the massive yearly event.