andy rubin

Two years after Essential’s launch, still no Home hub or second phone

Posted by | andy rubin, Apple, Essential Phone, Google, hardware, Honeywell, Mobile, mobile phones, Samsung, smartphone, smartphones, technology, The New York Times | No Comments

This morning’s Moto Z4 news was good cause to go back and reassess the state of the modular phone. Three years after the line launched, the concept hasn’t exactly ignited the market — in fact, there are really just a handful of scattered competitors to show for it. Essential is among the most prominent, with the PH-1’s clever two-pin connector.

By sheer coincidence, it turns out today is the two-year anniversary of the company’s debut. Founder Andy Rubin took to the stage at Code 2017 with big ideas and two products. One, the PH-1, has come and gone, launching a couple of months late in August 2017 before being discontinued late last year. The other, the Essential Home hub, never appeared at all.

The day the products were announced, then COO Niccolo de Masi (who appears to have since moved on to Honeywell spin-off Resideo), spoke of the company’s 10-year plan. It was an acknowledgement that it had a tough road ahead, as it planned to take on big names like Apple and Samsung. But the company certainly had the money. A $300 million raise helped the startup achieve unicorn status not long after taking the stage at the conference.

But the intervening two years have been plagued with bad news. In spite of positive reviews, the company reportedly only shipped 88,000 phones in 2017. The PH-1 got a massive price drop and its first modular accessory, a 360 camera, was discounted to $19, down from $250.

Last May, rumors surfaced that the company had gone up for sale and its follow-up phone had been canceled. And in October, it laid off nearly a third of its staff. Founder Andy Rubin has been laying low in the meantime. That same month, The New York Times published an explosive story about a $90 million Google payoff in the wake of sexual misconduct claims, causing him to take leave from Essential.

All the while, however, the company has firmly denied claims that it’s going away. I spoke to a rep at the company recently who said things are in the works, without revealing any specifics. There have been a ton of patent filings that appear to point to some future handset. It announced a new mod for the PH-1 in June and even acquired a company in December. Hell, earlier this month, it issued a new security patch, holding to its promise of monthly updates — a hell of a lot more than many more successful smartphone makers have offered.

That’s part of what makes the Essential story so frustrating. The PH-1 was a novel device, among the first to go with a camera notch display. Its $699 price (later reduced to $499) also predated Samsung/Apple/Google’s move into budget flagships. But even with a unicorn valuation, hardware is hard. And Essential may have entered the market at the worst possible time, as smartphone sales were beginning to flag for the first time ever.

Two years after launch, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Essential’s time may have come and gone. For now, however, the company appears to simply be biding its time before announcing what comes next.

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Shareholder suit alleges Google covered up its sexual harassment problems with big payouts

Posted by | Alphabet, amit singhal, Android, andy rubin, Eric Schmidt, Google, John Doerr, Larry Page, lawsuit, Ram Shriram, Sergey Brin, sexual harassment, Sundar Pichai, TC | No Comments

Months after an earth-shattering New York Times investigation exposed Google parent company Alphabet’s $90 million payout to Android co-founder Andy Rubin, despite the accusations of sexual misconduct made against him, a Google shareholder is suing the company.

James Martin filed suit in the San Mateo Superior Court Thursday morning, alleging the company’s leaders deployed massive allowances to poor-behaving executives to cover up harassment scandals. Both Rubin and Google’s former head of search Amit Singhal, who peacefully left the company in 2016 amid harassment allegations that weren’t made public until the following year, are listed as defendants in the court filing. This is because the plaintiff is seeking a full return of the massive payouts awarded to the embattled former execs.

With charges including breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, abuse of power and corporate waste, per The Washington Post, the lawsuit asks for an end of nondisclosure and arbitration agreements at Google, which ensure workplace disputes are settled behind closed doors and without any right to an appeal. Martin is also requesting Google incorporate three new directors to the Alphabet board and put an end to supervoting shares, which gives certain shareholders more voting control.

The lawsuit also targets Rubin, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, chief executive officer Sundar Pichai and executive chairman Eric Schmidt. Former human resources director Laszlo Bock, chief legal officer David Drummond and former executive Amit Singhal are also named, as are long-time venture capitalists and Google board members John Doerr and Ram Shriram.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Following the release of the NYT report, Googlers across the world rallied to protest the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations. The protestors had five key asks, including an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination, a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity and a clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously. Google ultimately complied with employees and put an end to forced arbitration; other tech companies, such as Airbnb, followed suit.

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Google walkout organizer: ‘I hope I still have a career in Silicon Valley after this’

Posted by | Android, andy rubin, Danielle Brown, Diversity, Google, Sundar Pichai | No Comments

Shouting “women’s rights are worker’s rights” and a number of other #TimesUp and #MeToo chants, upwards of 1,000 Google employees gathered at San Francisco’s Harry Bridges Plaza Thursday to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment and misconduct cases.

Staffers from all of Google’s San Francisco offices were in attendance. An organizer who declined to be named told TechCrunch there were 1,500 Google employees across the globe that participated in the 48-hour effort to arrange a worldwide walkout. The effort was a success. More than 3,000 Googlers and supporters of the movement attended the New York City walkout alone. The organizers said that the 1,000 people who came out for the San Francisco walkout was double the number they expected.

Cathay Bi, a Google employee in San Francisco and one of the walkout organizers, told a group of journalists at the rally that she was conflicted with participating in the walkout and ultimately decided not to go public with her own story of sexual harassment.

“I experienced sexual harassment at Google and I didn’t feel safe talking about it,” said Bi, pictured above. “That feeling of not being safe is why I’m out here today. I’d love it if everyone felt safe talking about it.”

“There were many times over the course of the last 24 hours that I emailed the group and said ‘I’m not doing this because I’m scared,’ but that fear is something everyone else feels,” she said. “I said to myself last night, I hope I still have a career in Silicon Valley after this.”

Other organizers declined to go on the record.

There were protests around the globe today, including in London, Dublin, Montreal, Singapore, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Cambridge, following a New York Times investigation that revealed Google had given Android co-creator Andy Rubin a $90 million exit package despite multiple relationships with other Google staffers and credible accusations of sexual misconduct made against him. That story, coupled with tech’s well-established issue of harassment and discrimination toward women and underrepresented minorities, was a catalyst for today’s rallies.

At the rally, Google employees read off their list of demands, which includes an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination, a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity, and a clear, inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.

They’re also requesting that the search giant promote chief diversity officer Danielle Brown to a role in which she reports directly to chief executive officer Sundar Pichai, as well as the addition of an employee representative to the company’s board of directors.

Here’s the statement from Pichai that Google provided to TechCrunch this morning: “Earlier this week, we let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for today and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate. Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”

Now, employees around the globe await Google’s highly-anticipated course of “action.”

“These types of changes don’t happen overnight,” Bi said. “If we expected them overnight we would have the wrong expectations of how these movements take place.”

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Google employees across the globe are walking out now to protest sexual harassment

Posted by | Android, andy rubin, Diversity, Google, protests, sexual harassment, Sundar Pichai, TC | No Comments

Google employees are fed up with the search giant’s lack of transparency when it comes to handling sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.

This morning, thousands of Googlers from San Francisco to Dublin are walking out in hopes of bringing real change to the company. The protest follows a New York Times report last week that revealed Google had provided Android co-creator Andy Rubin a $90 million payout package despite credible allegations of sexual misconduct made against him.

The protestors have five key asks:

  1. An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination.
  2. A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity.
  3. A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.
  4. A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.
  5. Elevate the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the chief executive officer and make recommendations directly to the board of directors. And appoint an employee representative to the board.

Plans of the walkout emerged earlier this week, just days after the bombshell NYT report was released. According to BuzzFeed, some 200 Googlers began staging the protest; the group quickly grew to thousands, including non-U.S. Googlers. Google CEO Sundar Pichai had reportedly condoned the protest in an internal e-mail to employees Tuesday.

“Earlier this week, we let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for today and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate,” Pichai said in a statement provided to TechCrunch today. “Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”

Pichai also responded to the NYT report with a letter co-signed by vice president of people operations Eileen Naughton, admitting that 48 people had been terminated at the company for sexual harassment in the past two years alone, including 13 senior employees.

We’ll be at the San Francisco protest, which begins at 11:10 a.m. PST. Here’s a look at protestors around the globe this morning.

The #googlewalkout in Zurich has impressive numbers! @googlewalkout pic.twitter.com/bgLHDLYfez

— Ted (@TedOnPrivacy) November 1, 2018

Google employees in Montreal have gathered up the street from their office on the campus of McGill University – #GoogleWalkout @GoogleWalkout – No one willing to speak on the record, but one explaining that the action says it all. pic.twitter.com/lB8siMeWMj

— Elias Makos 📺📻🎙 (@eliasmakos) November 1, 2018

#GoogleWalkout Cambridge — seems like the whole office is here. Can’t get a photo that accurately expresses the magnitude. pic.twitter.com/94rIbQJ9Ls

— mc #YesOn3 millen (@mcmillen) November 1, 2018

More signs from Google NYC’s pre-walkout sign making! #GoogleWalkout pic.twitter.com/4hjTJaHtqS

— Google Walkout For Real Change (@GoogleWalkout) November 1, 2018

Google NYC #GoogleWalkout pic.twitter.com/5BJ0u5EZCJ

— Google Walkout For Real Change (@GoogleWalkout) November 1, 2018

#GoogleWalkout Dublin. pic.twitter.com/joL1uHGavJ

— Ciara O’Brien (@ciaraobrien) November 1, 2018

The first of many coordinated #GoogleWalkout protests has begun – this is at the firm’s office in Singapore. (Pic via https://t.co/h44RZYGGHV ) pic.twitter.com/QeFgmPbHnN

— Dave Lee (@DaveLeeBBC) November 1, 2018

Hello from Google in London. A groups just came out for the #googlewalkout pic.twitter.com/nTeZ9rSAKC

— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) November 1, 2018

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Google employees will walk out on Thursday to protest company’s handling of sexual misconduct

Posted by | Android, andy rubin, Google, Sundar Pichai, TC | No Comments

Days after a New York Times investigation revealed Google gave Android creator Andy Rubin a $90 million exit package despite multiple relationships with other Google staffers and accusations of sexual misconduct, some 200 employees at the search giant are planning a walkout, per BuzzFeed News.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment.

The walkout, or “women’s walk,” as it’s been referred to in internal company forums, is planned for Thursday.

Following the NYT report, Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai and its vice president of people operations Eileen Naughton co-signed a company memo admitting that 48 people had been terminated at the company for sexual harassment in the past two years, 13 of which held a senior management position or higher. None of them, according to the memo, received an exit package.

“Today’s story in the New York Times was difficult to read,” they wrote. “We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace. We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action.”

Rubin left Google in 2014 after an internal investigation found accusations of sexual misconduct against him to be credible. The details of his exit, however, were never disclosed. It wasn’t until The Information published its own bombshell report on Rubin’s wrongdoings last fall that details of his history of sexual harassment began to emerge. In the wake of The Information’s story, Rubin took a leave of absence from Essential to “deal with personal matters.”

After leaving Google, Rubin went on to found Essential Products, a smartphone company that raised heaps of venture capital funding only to cancel development of its next phone, lay off 30 percent of its staff and reportedly put itself up for sale.

In a tweet last week, Rubin claimed NYT’s story contained “numerous inaccuracies.”

“Specifically, I never coerced a woman to have sex in a hotel room. These false allegations are part of a smear campaign to disparage me during a divorce and custody battle. Also, I am deeply troubled that anonymous Google executives are commenting about my personnel file and misrepresenting the facts,” he wrote.

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Happy 10th anniversary, Android

Posted by | Amazon, Android, andy rubin, Angry Birds, Apple, artificial intelligence, AT&T, China, computing, consumer electronics, digital media, Facebook, Gadgets, Google, google nexus, hardware, HTC, HTC Dream, HTC EVO 4G smartphone, huawei, india, iPad, iPhone, Kindle, LG, lists, Mobile, Motorola, motorola droid, motorola xoom, Nexus One, oled, operating system, operating systems, phablet, Samsung, smartphone, smartphones, Sony, sprint, T-Mobile, TC, TechCrunch, United States, Verizon, xperia | No Comments

It’s been 10 years since Google took the wraps off the G1, the first Android phone. Since that time the OS has grown from buggy, nerdy iPhone alternative to arguably the most popular (or at least populous) computing platform in the world. But it sure as heck didn’t get there without hitting a few bumps along the road.

Join us for a brief retrospective on the last decade of Android devices: the good, the bad, and the Nexus Q.

HTC G1 (2008)

This is the one that started it all, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the old thing. Also known as the HTC Dream — this was back when we had an HTC, you see — the G1 was about as inauspicious a debut as you can imagine. Its full keyboard, trackball, slightly janky slide-up screen (crooked even in official photos), and considerable girth marked it from the outset as a phone only a real geek could love. Compared to the iPhone, it was like a poorly dressed whale.

But in time its half-baked software matured and its idiosyncrasies became apparent for the smart touches they were. To this day I occasionally long for a trackball or full keyboard, and while the G1 wasn’t pretty, it was tough as hell.

Moto Droid (2009)

Of course, most people didn’t give Android a second look until Moto came out with the Droid, a slicker, thinner device from the maker of the famed RAZR. In retrospect, the Droid wasn’t that much better or different than the G1, but it was thinner, had a better screen, and had the benefit of an enormous marketing push from Motorola and Verizon. (Disclosure: Verizon owns Oath, which owns TechCrunch, but this doesn’t affect our coverage in any way.)

For many, the Droid and its immediate descendants were the first Android phones they had — something new and interesting that blew the likes of Palm out of the water, but also happened to be a lot cheaper than an iPhone.

HTC/Google Nexus One (2010)

This was the fruit of the continued collaboration between Google and HTC, and the first phone Google branded and sold itself. The Nexus One was meant to be the slick, high-quality device that would finally compete toe-to-toe with the iPhone. It ditched the keyboard, got a cool new OLED screen, and had a lovely smooth design. Unfortunately it ran into two problems.

First, the Android ecosystem was beginning to get crowded. People had lots of choices and could pick up phones for cheap that would do the basics. Why lay the cash out for a fancy new one? And second, Apple would shortly release the iPhone 4, which — and I was an Android fanboy at the time — objectively blew the Nexus One and everything else out of the water. Apple had brought a gun to a knife fight.

HTC Evo 4G (2010)

Another HTC? Well, this was prime time for the now-defunct company. They were taking risks no one else would, and the Evo 4G was no exception. It was, for the time, huge: the iPhone had a 3.5-inch screen, and most Android devices weren’t much bigger, if they weren’t smaller.

The Evo 4G somehow survived our criticism (our alarm now seems extremely quaint, given the size of the average phone now) and was a reasonably popular phone, but ultimately is notable not for breaking sales records but breaking the seal on the idea that a phone could be big and still make sense. (Honorable mention goes to the Droid X.)

Samsung Galaxy S (2010)

Samsung’s big debut made a hell of a splash, with custom versions of the phone appearing in the stores of practically every carrier, each with their own name and design: the AT&T Captivate, T-Mobile Vibrant, Verizon Fascinate, and Sprint Epic 4G. As if the Android lineup wasn’t confusing enough already at the time!

Though the S was a solid phone, it wasn’t without its flaws, and the iPhone 4 made for very tough competition. But strong sales reinforced Samsung’s commitment to the platform, and the Galaxy series is still going strong today.

Motorola Xoom (2011)

This was an era in which Android devices were responding to Apple, and not vice versa as we find today. So it’s no surprise that hot on the heels of the original iPad we found Google pushing a tablet-focused version of Android with its partner Motorola, which volunteered to be the guinea pig with its short-lived Xoom tablet.

Although there are still Android tablets on sale today, the Xoom represented a dead end in development — an attempt to carve a piece out of a market Apple had essentially invented and soon dominated. Android tablets from Motorola, HTC, Samsung and others were rarely anything more than adequate, though they sold well enough for a while. This illustrated the impossibility of “leading from behind” and prompted device makers to specialize rather than participate in a commodity hardware melee.

Amazon Kindle Fire (2011)

And who better to illustrate than Amazon? Its contribution to the Android world was the Fire series of tablets, which differentiated themselves from the rest by being extremely cheap and directly focused on consuming digital media. Just $200 at launch and far less later, the Fire devices catered to the regular Amazon customer whose kids were pestering them about getting a tablet on which to play Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds, but who didn’t want to shell out for an iPad.

Turns out this was a wise strategy, and of course one Amazon was uniquely positioned to do with its huge presence in online retail and the ability to subsidize the price out of the reach of competition. Fire tablets were never particularly good, but they were good enough, and for the price you paid, that was kind of a miracle.

Xperia Play (2011)

Sony has always had a hard time with Android. Its Xperia line of phones for years were considered competent — I owned a few myself — and arguably industry-leading in the camera department. But no one bought them. And the one they bought the least of, or at least proportional to the hype it got, has to be the Xperia Play. This thing was supposed to be a mobile gaming platform, and the idea of a slide-out keyboard is great — but the whole thing basically cratered.

What Sony had illustrated was that you couldn’t just piggyback on the popularity and diversity of Android and launch whatever the hell you wanted. Phones didn’t sell themselves, and although the idea of playing Playstation games on your phone might have sounded cool to a few nerds, it was never going to be enough to make it a million-seller. And increasingly that’s what phones needed to be.

Samsung Galaxy Note (2012)

As a sort of natural climax to the swelling phone trend, Samsung went all out with the first true “phablet,” and despite groans of protest the phone not only sold well but became a staple of the Galaxy series. In fact, it wouldn’t be long before Apple would follow on and produce a Plus-sized phone of its own.

The Note also represented a step towards using a phone for serious productivity, not just everyday smartphone stuff. It wasn’t entirely successful — Android just wasn’t ready to be highly productive — but in retrospect it was forward thinking of Samsung to make a go at it and begin to establish productivity as a core competence of the Galaxy series.

Google Nexus Q (2012)

This abortive effort by Google to spread Android out into a platform was part of a number of ill-considered choices at the time. No one really knew, apparently at Google or anywhere elsewhere in the world, what this thing was supposed to do. I still don’t. As we wrote at the time:

Here’s the problem with the Nexus Q:  it’s a stunningly beautiful piece of hardware that’s being let down by the software that’s supposed to control it.

It was made, or rather nearly made in the USA, though, so it had that going for it.

HTC First — “The Facebook Phone” (2013)

The First got dealt a bad hand. The phone itself was a lovely piece of hardware with an understated design and bold colors that stuck out. But its default launcher, the doomed Facebook Home, was hopelessly bad.

How bad? Announced in April, discontinued in May. I remember visiting an AT&T store during that brief period and even then the staff had been instructed in how to disable Facebook’s launcher and reveal the perfectly good phone beneath. The good news was that there were so few of these phones sold new that the entire stock started selling for peanuts on Ebay and the like. I bought two and used them for my early experiments in ROMs. No regrets.

HTC One/M8 (2014)

This was the beginning of the end for HTC, but their last few years saw them update their design language to something that actually rivaled Apple. The One and its successors were good phones, though HTC oversold the “Ultrapixel” camera, which turned out to not be that good, let alone iPhone-beating.

As Samsung increasingly dominated, Sony plugged away, and LG and Chinese companies increasingly entered the fray, HTC was under assault and even a solid phone series like the One couldn’t compete. 2014 was a transition period with old manufacturers dying out and the dominant ones taking over, eventually leading to the market we have today.

Google/LG Nexus 5X and Huawei 6P (2015)

This was the line that brought Google into the hardware race in earnest. After the bungled Nexus Q launch, Google needed to come out swinging, and they did that by marrying their more pedestrian hardware with some software that truly zinged. Android 5 was a dream to use, Marshmallow had features that we loved … and the phones became objects that we adored.

We called the 6P “the crown jewel of Android devices”. This was when Google took its phones to the next level and never looked back.

Google Pixel (2016)

If the Nexus was, in earnest, the starting gun for Google’s entry into the hardware race, the Pixel line could be its victory lap. It’s an honest-to-god competitor to the Apple phone.

Gone are the days when Google is playing catch-up on features to Apple, instead, Google’s a contender in its own right. The phone’s camera is amazing. The software works relatively seamlessly (bring back guest mode!), and phone’s size and power are everything anyone could ask for. The sticker price, like Apple’s newest iPhones, is still a bit of a shock, but this phone is the teleological endpoint in the Android quest to rival its famous, fruitful, contender.

The rise and fall of the Essential phone

In 2017 Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, debuted the first fruits of his new hardware startup studio, Digital Playground, with the launch of Essential (and its first phone). The company had raised $300 million to bring the phone to market, and — as the first hardware device to come to market from Android’s creator — it was being heralded as the next new thing in hardware.

Here at TechCrunch, the phone received mixed reviews. Some on staff hailed the phone as the achievement of Essential’s stated vision — to create a “lovemark” for Android smartphones, while others on staff found the device… inessential.

Ultimately, the market seemed to agree. Four months ago plans for a second Essential phone were put on hold, while the company explored a sale and pursued other projects. There’s been little update since.

A Cambrian explosion in hardware

In the ten years since its launch, Android has become the most widely used operating system for hardware. Some version of its software can be found in roughly 2.3 billion devices around the world and its powering a technology revolution in countries like India and China — where mobile operating systems and access are the default. As it enters its second decade, there’s no sign that anything is going to slow its growth (or dominance) as the operating system for much of the world.

Let’s see what the next ten years bring.

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Essential discounts its 360 Camera to $19, a day after its phone was half-off

Posted by | Android, andy rubin, essential, Essential Phone, hardware, TC | No Comments

At $250, the Essential Phone was arguably the best deal of Amazon Prime Day. Which is saying a lot. But no matter how you slice it, 50 percent off an Android flagship is a pretty tough deal to beat. I know of at least one TechCruncher who couldn’t resist the lure of that kind of discount.

Now that Prime Day is over, the phone’s price is back up at $499 — but the deals, it seems, keep on coming. Over on Essential’s site, you’ll find the company’s modular 360 Camera for $19. That’s a mind-boggling 90 percent off its MSRP — the kind of deal that has “fire sale” written all over it.

In other circumstances, you could chalk up a killer deal or two to an inventory refresh. Hell, it’s almost a year since the PH-1 handset hit the market, so the company could have a replacement in the works. The context of other recent news around the company, however, paints a very different picture.

In February, the company was reported to have only shipped 88,000 phones the prior year. In May, word got out that founder Andy Rubin was looking to put the company up for sale and had cancelled work on the followup phone. The company didn’t issue a flat-out denial, but instead insisted that it still had products in the works.

“We always have multiple products in development at the same time and we embrace canceling some in favor of the ones we think will be bigger hits,” it said at the time. “We are putting all of our efforts towards our future, game-changing products, which include mobile and home products.”

Indeed, the gears are still turning and the lights are on over at Essential HQ. The company announced that it was expanding to additional markets, including Canada, France, Japan and the U.K. And last month the company finally announced its second modular accessory, the Audio Adapter HD. That plug-in brings HD audio playback to the device. The company is also continuing to offer quick software support and has already promised to be one of the first to offer an update to Android P when it arrives. 

We reached out to the company for an update and received the following statement from a spokesperson, “We’re offering a great deal on the Essential 360 Camera accessory so new customers who bought our phone during Amazon Prime Day can enjoy the full Essential experience.”

So, perhaps there’s something to be said for roping people into the ecosystem and then offering a doubly deep discount on an accessory that only works with that device.

For its part, Essential has always acknowledged that it’s had a tough road ahead. At an event in New York prior to the release of the PH-1, an executive outlined a 10-year plan to become a truly successful contender in a category dominated by tech titans like Samsung and Apple. And that $300 million from Access Technology Ventures, Tencent, Foxconn and Amazon certainly didn’t hurt.

If the rumors are true, this would be a sad end for a hardware startup with good devices and a grand ambition. Given what the company laid out early on, it was clear that it’s only just getting started with its innovative approach to mobile and the smart home. But hardware is hard, as the well-trod saying goes — that’s the case even if you have boatloads of funding and happen to be the guy who created Android.

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Andy Rubin’s Essential is reportedly up for sale and has cancelled work on its next smartphone

Posted by | andy rubin, essential, Mobile, smartphones, TC | No Comments

Essential, the smartphone company helmed by Android co-creator Andy Rubin, is trying to sell itself and has cancelled development of its next phone, Bloomberg reports.

The report states that Essential has hired Credit Suisse Group AG to advise them on potentially selling itself. The company raised $330 million from investors, including Rubin’s own Playground Global, Tencent Holdings and the Amazon Alexa Fund. The news of a potential sale accompanies news that the company has ended development on its next smartphone, a major blow for a company aimed to challenge companies like Apple and Samsung with a device that it hoped would hold its own.

“We always have multiple products in development at the same time and we embrace canceling some in favor of the ones we think will be bigger hits,” an Essential spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We are putting all of our efforts towards our future, game-changing products, which include mobile and home products.”

The Essential phone went on sale in August for $699 with a bold, reduced bezel design that was soon present on a variety of smartphones. A report from IDC suggested that the company only sold 88,000 phones in 2017. Sluggish sales prompted the company to slash $200 off the price of the phone just months later, earning it a price that one of my colleagues called the “best deal in smartphones.”

Though Essential’s smartphone is still on sale, without a clear plan to continue their smartphone line, it’s pretty dubious how they’ll continue their dream of a unified experience centered around the company’s ambient OS. The company has already detailed some of their work on Essential Home, a home assistant hub that would include a circular display that could also deliver visual notifications.

Essential was always setting itself up for a David/Goliath battle, but it seems that nine months after showing off their flagship smartphone they’ve realized they weren’t quite ready to go up against the giants.

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Essential reportedly only shipped 88,000 phones in 2017

Posted by | andy rubin, essential, Essential Phone, hardware, Mobile, smartphones, TC | No Comments

 Essential knew it had a hard road ahead of it. Andy Rubin and company acknowledged as much when they launched a handset aimed at taking on the likes of Apple and Samsung. Given that the company hasn’t issued anything in the way of official numbers thus far, a new batch of numbers from IDC are the best we have to go on at the moment — and things don’t look great. Read More

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Essential Phone is getting a ‘high-end’ audio accessory with a headphone jack

Posted by | andy rubin, essential, Mobile, Reddit, TC | No Comments

 While plenty of smartphone features have been sunsetted on the way to thinner profiles and sexier bezels, none have garnered the ire of consumers quite as much as the removal of the aged and distinguished 3.5mm headphone jack.
Apple was early to axe the port, and while Andy Rubin’s Essential followed suit, a lot of consumers took issue with the move. Essential seems to be taking those… Read More

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