When Android founder Andy Rubin launched Essential earlier this year, it was a business full of promise. The fledgling company had all the pedigree in the world — Rubin’s first consumer tech move since leaving Google — and it debuted with some slick-looking devices that looked to shake up the market.
Unfortunately, Essential appears to be DOA. A research firm estimates that Essential has sold just 5,000 of its namesake smartphones since pre-orders opened on August 17th. Those are numbers that would make even Blackberry weep, and they’re bad enough to question if the $1.2 billion company is going to be around next year.
The data comes from BayStreet Research, which tracks shipments of phones and other devices across the United States. Its numbers aren’t going to be spot-on accurate, but it doesn’t really matter — Essential could have sold 500 phones or 50,000, but it would still be a flop.
It’s easy to blame the poor start on Essential’s marketing and retail strategy, rather than the device itself. It’s almost impossibly difficult to get your phones in front of consumers who are keen to buy devices. Presence at carrier retailer stores is, uh, essential, but the Essential phone has only been sold through Sprint since launch. Let’s just say that most people spending $700 on an unproven device probably aren’t on America’s cut-price network.
But the Essential phone has actually done well in other retail channels. It’s available through Amazon (the online retailer is also an investor), Best Buy, and Essential’s own website. Other, far more successful Android phones like OnePlus have sold far more devices with far less exposure.
You could also point the finger at availability. The white version still isn’t available, and stock is spotty. Amazon lists the phone as shipping in one to two months, although Best Buy will let you buy it right now. Even we had a hard time getting hold of one.