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RIP Essential: Andy Rubin’s hardware startup is dead

RIP Essential: Andy Rubin’s hardware startup is dead
[Photo: Brian Ach/Getty Images for Wired]

Two years after raising $330 million and releasing a single unremarkable smartphone, Essential Products is shutting down. The startup, led by Android cofounder and former Google executive Andy Rubin, announced the news in a blog post on Wednesday but made no mention of Rubin himself.

Essential attracted a lot of hype in the tech industry because of Rubin’s involvement, but he’s since become a pariah over allegations of sexual misconduct during his time at Google. (Rubin has denied the allegations but took a temporary leave of absence from Essential after they surfaced.) Last year, Rubin stepped down from Playground Global, the venture capital firm that hosted Essential’s offices.

Essential’s sole smartphone, the Essential PH-1, was a critical and commercial flop, with an impressive edge-to-edge display but a middling camera. As the phone struggled, Essential scrapped plans for a smart speaker and a broad suite of modular phone accessories. Last fall, Rubin began teasing a phone under the name “Project GEM” with an unusual candy bar shape, but Essential now says it’s “taken Gem as far as we can and regrettably have no clear path to deliver it to customers.”

The shutdown of Essential also marks the end of the line for Newton, a once-beloved email app that Essential acquired in 2019. That service will cease operations at the end of April.

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