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Andy Rubin's smartphone proves not-so-Essential, goes up for sale

Tim Maytom

Essential Products Inc, the startup co-founded by Android creator Andy Rubin and developer of the Essential Smartphone, is putting itself up for sale, having cancelled work on a new smartphone model.

According to Bloomberg, which cited people familiar with the matter, the firm has reached out to Credit Suisse Group to advise on a possible sale, with interest from at least one potential buyer.

The startup, which was part of Rubin's Playground Global incubator, has already raised around $300m (£225m) in funding from investors including Amazon and Tencent. It has already spent over $100m on product development, and last year was valued at between $900m and $1bn.

Also among Essential's investors is Foxconn, which was the company's manufacturing partner for its flagship Essential phone. Despite a substantial marketing campaign from Sprint in the US, the Essential phone failed to capture the public's imagination, with many consumers complaining about the device's poor camera, faulty touchscreen and problems while making calls.

Essential had been working on a follow-up smartphone but has cancelled those plans, instead shifting developers and engineers to working on its upcoming smart-home product, which is reportedly still on track for release next year.

The details surrounding any potential sale are still unclear, but could include the firm's patent portfolio, staff, existing hardware and more. Essential's staff includes former employees of Apple and Google, not to mention Rubin himself, who has been developing phones and related technology for almost 20 years. However, many senior engineers and designers, as well as top executives, have recently left the firm, including vice president of marketing Brian Wallace and Joe Tate, head of hardware engineering. In November 2017, Rubin himself took a short leave of absence amid reports regarding workplace misconduct at his previous employer Google.

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