BayStreet Research, which tracks shipments of phones across the US, estimates that Essential has only sold 5,000 phones since its US retail debut in the last few weeks. That’s a tiny fraction of what larger companies like Samsung and Apple achieve, selling tens of millions of phones per quarter.
The Essential Phone sells for a relatively high $699 unlocked and is compatible with all major US carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. Sprint also sells it as a carrier exclusive with easier payment options attached. Leasing the phone on Sprint is $14.58/mo for 18 months with no money down. That’s a bargain for the device, representing a 50% discount worth $260. The outright retail price is still $699.
The phone also sports a magnetic connector on the back that makes it modular, similar in concept to Motorola’s Moto Mods. There is currently only one modular attachment available, a 360-degree camera for $179 (with the purchase of a phone), but others are promised down the road. Sprint also sells the camera for $200 or $16.67 over 12 months.
Essential is the first major startup from the “Father of Android”, Andy Rubin. According to Bloomberg, the company is already valued at around $1.2 billion, which is impressive to say the least. It has a huge hill to climb, however, if it wants to compete in a hypercompetitive market. There have already been several hiccups associated with the launch, including months of delays, a serious email security gaffe and lackluster customer service. The Essential Phone is also surrounded by heavyweights like Samsung, Apple and LG, all of which have full carrier support and aggressive marketing.
Initial reviews of the Essential Phone have been lukewarm. The build quality and exotic materials (titanium and ceramic) were universally praised, but performance issues and a disappointing camera cost it some points. In addition, iFixit’s teardown of the phone in early September showed that it was virtually impossible to repair.
Andy Rubin recently spoke with Time and reinforced his company’s position that the phone is only one part of a larger mission. He ultimately plans to develop personal digital assistants across a wide range of devices.