Essential Has Allegedly Only Sold 5,000 Phones

Posted on September 28, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 35 Comments

Essential Has Allegedly Only Sold 5,000 Phones

A market researcher claims that Essential has only sold 5,000 units of its first handset, the PH-1, through Sprint, its exclusive wireless carrier.

A couple of points before moving on to the story.

First, I’ve never heard of BayStreet Research, which is the originator of this data. But according to the Internet, which is always right, they are a San Francisco-based market research firm that provides “smartphone, tablet, and wearables sell-through data and insights.”

Second, Essential doesn’t only distribute its phones through Sprint: In fact, I’d imagine that the majority of its sales come via direct sales from the Essential website.

That said, even if Essential sells, say, five times as many phones directly as it (allegedly) has via Sprint, this is bad news for Android founder Andy Rubin’s new company. You never want to see the word “thousand” in any report about smartphone unit sales.

So, there’s nothing about this news on the BayStreet Research website. But The Register is reporting that the firm told it about the 5,000 units figure.

“The Essential handset has only managed to move about 5,000 units,” the publication notes. “By comparison, Apple in its latest quarter managed to flog more than … 5,000 handsets every 20 minutes or so.”

I was initially excited about Essential, mostly because of what Mr. Rubin is trying to achieve. But the device itself features a lackluster camera, which puts it out of the running for me. And I can only imagine that Sprint doesn’t do a great job of promoting this product to customers.

 

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Comments (36)

36 responses to “Essential Has Allegedly Only Sold 5,000 Phones”

  1. Avatar

    skane2600

    Rubin doesn't have any star power outside of tech circles, so this is just a phone by a company the general public has never heard of.

    • Avatar

      mmcpher

      In reply to skane2600:


      I don't disagree about Rubin's lack of starpower but 5,000? I would have thought there were more pre-orders than that. It would be an uphill climb for any new manufacturer but the delays hurt the Essential and lack of a prominent partner as a focal point which is different than starpower. I still have not seen or handled the phone in person and given the build and materials that "hands on" factor is particularly important.


      The Essential has been generally well reviewed but needed raves to get it off to a fast start. The lack of timely availability of the phone meant there was no word-of-mouth touting it. Too much space in published reviews was devoted to forecasting sales and speculation that it would be DOA, notwithstanding the devices conceeded merits. Now there's a similar rush to pronounce it dead based on an unverified article.


      So Cook is now a superstar pitchman? Who are the others?

      • Avatar

        skane2600

        In reply to mmcpher:

        If the original designer of Android wasn't involved we probably wouldn't have even heard of this phone. Likewise, it's unlikely the company would even be able to get sufficient funding if an unknown person started it. Investors were primarily motivated by Rubin's reputation.


        IMO investors (and some in the tech press) were confusing software skills with system design and the ability to run a tech startup. Even the Android qualification wasn't as deep as people would assume since Rubin's original OS bears little resemblance to Android as we know it today.


        We like to give individual people credit for innovation but more often than not, it's a team effort. Cook isn't a "superstar" pitchman, but he's not the founder of an unknown startup either.

        • Avatar

          mmcpher

          In reply to skane2600:

          I don't care for the rising or falling fortunes of venture capitalists. I thought the Essential had potential and had an interesting approach to Android, durability and modular components. Is Rubin selling a phone or trying to sell the company?

          • Avatar

            skane2600

            In reply to mmcpher:

            I don't know about Rubin, but VCs are almost always about selling the companies they invest in after they look attractive rather than investing in them for the long term.


            I think Rubin has had trouble clearly expressing how his company's approach to Android is different from everybody else's.

            • Avatar

              jdmp10

              In reply to skane2600:


              Rubin is selling many things and the phone is just the main component in a larger ecosystem of devices trying to sell the smart devices idea. The modular aspect of the phone is the biggest standout feature but I wouldn't blame anyone who has a hard time believing now that the plans for the modular attachments won't follow through. Andy is in many ways banking his name and credibility since this phone is mainly geared towards enthusiasts, at least initially, so if it fails horribly to deliver on any of its promises that no one will give him another attempt at this. He also has huge backing and a company valuation of over $1B but it makes me wonder why some of that hasn't been put into advertising if it wants any chance of competing against the usual players.


              Either way, I am excited to see the future attachments that are in the works. The charging dock according to Essential is the next to be released but many more are to come. Also the Home product is really interesting and if it works as promised, should be a fantastic offering compared to the Echo and Google Home.

  2. Avatar

    ben55124

    Should have priced it mid range -- like OnePlus 5. Even if that means dropping things like titanium. People are just going to put a cover on it anyway.

  3. Avatar

    Polycrastinator

    Good camera is table-stakes. You want to sell a premium phone, you have to have a good camera. If it's not there, your device is dead. Rubin says the hardware is good enough, they just need to fix the software. Perhaps they should have done so before releasing the device.

  4. Avatar

    wright_is

    They also aren't reporting like-for-like.

    If it is only Sprint sales, then they should restrict the comparison to Sprint for iPhone and Android. I'm sure Sprint doesn't have 2 billion Android users and I bet Apple aren't selling 5000 iPhones every 20 seconds on Sprint...

    That said, even direct sales aren't possible. I looked at the Essential Germany website, I can pre-order a phone, but only on Sprint; given that Sprint doesn't even operate in this country, that is a little silly!

    They seem to be duplicating Microsoft's way-to-market for the Zune and the Band.

  5. Avatar

    johnh3

    I think the reason they sell bad are not just the price, a lot of bugs in the software and the camera application. It run ”stock android” so it should have been more polished. But the company seems unable to sort out the problems.

    I would wait for the new Pixel 2 devices. Or maybe hold of to the new Nokia 8 that seems coming to the US market. They just finished all necessary certifications.

  6. Avatar

    Michael Langone

    THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH THIS PHONE IS THE PRICE.


    NOW WHILE $700.00 IS CHEAPER THAN THE NOTE 8, IPHONE 8 PLUS, IPHONE X, PIXEL XL & YOU COMBINE THAT PRICE WITH A SUBPAR CAMERA AND IT'S DOA.


    YES THE BUILD QUALITY IS ONE OF THE BEST AND THE VERSION OF ANDROID IS MORE PRISTINE THAN MOTOROLA'S BUT I CAN GIVE "THE PRE-SCHOOL EQUATION COMPANY" $500.00 FOR A GOOD ENOUGH BUILD AND PURE ENOUGH ANDROID. YES 1+ IS SLOW WITH UPDATES BUT THEY HAVE BEEN SELLING PHONES FOR 3 YEARS NOW SO THEY ARE A KNOWN BRAND.


    ANDY RUBIN SHOULD HAVE NEVER SAID THE PH-1 WOULD BE READY BY JUNE OR WHATEVER DATE HE SPECIFIED. THAT WAS MISTAKE #1. BY NOT MEETING HIS OWN DEADLINE HOW CAN WE TRUST HIM WHEN HE SAYS THE PH-1 WILL GET FAST UPDATES. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE HEARD AN OEM PROMISE UPDATES, RELEASES, ETC AND THEN THOSE PROMISES NEVER COME THRU.


    ONEPLUS STARTED SELLING PHONES IN THE 299-399 DOLLAR RANGE AND BY DEVELOPING A FANBASE THEY HAVE STARTED TO RAISE PRICES OVER THE PAST CPL. OF YEARS. THIS IS WHAT ESSENTIAL NEEDED TO DO. THEY DIDN'T NECESSARILY HAVE TO START AT 299 BUT $699? IT SOUNDS LIKE TO ME THE INVESTORS WHO GAVE ESSENTIAL STARTUP CAPITAL DO NOT WANT TO BE PATIENT WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR ROI.


    IF ESSENTIAL STARTED AT $500-$600 AND MADE SURE THEIR DEVICE WORKS WITH T-MOBILE VoLTE & WI-FI CALLING THEN I WOULD HAVE BEEN INTERESTED. AT $700.00 I WANT A SMARTPHONE THAT HAS A CAMERA THAT IS COMPETITIVE WITH SAMDUNG, IPHONE, PIXEL AND WILL DELIVER A "GOOGLE" LIKE EXPERIENCE WITH FAST UPDATES.

  7. Avatar

    Lauren Glenn

    I don't think the driver's license "breach" or whatever that was helped matters either. But the scoring for repairability on this phone was pretty low and it even got low recommendations from TWIT.TV as well.


    For me, there was nothing about this phone that made me want to go get it. Too many companies you've never heard of making Android phones and here comes another one. Sure, he created Android at the beginning but that doesn't mean that much compared to where Google took it from there. I bet he's very capable of making an OS but that doesn't necessarily translate into hardware creation though.


    The fact that this was an exclusive with Sprint should tip many off as to where this was headed. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile declined to get it. T-Mobile I can understand since they tend to not have all the phones that the other two have, but Sprint? Sprint's in last place and many of us who have had Sprint know the reason why.


    But 5k units? That's pretty bad. And in all fairness to the people selling handsets, if you have to sell something to a customer for $700 or so, you'll sell them a name brand they've heard of and who has a good reputation (Samsung, LG, HTC, etc.) You won't go with a new startup. As you can tell by the numbers.

  8. Avatar

    jdmp10

    If the lack of advertising wasn't bad enough, the Sprint store I bought mine from (can't vouch for corporate store employee's as my store was a retailer), the employees knew next to nothing about the phone. My experience with sales reps at carrier stores hasn't been much different regardless of carrier or phone but at least they are given training on Galaxy devices and iPhones but pretty much anything outside of that they know very little.


    If I'm an employee and a customer is asking for a S8 or G6 but the current Sprint special for the Essential phone is half that of those devices, wouldn't it be an easier sell to at least show them the Essential phone and let them decide?


    In many ways it isn't remarkable, yes the build for me is easily it's most redeeming quality but software wise it's as generic Nougat as you can get. Battery life for me in the almost week I've been using it has been respectable, 3 1/2 to 4 hrs SOT. Speaker is plenty loud, camera is so-so even after the updates but I'm not a heavy camera user. And Oreo should be coming very soon where as the S8/S8+ and G6 will be a few months, don't know if the V30 will be launching with Oreo.


    I won't lie, the main reason I bought into it was the Sprint deal. I wouldn't have paid $700 outright for it when the HTC U11, my favorite 2017 Android flagship is selling for $600 or less and in every way better than the Essential.

  9. Avatar

    MutualCore

    I guess in 2017, if the phone doesn't have an UHMAZING camera it has no possibility of selling even a million units.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to MutualCore:

      We could do with phones without a camera. We have to hand them over when entering most client sites (no photographic devices allowed on site), so our project managers are out of contact when they are working directly at the customer sites... A couple carry around old Nokias candybar phones, on which they have smashed the cameras.

      I don't have that problem, working at base, but I would say that I use the camera on the phone once or twice a month. If I really want to take pictures, then I use my Sony Alpha or Canon EOS.

      • Avatar

        Polycrastinator

        In reply to wright_is:

        Blackberry used to do this: same phone model without a camera. But at the same time, at least here in the US, if you weren't allowed a camera in an area you weren't allowed a microphone either, so the cameraless models ended up being pretty pointless because you had to leave them behind anyway.

    • Avatar

      carlrhorn

      That about sums it up MutualCore. I will say for 95% of the phone market the camera is the 2nd most important thing after the app store. The phones OS must have all of the important apps and then it better have a kick ass camera on both the front and back or it will never sell. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram etc. are all centered around the camera and those are the 4 most downloaded apps...So you tell me how important a camera is to people when they choose a phone?


  10. Avatar

    Joseph Ward

    Paul, you may want to take another look at it if you haven't seen it hands-on, especially if the pricing reports for the upcoming Pixel hold true. Evidently there was a major software update to the camera that was released after review units were sent out that corrected many of the camera shortcomings, but many of the reviews were already published. The Verge (I know) wrote about a debate they had since the update happened after their camera review was already complete but before publication. They decided not to rewrite their review, but added updated photo samples with a note explaining their decision. It seems that Essential's rush to get review units out before they were ready may have really hurt them.

  11. Avatar

    Nicholas Kathrein

    I'd agree that 5,000 through Sprint is extremely bad if true. Without advertising no one knows about this phone except the techies and many of them are more likely to buy a Pixel phone. If they can get to 250,000 to 500,000 phones then they are doing what they expected. We'll have to wait and see on this.

  12. Avatar

    Bats

    This isn't surprising at all. Not.At.All.The reason is because Andy Rubin, or the people behind Essential, hardly ever marketed this phone. The only people who know about this phone are Android faithfuls, who are very familiar with Andy Rubin.


     In this mobile market, you clearly have to market and advertise the phone. Android took off and started making waves against iPhone happened when Verizon went bonkers advertising "Droid." LOL...even to this day, I still hear the word Droid in the conversation when it comes to mobile phones....mostly from elderly people though. 


    The good news is, that this isn't a rejection of the phone, as is the case with Windows Phone. With Windows Phone, Microsoft marketed that phone like crazy! The did so with funny commercials (wedding), celebrity endorsements (Gwen Stefani), in-place advertisements in tv shows (Dallas, Elementary, and more) and no one bought into it.


    The great thing about Android, is that there are a number of flagship phones to choose from. Alot of those phonemakers do little to no marketing either. Makers such as One Plus, Nextbit Robin, (even) Sony,...I wonder what their marketshare within the Android smartphone space is. All in all, I wouldn't call this a defeat for Essential, just a call for a more sound market strategy.

  13. Avatar

    rameshthanikodi

    It's normal for a new phone maker to have a slow start, I guess. Essential just has an outsized influence and coverage among the tech media because of the founder. Outside of that, the product itself isn't very spectacular, and precious few actually know or give a shit about the Essential brand. It's a well-made phone, just like every other expensive phone out there, and not much else. Plus i'm sure the camera's performance hurt it as well.

  14. Avatar

    jjaegers

    I would think a lot of these Android phone makers will run into the same issues Nokia did... I don't necessarily think Nokia going Windows was a bad move... Microsoft didn't help them very much by restarting Windows Phone from scratch a few times during the run. But being one of the hundreds of Android phone makers it's hard to differentiate yourself and create a big market for your product. I don't even think Nokia's Android stuff right now is very compelling... there are just too many other good options out there with big companies behind them.


    Essential seems like a neat idea but how many people have even hear of it outside tech circles? Even inside tech circles, I would think a lot of people even considering an Essential phone would wait to see what Google is putting out in October... this is a hard market to compete in for these smaller players.

  15. Avatar

    Marius Muntean

    Why is everyone wondering?? They sell it only in the US and on one carrier only! What did they expect? To sell a million?

    Also the camera on it is below mediocre!

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