Prior to the release of Android cofounder Andy Rubin's Essential PH-1, he and his startup probably knew what the smartphone landscape was like already, let alone how challenging it would be to penetrate it.
It was a newcomer in a highly developed field; there were risks. Its phone, which Tech Times later listed as one of the best phones released in 2017, was going to carry a brand-new name, which no one knew — a name that would try to rub elbows with the likes of Apple and Samsung.
Essential Phone Sales
So, it's not much of a wonder why the phone simply flopped in terms of sales. It was a great phone, save for a few flaws — the lack of a headphone jack a blemish in an otherwise excellent flagship — and it offered an Android experience close to what Google's Pixel handsets delivered. But even those did little to buoy Rubin's passion project into consumers' hands: industry research firm IDC now reports that Essential only sold fewer than 90,000 units during its first six months in the market.
Research director Francisco Jeronimo tweeted that information on Feb. 12, stating the device is "still a long way from becoming a successful venture." Of course, if anyone expected Rubin's phone to challenge Apple and Samsung in their reigns, they would be sorely overestimating Rubin and underestimating how hard it is to enter an already crowded market.
Even still, selling just 88,000 units in under half a year represents the mountainous battle Rubin still has to face if he wants to continue with his ambitious plans for Essential, among which include smart home integration.
What Went Wrong?
What happened, then? Well, it's certain that it's not the phone's fault — it's excellent, aesthetically beautiful, and uniquely designed. It even has top-tier specs, a great screen, and as mentioned, a full-fledged, uncluttered Android software. It launched at $699 — severely discounted later on — and was received warmly.
Perhaps, Essential is indeed a great phone. But maybe not great enough for consumers to consider switching to a new brand, especially folks who don't care much that the cofounder of Android made this phone, or know who Rubin even is. Apple has built an empire out of tremendous, undying brand loyalty, and it knows that to stay relevant in the market for many years, it needs to cultivate that loyalty onward.
Essential has come to be somewhat of an underdog, then, despite how great and promising its phone is. But its sales flop should serve as a lesson for all aspiring manufacturers out there trying to break into the market.
Fortunately, even with gloom and doom stories about the phone, Essential is still doing its best to provide updates, and an Android Oreo 8.1 update is even scheduled soon. But how long it's going to remains uncertain.