On Monday, June 12, it was announced that Andy Rubin's Essential smartphone would be exclusive to Sprint's network. This strategy worked well for the original iPhone, but things have changed since then and we don't think this move will pay off.
A Victim Of Rubin's Own Success
In 2007, Apple's exclusive deal with AT&T was a boon for both companies. The iPhone revolutionized the cell phone market and prompted consumers to switch carriers in order to get their hands on Apple's latest product. It's possible that Rubin is attempting to replicate that success with the Essential, but the market has changed since 2007 and, ironically enough, part of that is due to the massive success of Rubin's Android operating system.
In 2007, the iPhone was the only true smartphone on the market. Sure, the BlackBerry had a following in the business world, but the iPhone made smartphones popular with the everyday consumer. The iPhones were stylish, fun, and easy to use so that helped them expand beyond a niche userbase. That being said, as successful as the iPhone was, it was still a premium product that was out of the reach of many consumers, which is where Android comes into the picture.
In 2008, the T-Mobile G1 was released, and it marked the beginning of the Android revolution. Over the past decade, we've seen hundreds of Android smartphones hit the market ranging from budget devices to the premium phones capable of challenging Apple's own iPhone.
Unfortunately for Rubin's latest venture, his Essential Phone is anything but essential. Don't get us wrong, it's a beautiful phone and there's no doubt it will be great, but there are plenty of other impressive Android devices out there such as the Samsung Galaxy S8, OnePlus 5, and others.
Sprint Exclusivity Will Hurt The Essential
Aside from the Google Pixel — which has a similar deal with Verizon — the majority of premium devices are available on multiple U.S. carriers. While the Essential can be bought as an unlocked device, the majority of U.S. consumers buy their smartphones from carriers in order to take advantage of payment plans. The unlocked market is growing, but it still isn't large enough for the Essential to thrive while being limited to a single network.
To be fair, the Pixel has seen some share of success through its deal with Verizon, but Verizon is the United States's largest mobile carrier with 35 percent of the market. Sprint, on the other hand, only holds about 14 percent. While it is possible that users will switch to Sprint in order to buy the Essential, we doubt it, because there are so many other great smartphones out there.
This isn't 2007, the Essential isn't the iPhone, and Rubin's phone isn't nearly as essential as his company seems to think.