Two and a half years ago I purchased an Essential Phone, see our full review, from a company led by Android co-founder Andy Rubin. After a troubled start at a high price, it became a bit of cult device with an affordable price, elegant design, and software and security updates that often bested Google's Pixel phones.
In a blog post today, Essential announced it is ceasing operations and shutting down. Back in October 2019 Essential provided a glimpse of Project GEM, but that too is part of the announcement and it will be canceled as well.
The Essential Phone launched as the first phone with a notch, but made it look good with minimal bezels. The titanium and ceramic design remains one of my favorite smartphone designs ever and I still have the stunning Ocean Depths green and gold color device. The poor cellular reception prevents me from using it as a daily driver, but everything else meets my needs for typical usage.
I also purchased a Nextbit Robin a year before the Essential Phone and as companies continue to discover (looking at you now Google), being successful in the smartphone space is difficult.
I was hoping to see an Essential Phone 2 with modern internal specifications and some other improvements so am quite sad about the news today. Essential regularly released monthly security updates faster than Google did for the Pixels and it was also a part of the Android beta program so that major software updates were available early for testing. We just saw the February Android security update release on 3 February, but Essential stated that will be the final update from the Essential software team.
The Essential Phone (PH-1) will continue to function, but it will be up to developers and the Essential community to continue to support the device. Essential stated, "For developer fans, a prebuilt of our vendor image and everything else needed to keep hacking on PH-1 will be hosted on our github."
Back when Essential launched in 2017, we also read of plans for Essential Home with the Ambient OS. It looks like this idea will also die on the vine.