It may be risky to bet against Andy Rubin.
After a storied career at a string of iconic Silicon Valley companies, Rubin built one of the first successful mobile devices, the Sidekick. He later led the development and marketing of Android at Google, which became the world’s most popular operating system ever, and which currently powers more than 2 billion phones, tablets and other gadgets.
Risky? Why? Rubin’s Android phone was a disaster for Google until Rubin copied everything possible from the iPhone and then gave it all away for free.
Essential has showcased a $699 phone, called Phone, expected to go on sale in the next 30 days. It can be expanded with hardware gadgets — the first one, a small 360-degree camera built by Essential — that snap on through a pair of unobtrusive magnetic connectors.
Like other expensive Android models, Essential runs the latest version so it’s difficult to see much difference.
But it’s hard to tell where Rubin’s Phone will find an audience when the entire smartphone market has rapidly commoditized over the past several years. The Apple-Samsung duopoly hoards most of the profits left in the market.
I don’t even care about profits. I care about solving consumer problems.
I’m not sure what problem Essential solves.
Tech analyst Jan Dawson:
The pitch here feels so much like almost every other new entrant in the market… A mix of straw man arguments about the current state of the market, grandiose claims about how all that will change, ambitions to build an ecosystem without any evidence that any other player is interested, and nothing at all about distribution, which continues to be the key question in the US smartphone market.
It’s an interesting device but the key to successful new product marketing is differentiation. Call it what you will, but Essential is just another iPhone-like smartphone. Rubin stole the iPhone’s design from Apple and hasn’t learned anything since.