Wednesday, 19 Jun 2019
News Tech

Android creator Andy Rubin has a new backer for his startup — Amazon


Andy Rubin Essential Phone
Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, holding up the PH-1
smartphone, made by Essential, his startup.

Brian Ach/Getty

Essential, Andy Rubin’s new electronics startup, is getting ready
to reveal more about its anticipated smartphone, even as it
announced it had an intriguing new backer: Amazon.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Rubin said the company was in “mass
production” of its phone and that additional information would be
available next week. He also posted pictures of the production

The company had been vague about when the $700 device, being
positioned as a competitor to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy
S8, would launch.

Earlier on Wednesday, Essential announced it had closed a $300
million Series B round of funding and disclosed its investors.
The amount wasn’t a surprise — reports that the company had
raised $300 million have
trickled out since June
— but the investors, which includes
Amazon, were.

In addition to its smartphone, Essential plans to release a smart
speaker later this year to compete with Amazon’s Echo devices as
well as with Google Home and Apple’s upcoming HomePod.

Rubin, Essential’s founder and CEO, has said the speaker, called
Essential Home, will be designed to interact with various
smart-home ecosystems and that owners will be able to use
Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant — or Alexa’s competitors,
Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant — to control it.

In a statement, Paul Bernard, the director of corporate
development at Amazon’s Alexa Fund, said the company was looking
forward to collaborating with Essential.

“Essential Products has a compelling vision and roadmap for
connected devices that integrates voice technology in novel
ways,” Bernard said in the statement. “We are excited to see
Alexa become part of that vision where interacting with
technology is simple, helpful, and creates an interface that
others can build on and innovate.”

The PH-1 phone, Essential’s first product, will be available
unlocked through Amazon’s web store, as well as Essential’s and
Best Buy’s websites, a company representative said. The phone
will also be available through Sprint in the US and Telus in

In addition to Amazon, Essential’s investors include: the Chinese
internet company Tencent; the Taiwanese manufacturing giant
Foxconn; the Australian sovereign-wealth fund Future Fund;
Playground, Rubin’s startup incubator; the venture-capital firm
Redpoint; and the tech investors Vy Capital and Altimeter

Essential is Rubin’s first big product company since he left
Google in 2014. Though it has yet to launch a product, the
company has already seen its share of turmoil,
losing several key executives
in recent months.


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