Essential doesn’t look like a thriving company at the moment. It has reportedly sold just 5,000 units of the Essential Phone since mid-September, according to Baystreet Research.
The alarmingly-low sales figure proves that, despite a $1 billion valuation and being headed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin, Essential isn’t going to magically compete with Apple and Samsung. Getting on the same level as other well-established brands will require massive amounts of time and resources, something Rubin and his employees have shown little interest in contributing.
The poor sales for Essential really shouldn’t surprise anyone. The company’s made countless errors since debuting in May. Between arriving much later than expected and shipping with buggy software, the Essential Phone was set to fail commercially. On top of that, hardly anyone knows Essential and the Essential Phone exist.
Let’s briefly go over how the Essential Phone got here. On May 30, Rubin proudly announced the Essential Phone. He made an appearance at the Code Conference 2017 the same day, promising the Essential Phone would ship within 30 days. That didn’t happen, and more than 80 days later the Essential Phone finally shipped. The lengthy period between the announcement and the release was filled with a few key employees leaving and a frightening data leak.
Essential blamed the delay on extensive network testing.
When the Essential Phone did arrive in the hands of consumers in the U.S. in August, it was plagued by software issues. There’s no doubt the Essential Phone looks impressive on paper. The phone has a 5.71-inch (2560×1312) IPS LCD edge-to-edge display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage, two 13MP cameras on the rear, and stock Android. But Essential shipped its first product with plenty of bugs, mainly in the camera department. That killed any hype the Essential Phone regained after the long wait for a release.
Visibility is also a big problem for Essential. Due to its relationship with SoftBank, Sprint is the exclusive carrier selling the Essential Phone. Carrier exclusives were never a good thing, and in 2017 they should be far away from any company’s flagship. Neither Sprint nor Essential are spending noticeable amounts of money to promote the Essential Phone on television or online. If anything, the Essential Phone should’ve been offered through every major U.S. carrier or none at all.
Overall, it would seem that Rubin completely underestimated his power in the mobile industry. The harsh reality is that you need to spend just as much on marketing as you do on product development. Your past isn’t your future, and Essential can’t rely on one man’s name to do all the work.
Essential’s future is unknown. It’s unlikely Rubin admits the Essential Phone is a failure. The company still has a home-based digital assistant in development, too. And Essential Phone has been guaranteed to get new accessories through next year, so don’t think Essential is going to go out of business soon. Essential and Rubin will continue pushing forward until there’s a breakthrough or investors step away.