You might not know Carl Pei’s name, but you probably know the company he cofounded: OnePlus. Pei left OnePlus recently to start a new venture called Nothing. Currently, Nothing makes nothing, so that’s a fitting name. It might make something soon now that it has purchased Essential. Yes, the husk of Andy Rubin’s smartphone startup is now in the hands of Carl Pei.
Essential arrived on the scene in 2017, fueled almost entirely by the money and personal cache of Rubin. At the time, Rubin was a technology superstar, having founded Android, which Google bought and turned into the largest computing platform on the planet. After leaving Google, Rubin started Essential, which only released a single phone. The company’s inability to deliver another product, coupled with Rubin’s personal downfall after accusations of abusive behavior, spelled doom. Essential shut down in early 2020, but now the remnants are part of Nothing.
A filing from the UK Intellectual property Office shows that Rubin has signed over Essential to Nothing Technologies Limited as of January 6th of this year. The trademark, logo, technology, and any physical assets from Essential are now Pei’s to do with as he likes.
Nothing, true to name, has not yet released any products or even talked much about what it plans to release. So far, it’s running on Carl Pei’s influence and charisma — it’s actually a lot like Essential in the early days, which is fitting. I’ve heard Pei compared with Rubin by people in the industry on numerous occasions, and not always in a positive way.
So far, Nothing has made vague allusions to releasing personal audio products, but the purchase of Essential at least suggests that Nothing will attempt to make smartphones. The Essential Phone (top) was, in some ways, ahead of its time. It had a titanium body and ceramic back, materials that are still rare in high-end smartphones. It also had a display notch before most smartphone OEMs had decided copying the iPhone was cool. Technically, Essential beat the iPhone to market with the notch by a few months.
Before its shuttering, Essential also teased several products it never released. If Nothing wants to focus on audio, it might be interested in the Essential Home, which was supposed to be a smart speaker, but it never launched. There was also the Gem prototype, which was a trendy little Android phone that also never came out. Hopefully, Nothing’s plans become more clear in the coming months.
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