The sales of the Essential PH-1 surpassed 50,000 units, as suggested by the number of its Camera app downloads on the Google Play Store which was updated on Tuesday, as first spotted by one Reddit user. While app downloads may not be the most accurate indicator of smartphone sales even when it comes to device-specific software, the number would be in line with what previous reports of underwhelming commercial performance suggested.
As BayStreet Research estimated earlier this fall, Essential's first Android handset sold approximately 5,000 units in its first month, with its poor sales being attributed to a variety of factors; multiple delays ended up pushing the device to directly compete with premium offerings from more established brands like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, LG V30, and the Apple iPhone 8, whereas its $700 price tag also discouraged some prospective buyers who were looking for an alternative flagship that would be a significantly more inexpensive option than what the market was offering. That state of affairs is believed to have prompted a permanent $200 discount less than two months after the device was launched, whereas consumers who already bought it at a full price were given early adopter credit worth $200 which they could have used for the PH-1's accessories or another handset unit.
While the 50,000 mark generally wouldn't be considered a failure for a startup competing in the saturated smartphone market, the fact that the Palo Alto, California-based firm already raised approximately $300 million at a $1 billion valuation makes that number largely underwhelming, some industry watchers believe. Android co-creator Andy Rubin partially funded Essential with his venture capital company Playground Global and acts as Chief Executive Officer of both firms but it's currently unclear whether the PH-1 is internally considered a failure. Mr. Rubin himself recently took a short leave from Essential after allegations of his inappropriate behavior at Google emerged but returned to the startup after only two weeks. Essential is presently still developing additional accessories for the PH-1 and is also working on the Essential Home, a smart speaker running its proprietary Ambient OS which is meant to provide consumers with a contemporary IoT experience without compromising their privacy. The Essential Home was originally said to be launching in 2017 but now appears set to miss that release window.