Essential lays off nearly a third of its staff

Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt  CNET

It looks like Essential hasn't bowed out of the smartphone market in its entirety, as the company is now gearing up to launch a smaller handset with a focus on AI.

By Mark GurmanEssential Products Inc., the startup founded by Android creator Andy Rubin, has cut about 30 percent of its employees, according to people familiar with the matter.

Cuts were particularly deep in hardware and marketing.

The future of Essential was in question earlier this year, as the company abandoned plans for a successor to its underwhelming flagship smartphone. It received mixed reviews, with most critics citing its low quality and missing features such as a lack of waterproofing and poor resiliency to damage.

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The company's web site says it has about 120 employees. However, the layoffs at the company signal that Essential is moving away from selling a typical Android handset. "We are very sorry for the impact on our colleagues who are leaving the company and are doing everything we can to help them with their future careers", Essential said in its official statement.

"We always have multiple products in development at the same time and we embrace cancelling some in favour of the ones we think will be bigger hits", he said at the time. It may have been or may remain up for sale.

Rubin took a short leave of absence from Essential in late 2017 after the tech news site The Information reported on a complaint lodged against him at Google in 2014 that alleged he engaged in a relationship with a subordinate.

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