Andy Rubin is known to most of the world as the founder of Android, which Google acquired and turned into the most popular computing platform on the planet. After leaving Google, Rubin founded Essential to make Android phones and smart home devices. However, the Essential Phone didn’t make much of an impact, and there are rumors that Essential could already have one foot in the grave. Essential just confirmed that almost a third of its existing staff has been laid off.
Essential launched its first phone more than a year ago with a hefty $700 price tag. The Essential Phone was among the first phones to come out with a display notch at the top, a feature popularized just weeks later by the iPhone X. It also included a modular accessory connector, but Essential has still only released a single add-on: the 360-degree 4K camera. Essential has promised more accessories like a dock and headphone jack adapter, but none have materialized.
Missing accessories would be enough of a worry, but reports earlier this year claimed that Essential had scrapped its second phone and Rubin was considering selling the company. Without a new phone in the works, employees likely don’t have very much to do. So, the new round of layoffs might not be a surprise in that context.
Essential’s website currently claims about 120 employees, so a 30 percent cut would mean 36 fewer employees with around 84 remaining. Most of the cuts reported came from the hardware, marketing, and sales divisions. That still leaves engineers who can continue updating the Essential Phone, which was among the first devices in the world to get an update to Android 9 Pie earlier this year. Although, Essential might not have the personnel to build an entirely voice-controlled phone, as was rumored a few weeks ago.
The Essential Phone was a competitive device when it launched last year with flagship-level specs and a sleek titanium/ceramic chassis. However, the $700 asking price was too high for a newcomer still wrestling with software bugs and poor camera performance. The Essential Phone is still on sale for $499 with a free 360 cam and USB Type-C earbuds. It runs the latest version of Android, but support could abruptly end if Essential shuts down.
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