Andy Rubin Is Taking Essential To Sprint, This May Not Be Such A Bad Idea
When I think about writing pieces like this I have to keep in mind that most of the tech press out there today was in high school or perhaps even middle school ten years ago when Android first hit the scene. They were most likely in middle school or even elementary school when the Sidekick came out. This is the biggest relevant point behind the words I’m writing now.
Andy Rubin, is often billed as the founder of Essential and the creator of Android. But as all this Essential phone press has come out, most every tech writer has forgotten about Rubin’s first smash success, the Sidekick. Aside from business oriented smartphones by Kyocera, Blackberry and Handspring (Treo), the Sidekick was pretty close to a smartphone. It allowed users to get messages, email and even connect to AOL. This was way before the smartphone was common place. The Sidekick was a smashing success, and it was only available on T-Mobile.
Now most of these tech writers haven’t been writing long enough to remember a T-Mobile before the iconic John Legere. But before Legere T-Mobile was in fourth place, by a lot. We only got T-Mobile here in the states after a merger with VoiceStream, I know, all those tech writers are reading this like, what’s VoiceStream…
The Sidekick partnership and exclusivity was five years before AT&T had partnered with Apple for the release of the iPhone. It was at a time when T-Mobile needed something cool and different. It was a great and logical place to launch a device like Sidekick.
So now Sprint finds themselves in fourth place. Rubin has partnered with Sprint because of his close ties with Softbank the Japanese investment bank that holds the lion’s share of Sprint.
TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas, had this to say about the decision Rubin made to launch Essential on Sprint: “they apparently found themselves making purposefully obtuse design, engineering and manufacturing decisions because of the ‘mission impossible’ they are setting themselves (i.e. locating an iota of relevance in an entirely saturated smartphone market).”
That’s the exact point why Sprint is a good place to start with Essential.
Let’s go back to T-Mobile and the Sidekick. The phone came out when flip phones were the most popular. Startac had just completed it’s run but at the time another Motorola flip phone was on top, the Razr. Why on earth would Danger (Sidekick’s parent company founded by Rubin) want to go alongside Razr in every Verizon, Nynex and Bell Atlantic Mobile store in the world? It wouldn’t make sense. The high school and college aged sales people are going to go with what they know.
I remember seeking out the new Blackberry Classic, which was exclusive to AT&T when it was released. I walked in the store and was immediately shown the latest iPhone, Samsung Galaxy phone and LG phone. The Blackberry was off in the corner collecting dust. Of course you would want to start something like Essential on a smaller scale, at the fourth largest carrier.
Don’t believe me? Google the first carrier to sell an Android phone. Yup, T-Mobile again. They were the exclusive carrier for the G1, in fact it was a partnership with Google and HTC, the phone carried no HTC branding in it’s first run. T-Mobile also got the second Android phone, the MyTouch. The next two Android phones went to Sprint. In October 2009 the Motorola Cliq hit T-Mobile and then, over a year after the G1’s release, Verizon released The Droid and the HTC Droid Eris.
So does Essential have a chance after launching on Sprint exclusively? History seems to think so.