Amazon has an eye on the mobile phone market, it would appear: The tech giant is part of a $300 million investment round for Andy Rubin's Essential Products Inc., whose PH-1 handset is reportedly set to finally debut after a series of delays.
The funding, made via the Alexa Fund, joins participation from Chinese juggernaut Tencent and Access Technology Ventures, among others, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Essential PH-1 is a high-end, Android-powered mobile phone positioned to compete with Google’s Pixel and Samsung’s new Galaxy S8; it features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 128 GB of internal storage and a 360-degree camera that can shoot spherical UHD images at 30 frames per second. It will be made of titanium and ceramic, with magnetic modular add-ons, and notably lacks any logos.
The PH-1 will be exclusive to Sprint here in the U.S., plus unlocked versions (rumored to go for $700+) will be available at Amazon and Best Buy.
The PH-1 is hotly anticipated from both boosters and those interested in schadenfreude; Rubin, the creator of Android, unveiled the project earlier in the year to much fanfare. His chops with Google, (which he left in 2014) and the worldwide success of Android offer a pedigree that most, obviously Amazon among them, are taking notice of. However, with the hyper-competitive U.S. wireless market littered with the corpses of gadgets that are neither Samsung Galaxy nor iPhone, consumer momentum for a new high-end entrant is an unknown quantity.
Essential President Niccolo De Masi told the WSJ that Essential will announce a launch date for the U.S. sometime in the next week. The phone was supposed to be launched earlier in the summer, but Essential has faced delays amid executive departures and internal turbulence.
Investors are bullish however. “We are thrilled to work with Andy, one of the pre-eminent mobile entrepreneurs in the world,” said Pueo Keffer, managing director of Access Technology Ventures. “His experience, industry knowledge and proven ability to innovate will help Essential as it develops a complete hardware-software ecosystem that puts users first. There is consistent demand in the mobile industry for new and enhanced technology which Essential is uniquely positioned to attract.”