Essential Throws in the Towel

Posted on February 12, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Android with 7 Comments

Erstwhile smartphone maker Essential announced today that it will cease operations and shut down the company after a disastrous five-year run and only a single hardware release, the controversial PH-1.

“We have made the difficult decision to cease operations and shutdown Essential,” a terse announcement on the company’s website reads. “As part of the company wind down, the security update for PH-1 released on February 3 is the last update from the Essential software team. Your PH-1 will continue to work but we will not be providing any additional updates or customer support.”

Essential was started in 2015 by Android inventor and ex-Google executive Andy Rubin. It revealed its first—and only—smartphone, the PH-1, in May 2017, but struggled to ship the devices for the next several months. The PH-1 was never successful, despite a few innovative touches, and Essential never delivered some planned accessories. And then Rubin took a leave of absence when news broke that he had left Google acrimoniously in the wake of a sexual scandal. By October 2018, the layoffs had begun, and by 2019, the firm had moved on to software, despite a curious October 2019 announcement about a new hardware design.

Among Essential’s hardware efforts was an email application called Newton that the firm purchased in late 2018. But like so much else that Essential did, Newton was allowed to simply fester, and it was never improved or changed after the purchase.

“Current Newton Mail users will have access to the service through April 30, 2020,” Essential’s final announcement notes.

Tagged with

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (7)

7 responses to “Essential Throws in the Towel”

  1. Elan Gabriel

    OK. It's not like we have a shortage of mobile phones manufactures.

  2. codymesh

    They had little chance from the start, most regular people don't even know what Essential even is.

    Their product got outsized coverage in the media only because of the significance of founder....who is now embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal (in which Google is also implicated in). The day that story broke was the day this company was dead.

  3. Daekar

    Poor Brad. This is probably the last nail in the coffin for Newton Mail.

  4. goodbar

    PH-1 user here... bought the phone for only $250 though. I'm lookin' at the phone and the thing is still beautiful. I'm definitely no power user, and I'll really don't want a new phone after looking at the options, but will probably need to find some mid-range android one device before 2020 is out.

    • digiguy

      In reply to goodbar:

      Same here, bought it for even less than that and gave it to my mother. Guess she will keep it forever. Before that she has my old Galaxy S3....

      And I also have Newton, guess this time is really over...

  5. earlster

    My son had a PH-1, got it at some Best Buy fire sale with the 360 camera bundled, it was a pretty good phone, except for the camera. Especially the pure android experience with regular and quick patches and updates were awesome.

    The 360 camera was pretty nifty, too.

    Android smart phones are a tough market to break into, this final step was sadly 'Essential'. (Sorry for the bad pun).

    I read somewhere that they want to put the existing code up onto github, so that the community can continue to release patches, etc.

    Between this, Windows Phones, LG phones, and other non market leading tech, I've decided going forward to only stick with Samsung, Apple and other in general market leaders, no more early adapter and niche enthusiast tech anymore. It sadly just fills the 'obsolete tech' graveyard.

  6. mclark2112

    I was kind of intrigued by that strange skinny phone they talked about a while ago. Oh well. Probably wouldn't have gotten it anyway.