Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Defunct Smartphone Brand Essential Acquired By Former OnePlus CEO’s New Company


“Everyone deserves a second chance,” as the saying goes. And that opportunity has apparently been given to former Android co-founder Andy Rubin’s Essential smartphone company, which closed down in May of last year. According to 9to5Google, the defunct brand has been acquired by Nothing, the newly established startup founded by former OnePlus CEO Carl Pei.

The website reveals that, after combing through the UK Intellectual Property Office database, the transferred ownership of Essential’s trademark and logos to the startup company was signed on 6 January 2021. It is not known whether Nothing also acquired the brand’s patents for its smartphones or other devices, however.

As a crash course for the uninitiated, Essential was founded by Rubin alongside former Google colleague Matt Hersheson in 2015. Two years later, it would release the PH-1, its first ever smartphone, which gained a considerable following due to its unique modular capability.

The brand’s second phone, the Essential GEM (pictured on top), was announced back in 2019 and featured a thin yet tall form factor that almost resembles a TV remote. However, due to the brand’s niche approach and poor sales of its first product, the new handset was cancelled and the company itself folded not long after – making Essential an almost one-hit wonder in the smartphone industry.


Bonus fact: As a big fan of robotics, Andy Rubin was nicknamed “Android” by co-workers during his time at Apple in 1989. Little did his former colleagues know that the programmer would use that name to christen the operating system that would eventually rival the company’s iOS platform years later.


Meanwhile, Carl Pei formed his startup company Nothing in late January 2021, months after his departure from OnePlus. The newly established brand launched with some fanfare, revealing an impressive group of investors including former Apple executive Tony Fadell, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, and YouTuber Casey Neistat. Nothing recently announced that it will unveil its first product, a yet-to-be-named pair of wireless earphones, later in February.


The startup’s recently discovered acquisition may serve as a hint of things to come. In an interview with Bloomberg, Pei revealed that Nothing is planning to build an ecosystem of smart devices and noted that multiple non-audio products are slated to be unveiled throughout the year. This could potentially mean that the new brand may launch its own smartphones by reintroducing the Essential brand. With that, hopefully the cancelled GEM phone would also see a revived interest, should Pei’s company decide to pursue it.

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