2.12.2020 8:50 PM

Tech

Andy Rubin's phone startup, Essential, is officially shutting down

Turns out the brand wasn't so essential after all.

Kim Kulish/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

After a series of promises that never materialized and a phone that didn't sell well in the marketplace, Essential is shutting down, according to a company blog post on Wednesday.

Former Google executive Andy Rubin founded the company in 2015. According to The New York Times, Rubin's startup raised $330 million in external funding thanks to Rubin's track record with developing Google's Android smartphone technology.

Yet in spite of Rubin's relationships with Silicon Valley insiders and its one time valuation at $1 billion, consumers didn't react positively to the launch of Essential's premium smartphone in 2017. Then the promise to launch another phone fell through, taking with it any semblance of credibility the brand once had. If these failures weren't enough, Essential's announcements to create and introduce a smart home assistant as well as an operating system also never saw the light of day.

What Essential says — On Wednesday, Essential officially stated that it was wrapping up its business, adding that its security patch for PH-1 would be its last update from the team. The company notes that in spite of having a "vision" for its unusually tall "Project Gem" phone, Essential "regrettably [has] no clear path to deliver it to customers" and subsequently had to make "the difficult decision to cease operations and shutdown Essential."

PH-1 and Newton Mail — If you own one, your PH-1 will work but you won't see any other developments from Essential. The company also noted that Newton Mail, which it purchased in 2018, will work through April 30, 2020.

The long goodbye — There are several explanations for Essential's demise. For starters, consumer hardware companies — unlike software companies — require solid capital to finance their inventory and business or they collapse. That mobile carriers never seemed too keen on offering Rubin's phone certainly scared investors, who may otherwise have helped shore up the financials. It's also possible that Essential crashed partially due to Rubin's controversial reputation, which pulled focus each time the company attempted to hype an announcement. Workplace scandals and claims of misconduct, though denied by Rubin, may have tanked outsider interest.

It's hard to definitively point to the cause of Essential's end but it's not for a lack of reasons. It's clear that the once-revered company is shutting down on a weak note, with just $30 million in cash.