It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Andy Rubin – the man behind the much-hyped Essential phone.
Since launching his company in 2015, shortly after Rubin left his job at Google, the smartphone manufacturer released its first product, the PH-1, and was rumoured to be developing a second. Yet production delays, problems with shipments and amid reports of “workplace misconduct” while Rubin was at Google, the company is now said to be on the verge of selling up.
Sources “familiar with the matter” have reportedly told Bloomberg Essential has hired Credit Suisse Group AG “to advise on a potential sale” and the company has already seen interest from at least one potential buyer. Rubin and Essential are yet to confirm these plans and have not commented publicly.
Rubin, 55, has been involved in developing phones for two decades. In 2014, he left his job at Google to set up Playground, a technology investment company, which in turn funds Essential. During its three years of operation, Essential has raised $300 million from a number of investors, including Amazon, and was recently valued at $900 million.
The original PH-1 Essential phone launched last August after delays and shipping confusion. It runs Android and the handset is targeting the top end of the market; the bezel appears thinner than the edge display seen on Samsung’s latest flagships, and its display measures 5.7in with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,312.
The original release date was meant to be June, but shipping notifications didn’t arrive until mid-August. In the build up, reports suggested customers were receiving what looked like dodgy phishing emails from Essential asking them for personal details such as photo ID and billing address.
Then in November, during a Reddit AMA, the designers of the Essential phone, Linda Jiang and William Leggett, confirmed they were already working on features for a follow-up, dubbed PH-2.
“We are definitely plugging away at PH-2. No time to waste,” said Jiang, before adding: “We are working on improving our display/glass durability as much as possible in next gen.” These plans have since been shelved and it is believed the engineers working on the PH-1’s successor have focused their attention on an smart home device, instead.
A Financial Times report last year predicted the Essential phone would launch in the UK by the end of 2017, but that never materialised and at MWC 2018, Essential told Alphr it would be launching outside of the US “soon”, but again there’s been no word since.
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