Andy Rubin is arguably one of the most important figures in the history of the smartphone industry; along with Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White he founded Android Inc. in 2003 and in doing so established the foundations of what is now the most popular mobile OS on the face of the planet.
However, in 2014 he parted ways with Google – which purchased Android Inc. in 2005 – to establish Essential Products, a company which intended to shake up the mobile space with cutting-edge handsets. The first product released by the firm was the Essential Phone, a likeable device which was at the vanguard of the ‘all screen’ revolution last year.
Since then, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan. The Essential Phone was criticised for its camera shortcomings and touchscreen problems, while sales have been depressingly slow; in May this year, around 150,000 units had apparently been sold. To make matters worse, in November 2017, Rubin was forced to take a leave of absence from Essential after reports of an ‘inappropriate relationship’ from his time at Google surfaced online. He has since returned to his position, but it was a PR nightmare at a time when Essential needed positive news.
A price cut on the Essential Phone generated some interest earlier this year, but it would seem that time is running out for Rubin’s fledgeling company. The Verge is today reporting that 30 percent of the workforce has been made redundant – the layoffs are believed to be in the sales and hardware sectors of the company.
In May, it was hinted that Essential was looking for a buyer, and there have been rumours that the anticipated Essential Phone 2 has been canned. In a statement issued to The Verge, an Essential spokesperson refuted these claims, and insisted that the layoffs will allow the firm to refocus its efforts on creating a new handset:
“This has been a difficult decision to make. We are very sorry for the impact on our colleagues who are leaving the company and are doing everything we can to help them with their future careers. We are confident that our sharpened product focus will help us deliver a truly game-changing consumer product.”
Essential’s mooted second device will – if it ever arrives – apparently use AI to take the busywork out of performing certain activities. However, the company’s track record on keeping promises isn’t great; owners of the original Essential Phone are still waiting on a modular accessory that adds a 3.5mm headphone jack to the existing device.