For Android founder Andy Rubin and his new smartphone venture Essential, the first year has been a rough stretch. The Palo Alto-based startup had hoped its high-end smartphone could reach the echelons of Apple and Samsung. But Essential has received mixed reviews and been targeted by a lawsuit.
In addition, Rubin recently returned from a leave of absence reportedly related to an "inappropriate relationship" he had while at Google.
According to data from market intelligence firm IDC, Essential barely made a dent in the smartphone market, selling only 88,000 units in its first six months. The figure accounts for Essential's total 2017 sales, as the company technically began selling the phone on July after production delays.
IDC research director Francisco Jeronimo tweeted the number on Tuesday and said Essential "is still a long way from becoming a successful venture."
In comparison, more than 403 million smartphone units were sold worldwide in the last three months of 2017, according to data from IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. Apple and Samsung sold 77.3 million and 74.1 million smartphone units, respectively.
Rubin sought to build a phone with a timeless design and a magnetic connector in the back, which can serve as a port to attach an array of Essential's accessories. Essential Phone is nearly bezel-less, meaning the screen covers almost the entire front side of the phone, and has no pre-packaged apps.
The phone's price started at $699 but dropped to $499 -- and to $399 during Cyber Monday last November.
Essential ran into non-technical issues soon after it began selling its phones. Essential was sued in October by Keyssa, a wireless connector technology company backed by Tony Fadell, known for his role in creating the iPod for Apple. Keyssa alleged Essential used Keyssa's proprietary technology responsible for the magnetic connector even after the two companies severed their partnership.
In November, Rubin took a leave of absence from Essential after reports that he left Google in 2014 due to an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. Essential President Niccolo de Masi took over day-to-day operations.
"Any relationship that Mr. Rubin had while at Google was consensual," said Rubin's spokesperson Mike Sitrick to The Information, which first reported the news. "Mr. Rubin was never told by Google that he engaged in any misconduct while at Google and he did not, either while at Google or since."
Rubin returned to Essential in December, Recode reported.
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