Essential shuts down: No more PH-1 updates, No GEM phone
Started by former Android co-founder Andy Rubin, Essential burst onto the scene back in 2017 with the Essential PH-1. The company has never released a follow-up to that phone, but it has continued to offer exceptional software support with monthly security patches and major Android OS upgrades right after Google. It turns out that’s where the story ends as the company has announced it will shut down immediately.
At the time of its release, the Essential Phone had a very unique design. It was really the first major phone with the now-infamous “notch” for the front-facing camera. Essential didn’t sell a ton of these phones, though, and the early reviews were pretty harsh, especially on the camera and signal performance.
Back in October, Rubin tweeted a couple of images of a very strange-looking device. Many were expecting the company to launch a successor to the PH-1, but it looks like the company was going in a radically different direction. Their new phone was tall, narrow, and had a color-shifting coating. That was the last we heard of “Project GEM.” The company says they’ve “taken GEM as far as we can and regrettably have no clear path to deliver it to customers. Given this, we have made the difficult decision to cease operations and shutdown Essential.” The company also published a few videos showing off the software UI, app experience, camera, voice integration, and overall design of the GEM phone.
While the decision to cancel Project GEM may be disappointing for some, that move may not be the worst news of the day. In shutting down, the company confirmed the Essential Phone will no longer receive updates. The security update from earlier this month will be the last official update from the team. The company reassures its customers that their phones will continue working, but for those of you who are looking for updates, you’ll have to turn to the custom development community. Fortunately, before shutting down, Essential published some important tools for developers on its GitHub page. Lastly, since Essential purchased Newton Mail, that service will also shut down, but not until April 30, 2020.