Andy Rubin’s smartphone company is essentially a two thirds the size it was. Bloomberg reports that Essential Products has let about 30 percent of its staff go, with most of the job cuts coming in the company’s sales and hardware departments.
The news comes about a week after another Bloomberg report that indicated Essential has big plans for a new phone that would feature a smart digital assistant that could respond to texts and calls for you… allowing you to interact with your phone less. That report, in turn, followed a Bloomberg report from earlier this year that claimed Essential had scrapped an already-in-the-works phone and Andy Rubin’s response that folks at the company were “putting all of our efforts towards our future, game-changing products.”
There’s no word on whether the job cuts will affect those plans or if they’re part of the same plan (since it sounds like the company may be shifting its focus from hardware to software.
Essential generated a bit of buzz when it launched its first phone last year. There are a few reasons for that:
- The company was founded by Andy Rubin, the founder of Android (which was later bought by Google).
- The Essential PH-1 was the first smartphone with a camera cut-out in the display, beating the Apple iPhone X to market by months.
- While early reviews were a bit mixed, the PH-1 has received a number of software updates that improve camera performance, among other things.
- Essential also has a better track record of releasing monthly Android security updates than just about any phone maker other than Google.
The Essential PH-1 shipped with Android Nougat, but it was one of the first phones to receive updates to Android 8.0 Oreo and Android 9 Pie once Google released the latest versions of the operating system.
So there’s reason to root for Essential. But the smartphone space is awfully competitive, so it makes sense for the company to shift priorities to continue offering something distinctive… because if Essential can’t convince people to buy its phones then the company has no revenue to invest in cool new stuff.