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Apple just killed funding for Andy Rubin’s iPhone killer

Published Mar 21st, 2017 11:18AM EDT
Andy Rubin Essential vs. iPhone 8: Softbank
Image: Shutterstock

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The man responsible for the rise of Android hasn’t been a Google employee in years. But Andy Rubin is still passionate about the smartphone business, and he’s currently working on an Android-based iPhone killer that’s supposed to launch this spring. However, before it has a chance to challenge the iPhone 8 and all the high-end Android smartphones out there, Essential Products must deal with a huge setback. The company just lost $100 million in funding, and it looks like Apple is to blame.

In a report on the matter, The Wall Street Journal explains that SoftBank Group just scrapped a $100 million investment in Essential just as final contracts were being drawn up. People familiar with the deal say that’s a stage at which venture deals are rarely abandoned.

Apple is apparently to blame for SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son’s decision to back out of the deal. Apple didn’t actively seek to block the Essential deal, the report says, But Son’s increasingly close relationship with Apple is apparently the main thing that made him reconsider the deal.

Apple pledged a $1 billion investment in SoftBank’s $100 billion tech investment Vision Fund, which made Son rethink his interest in backing a competing smartphone company. SoftBank contributed $25 billion to the fund, with the Saudi Arabian government committing another $45 billion. Other tech companies including Qualcomm and Foxconn are also investors in Vision Fund.

Son’s now-canceled deal would have valued Essential at $1 billion. Rubin’s company also lost a huge marketing push from SoftBank that would have run alongside the company’s first smartphone launch.

Rubin’s company, which hired at least seven former Apple employees including the former lead architect of the iPad Jason Keats, is yet to announce its phone. The Journal reports that the high-end handset will run Android and will have “sleek styling.” The unnamed device will supposedly feature “a suite of home-automation products,” and will cost about as much as a new iPhone.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.