Essential has ‘no clear path’ to deliver its next planned product, Project Gem, an unusually tall-looking smartphone. So the company is shutting down.
By Michael Kan
Android founder Andy Rubin is closing down his smartphone startup Essential, despite teasing a new product only a few months ago.
On Wednesday, his company posted a vague blog post that said Essential has “no clear path” to deliver its next planned product.
In October, Rubin tweeted out images of “Project Gem,” an unusually tall-shaped smartphone that resembled a remote control. In today’s blog post, Essential said it had spent the past few years quietly developing the product that it hoped would “more seamlessly” integrate with people’s lives than traditional smartphones.
But “despite our best efforts, we’ve now taken Gem as far as we can and regrettably have no clear path to deliver it to customers. Given this, we have made the difficult decision to cease operations and shut down Essential,” the company said.
Rubin is best known as the former Google executive who helped make Android into one of the biggest mobile operating systems in the world. However, in 2017 and 2018, he found himself embroiled in controversy over his 2014 resignation from Google. According to The New York Times, Rubin was forced to depart over a credible sexual misconduct claim, but not before Google paid him a $90 million exit package.
Rubin called the Times’ reporting a “smear campaign.” But his attempts to make a comeback appear to have lost steam, despite Essential raising $330 million in venture capital funding, according to Crunchbase.
We suspect Project Gem would’ve also struggled to stand out in the market when the current craze is foldable phones. Today’s blog post from Essential contains several videos, showing off the Project Gem smartphone. But aside from the product’s narrow display, we’re skeptical the product would have offered anything new to the consumer.
Due to the shutdown, Essential will no longer release new security updates for its first and only smartphone model, the PH-1, which launched in 2017. “Your PH-1 will continue to work but we will not be providing any additional updates or customer support,” the company added. “For developer fans, a prebuilt of our vendor image and everything else needed to keep hacking on PH-1 will be hosted on our github.”
Essential also appears to be shutting down CloudMagic, the maker behind Newton Mail, which it acquired in December 2018. The company said current Newton Mail users will have access to the service until April 30, 2020.
Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.