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Android Creator Puts Essential Up For Sale, Cancels Next Phone (bloomberg.com) 51

Bloomberg reports that Andy Rubin's Essential Products business is considering selling itself and has canceled development of a new smartphone. The news comes several months after numerous reports suggested that the Essential Phone's sales were tepid. From the report: The startup has hired Credit Suisse Group AG to advise on a potential sale and has received interest from at least one suitor, the people said. Essential is now actively shopping itself to potential suitors, one of the people said. The startup, part of Rubin's incubator Playground Global, has raised about $300 million from several investors, including Amazon, Tencent, and Redpoint Ventures. It was valued at $900 million to $1 billion about a year ago, according to an analysis by Equidate, which runs a market for private company stock.

The startup has spent more than $100 million on developing its first products, about a third of the money it raised to build the company, the people said. Current discussions are focused on a sale of the entire company, including its patent portfolio, hardware products like the original smartphone, an upcoming smart home device and a camera attachment for the phone. Essential's engineering talent, which includes those hired from Apple and Alphabet's Google, would likely be part of a deal. The company hasn't yet made a final decision on a sale, the people said.

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Android Creator Puts Essential Up For Sale, Cancels Next Phone

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  • by SirAstral ( 1349985 ) on Thursday May 24, 2018 @09:06PM (#56670214)

    Sorry, I was interested until they decided on doing an exclusive with Sprint for the phone then I lost 100% interest in it. Rubin was touting that he cared about consumers and that is what inspired him to go back and make a phone free from all of the bloat and then he goes off and does an exclusive. I was also not happy about the missing 3.5mm jack as well.

    Sorry Rubin, you sold out and the sharks smelled your blood in the water.

    You may have started good but you ended bad. Good riddance in my opinion!

  • i seen reviews of that phone on youtube and thought they were decent phones, with a nice clean android install without third party bloatware that can not be uninstalled (are you listening samsung) i almost bought one but BestBuy was out of stock so i settled for another Samsung phone which is a nice phone but some things annoy me like not being able to completely uninstall facebook, (only disable it)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2018 @09:48PM (#56670346)

      i seen reviews of that phone on youtube and thought they were decent phones, with a nice clean android install without third party bloatware that can not be uninstalled (are you listening samsung) i almost bought one but BestBuy was out of stock so i settled for another Samsung phone which is a nice phone but some things annoy me like not being able to completely uninstall facebook, (only disable it)

      You complain about Samsung's software, but then bought one anyway when you could have bought a Pixel, Motorola, or Oneplus without the stupid bloatware.

      People like you are the reason companies like Samsung aren't listening.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have one and really like it.

      #1 feature is no bloatware

      My last phone was a Samsung and it had all these apps I couldn't remove, including a TV remote app that would pop up ads even when I wasn't using it, and they wanted $1/mo to turn it off. That was the last straw. It was just offensive on principle.

    • by _merlin ( 160982 )

      The older Galaxy S phones didn't allow Facebook to be completely uninstalled, but it's possible to completely uninstall it on the S8 (Australia, Telstra).

  • by schnell ( 163007 ) <me&schnell,net> on Thursday May 24, 2018 @09:10PM (#56670236) Homepage

    The era of smartphone growth when you could build a new significant player in the smartphone business are over - no matter how good or different you think your device is. There are only a few places left to make profit selling phones:

    • High end features/price tag backed by global brand awareness marketing (Apple, Samsung)
    • Um... wait, there's only one.

    Of course there are other phone makers. A few will make high margins on specialty devices aimed at niche markets (security, ultra rugged). A few will do very good volumes, especially those backed by the Chinese government and/or serving the ultra low cost Indian market. But nobody but Apple or Samsung will do both, and the remainder are basically making manufacturer margins (5% or less profit) rather than technology company margins (20-40% profit). Everyone else, please don't bother.

    • Kickstarter funding completed awhile back on a slashdotter-spec'd phone: https://puri.sm/shop/librem-5 [puri.sm]

      Librem 5, the phone that focuses on security by design and privacy protection by default. Running Free/Libre and Open Source software and a GNU+Linux Operating System designed to create an open development utopia, rather than the walled gardens from all other phone providers.

      A fully standards-based freedom-oriented system, based on Debian and many other upstream projects, has never been done before–w

      • by hipp5 ( 1635263 )

        A new alternative soon?

        No. Sure, they had a successful Kickstarter, but $2.4 million is peanuts in the world of smart phones. If you look at the backer numbers, they pre-sold a grand total of 3,436 phones. Woo!

        As much as Slashdot's hive mind says they want all of these specific features, the reality is that most posters don't put their money where their mouth is, and those who do are actually a very tiny niche in the world of smartphone customers.

  • Had the proprietor acted in time, and purchased a sufficiently secure phone (instead of all those retentive burner phones), Essential Consultants LLC might still be New York's very own diplomatic Peshawar.

    [*] Democrats and principled liberals would know it best as Peshtar (Peshawar + Ishtar).

    Unfortunately, rock trolls squish you into culinary essence without so much as a howdy-do, or a quick inquiry into your Jahm Dough (who know rock trolls had a Boston-cream accent?). Besides, even if you try to squeak ou

  • Not surprised (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LaughingRadish ( 2694765 ) on Thursday May 24, 2018 @09:33PM (#56670300) Journal

    Their phone itself isn't particularly interesting. There's nothing about it that distinguishes it from every other phone out there. Maybe if they did something like put back features that most/all of the other vendors have deleted, this wouldn't have happened. LineageOS is there for people who want a pure Android without crapware. What we need is hardware without crapware AND WITH the good stuff that is usually missing these days (IR blaster, removable battery, SD card slot, non-curves screen, a bezel without the stupid notch, 3.5mm audio jack). Also, how about designing phones with the expectation of putting them into a case of some sort?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...thought they'd have some kind of "special position".

    So one of the guys who started "Android" is involved... that's software, not hardware.

    Android itself is built atop Linux, i.e. not something he spun out all on his own.

    And Android's success came more from Google's adoption and pushing it out, than "Android" per se.

    So what exactly did this guy bring to the table?

    Why should something he did, hardware-wise, be any better than what actual hardware specialists come up with?

  • Summary: Andy Rubin might do a thing.

  • So what this is saying is that... *puts on sunglasses* Essential Products wasn’t that essential to the market?

  • An expensive device without such basics as a headphone jack, with "exclusivity" sold as a fucking advantage, and with plenty of cheaper, more capable, alternatives. I remain surprised the "high end" Android phones sell at all, given it seems that the more expensive they are, the fewer key features are included and the more fragile the phone (iPhones? Yes, because iPhone buyers tend to already be locked into the iOS ecosystem, but Android users have alternatives.)

    It'd be nice to think this is the last time someone will come out with a new company based upon the stunningly original business model of "Copy every bad decision Apple has made, but compete in the Android ecosystem, and BTW let's hype exclusivity because that's what customers really want, they must do, because, uh, what?", but let's be honest, there's someone out there right now convinced that he'd outsell Samsung if only he can find a way to engineer a cellphone that's as thin as a sheet of paper and has a battery life of five minutes.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Powercntrl ( 458442 )

      I remain surprised the "high end" Android phones sell at all, given it seems that the more expensive they are, the fewer key features are included and the more fragile the phone (iPhones? Yes, because iPhone buyers tend to already be locked into the iOS ecosystem, but Android users have alternatives.)

      Every flagship Android phone these days is a nearly-identical phablet. If you don't want any of that trendy shit like CRT-inspired rounded glass/corners, lack of a headphone jack, a "notch", an OLED display (sorry, but it still suffers from burn-in and poor daylight readability), etc., prepare to be relegated to low-end garbage phones.

      Or Apple, at least until they release their iPhone X-inspired refreshed iPhone line-up, which will make them yet another "me too" in the field of nearly-identical rounded-cor

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't get this "exclusivity" you are referring to. I bought a PH-1 at launch and have been using it on Verizon, no carrier apps or locks to be seen here. So far I have loved this phone, it is the first phone I have had that gets regular OTA updates, and it runs well. I will admit the phone had some issues at launch, but they were resolved pretty quickly. It is also nice to have a bloatware free phone without having to run a custom OS, rooting and disabling security now causes features to be disabled (lik

  • by guacamole ( 24270 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @02:07AM (#56671186)

    The problem with Essential phone was not it did not include this or that feature. One can't break into a market with so many established global brand names, and then charge the Apple or Samsung prices for your product.

    Try to tell your friend or a relative from among those who don't read tech news every day why don't you check out the Essential Phone? "Essential what?!" will be their first reply. The second question will be why is it so bloody expensive. Let's go back to the poor branding of this device. When somebody offers me to acquire an essential car, home, or other device, I will assume that I am getting the low-end low-cost "essential" features only (e.g. makes calls...).

    Even if they got the brand name right, you're not going to convince an average consumer that this is better than Apple, Samsung or LG. The correct strategy of the Essential phone would be to repeat the success of the chinese Oneplus. Recall the Original Oneplus One from 2014. It cost 300USD (350 for the 64GB model) while being an honest phone and having the specs of a typical flagship phone. It was globally successful. Then they continued building on this success with the subsequent equally high end, but still value priced, models like 2 and 3. One can argue that the current 5 and 6 are no longer as value priced (the brand new 6 starts at 525USD), but in the past years the brand has built a good reputation among consumers and apparently can afford to charge higher prices for its products.

  • What's important is that the founders got rich from the investors' money.

  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @04:25AM (#56671464)
    I thought the Essential phone was a really good looking device but it cost too much money and stumbled a few times during its launch window.

    Frankly they would have been better off following the OnePlus model of offering a mostly-featured phone with a good screen at a price point that stood out compared to high end offerings.

  • Essential could have brought the world a unique, small, thick, tough, powerful phone. Something different.

    But instead he thought we needed YET ANOTHER thin, fragile phablet.

    Goodbye.

  • my wife has one (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @08:44AM (#56672292)

    Nice phone, but nothing really to set it apart, IMHO.

    Definitely not cheap. No headphone jack.

    USB-C may be "future proof" but it sure ain't past proof ... only the included cable can be used, not the bazillion USB cables we already have.

    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      If you want a bunch of USB C cables, here's a five pack for 16 bucks: https://www.amazon.com/WUXIAN-... [amazon.com]

      • If you want a bunch of USB C cables, here's a five pack for 16 bucks: https://www.amazon.com/WUXIAN-... [amazon.com]

        I guess my point was that it was another thing about it that I just didn't care for at this point in the technology cycle.

        I'm old enough to remember when computing devices came with both the legacy and the new connector for awhile ...

        • by nasch ( 598556 )

          I'm old enough to remember when computing devices came with both the legacy and the new connector for awhile ...

          Yeah but on something as small as a phone, that probably doesn't make much sense. USB C is better than micro (or mini) USB. You can plug it in any which way, you can connect two devices with it (which is cool but admittedly hasn't been useful that often), and it supports much faster charging. It's so clearly superior I'm sure it will completely take over fairly soon, and you won't miss micro USB.

    • Belkin makes a microUSB to USB-C adaptor; the only drawback is it's small and easy to lose, so you'll be buying a lot of them, but they are only $7 at BestBuy.
  • Are they changing the company name to Inessential Products now?

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