Tech: Android creator Andy Rubin has a new backer for his startup — Amazon (AMZN)
Essential says it will reveal more details about its PH-1 smartphone next week and announced a $300 million funding round.
Essential, Andy Rubin's new electronics startup, is getting ready to reveal more about its anticipated smartphone, even as it announced it has has an intriguing new backer — Amazon.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Rubin announced that 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 process.
Previously, the company had been vague about when the $700 device, which is being positioned as a competitor to Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S8, would launch.
Earlier on Wednesday, the company announced that it's closed a new round of funding. Essential raised $300 million in a Series B round. The amount of funding wasn't a surprise — reports that the company had raised $300 million have trickled out since June — but the company just disclosed the investors in the round, which includes Amazon, on Wednesday.
In addition to its smartphone, Essential plans to release a smart speaker later this year called Home that will 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 Essential Home will be designed to interact with various smart home ecosystems and will allow owners to use Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant to control their device. But it will also allow them to use Alexa competitors, including Apple's Siri and Google Assistant.
In a statement, Paul Bernard, 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 through Essential's own site and through BestBuy.com, a company representative said. The phone will also be available through Sprint in the US and Telus in Canada.
In addition to Amazon, Chinese Internet company Tencent, Taiwan manufacturing giant Foxconn, and Future Fund — Australia's sovereign wealth fund — invested in Essential's latest funding round. Other investors included Playground, which is Rubin's own startup incubator, venture capital firm Redpoint, and tech investors Vy Capital and Altimeter Capital.
Essential is Rubin's first big product company since he left Google in 2014. Even though it has yet to launch a product, the company has already seen its share of turmoil, losing several key executives in recent months.