Essential may be at work on making an AI-focused alternative smartphone that operates mainly on voice commands, but it'll have to do so with a significantly reduced staff. Essential has confirmed that it is laying off a large portion of its staff, which Bloomberg reports amounts to roughly 30 percent of the 120-person workforce — mainly in the hardware and sales divisions.
In a statement to Android Police the company wrote:
This has been a difficult decision to make. 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. We are confident that our sharpened product focus will help us deliver a truly game changing consumer product.
The cuts are exceedingly unfortunate for the staff involved, but seemed fairly inevitable. In May, reports revealed that Essential had canceled its plans for a second generation of the Essential Phone and was looking for potential buyers. In the meantime, though, the company has been impressively quick with its Android update releases, generating good will that has perhaps come too late for Essential to use in its favor.
The struggling startup is backed by $300 million. According to Bloomberg, $100 million went toward developing its first products, but it's unclear whether the company has enough runway to make it to its next "game changing" consumer product — presumably the AI phone we've heard about. This news makes the project seem even less likely to come to fruition.