Everyone knew that Andy Rubin’s Essential was going to face challenges in trying to break into the smartphone market. After all, that meant going up against established giants like Apple and Samsung, which both have a significant share of the market that’s going to be difficult to any newcomer to wrestle away. Today we’re finding out just how much the Essential Phone struggled to gain an audience after it first started shipping in July 2017, and the results don’t sound good.
According to IDC research director Francisco Jeronimo on Twitter, the Essential Phone only shipped 88,000 units throughout last year. Granted, since the Essential Phone started shipping in July, we’re only looking at shipments for the second half of the year, but still, 88,000 phones shipped over five months isn’t an encouraging sign.
At the very least, it’s a far better figure than what we heard last time we checked in at the end of September. At that time, analysts said that the Essential PH-1 had only moved 5,000 units at Sprint stores. Obviously, that didn’t give us a complete picture as the Essential Phone is also available unlocked, but with Sprint serving as the exclusive carrier partner for launch, expectations had to be a fair bit higher than that.
Making Sprint the only carrier that offered the phone in-store probably had something to do with these low shipment numbers. For as many people who value being able to buy a phone at full retail price and deciding which carrier they use from there, there still seems to be many more who rely on subsidized devices from their carrier when it comes on buying a new phone. When you’re trying to make a name for yourself in a crowded market, getting your phone in front of as many people as possible is paramount, and carrier exclusivity deals work against that.
Of course, the idea that the Sprint deal stifled sales is purely speculation on my part, but it seems likely when the various price drops the Essential Phone has seen don’t appear to have helped. Perhaps Essential can turn things around as we head deeper into 2018? Here’s hoping, but if these numbers from IDC are accurate, it’s got a lot of work ahead of it.