The history of Essential is blessedly short, yet dramatic and inherently entwined with the personal life of its founder and CEO Andy Rubin. Its first product, announced in May 2017, was supposed to be out in June of the same year, and missed that deadline for a week before journalists realized that it hadn’t started shipping yet. It ultimately wasn’t available until August, then received a price cut in October.
In November — this is all in 2017 — Rubin took a leave of absence after the Information reported that he had what they deemed an “inappropriate relationship” with a subordinate at Google. It took until the following year for the New York Times to report that Rubin was asked to resign from Google after being credibly accused of sexually assaulting the employee. He was given $90 million to leave, leading employees to walk off the job in protest of the way Google has protected men accused of sexual assault. Oh, and Rubin was also accused, in court papers, of running a sex ring.
After it cancelled work on a successor to its first phone, Essential tried to sell itself, found no buyers, and instead bought an email startup. A few months ago, it showed off a prototype of a tall and skinny smartphone.
In October, we introduced Project GEM, a new mobile experience that our hardware, software and cloud teams have been building and testing for the past few years. Our vision was to invent a mobile computing paradigm that more seamlessly integrated with people’s lifestyle needs. 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 shutdown Essential.
The email app is also shutting down, effective April 30. I feel bad for the employees who were understandably excited to work for a unique company, only to find it subject to the distractions of its CEO’s wrongdoing and the company not publicly communicating a clear path to relevance.
See Also: Daisuke Wakabayashi and Erin Griffith’s report for the New York Times.