Not even a full year after the Essential PH-1’s August 2017 release date, things aren’t looking good for the plucky “startup.” Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Essential has canceled its next phone, is considering a sale, hasn’t sold many of the first phone, and that things internally within the company are not great.
Andy Rubin didn’t take long to respond with a tweet stating:
We always have multiple products in development at the same time and we embrace canceling some in favor of the ones we think will be bigger hits. We are putting all of our efforts towards our future, game-changing products, which include mobile and home products.
This seems to confirm that indeed something was canceled. Rubin goes on to state that the company is not shutting down. Further comments from Rubin indicate that the company is looking to raise funds and optimize. He reportedly is “going to focus on winning and not whining.”
From the outside looking in, none of this is immediately apparent, even if it’s not unexpected. Just a few months ago, we were praising Essential’s commitment and support of their phone. That much hasn’t changed at least. Just this week the camera app was updated with new features like electronic stabilization and a tweaked UI. Furthermore, Essential is one of the few OEMs participating the Android P beta. In fact, just today Essential pushed an update to their develop preview. Currently, my PH-1 is running Android 8.1 with the May 5th security patch. No other company has done as well with security updates. Essential’s subreddit still maintains monthly “ask me anything” sessions with the team. These AMAs provide a rare opportunity to get clarification, request features, and have direct contacts with the device manufacturers. This type of open communication is rare and should be valued.
Some other XDA-type niceties with Essential:
- A/B Updating.
- Full Treble support.
- Direct Unlocked sales from Essential and Amazon.
- No obnoxious branding to be seen on the device.
- Easily accessible builds.
What’s even more frustrating is that Essential has kept up this excellent update pace with this supposed internal employee turmoil. If a small company with issues can put out updates at this pace, why can’t Samsung, or LG, or Motorola? My unlocked, direct from Samsung Galaxy S9+ is still on the February security update here at the end of May.
Essential remains a stand-out looking device. I still find myself holding the PH-1 just to hold it. The ceramic and titanium build is unique and substantial. The design still looks premium and distinctive. When the ocean depths colorway launched, I just had to have one. In a sea of black and white phones, it truly stands out. And honestly, I’m happy for any occasion to show photos of it.
It seems obvious that none of this is good news for Essential. Rumors like this typically are not completely fabricated. I can’t help but hope that we are fortunate enough to see another phone from this team with lessons learned from the first. It would be a massive shame if one of the more unique, well supported, eye-catching, forward-thinking manufacturers goes away.
Rojenx is a leading concept artist who work appears in games and publications
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