Android creator Andy Rubin has a new backer for his startup — Amazon

Android creator Andy Rubin has a new backer for his startup — Amazon

Andy Rubin Essential Phone Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, holding up the PH-1 smartphone, made by Essential, his startup. Brian Ach/Getty

Essential, Andy Rubin’s new electronics startup, is getting ready to reveal more about its anticipated smartphone, even as it announced it had an intriguing new backer: Amazon.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Rubin said the company was in “mass production” of its phone and that additional information would be available next week. He also posted pictures of the production process.

The company had been vague about when the $700 device, being positioned as a competitor to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S8, would launch.

Earlier on Wednesday, Essential announced it had closed a $300 million Series B round of funding and disclosed its investors. The amount wasn’t a surprise — reports that the company had raised $300 million have trickled out since June — but the investors, which includes Amazon, were.

In addition to its smartphone, Essential plans to release a smart speaker later this year to compete with Amazon’s Echo devices as well as with Google Home and Apple’s upcoming HomePod.

Rubin, Essential’s founder and CEO, has said the speaker, called Essential Home, will be designed to interact with various smart-home ecosystems and that owners will be able to use Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant — or Alexa’s competitors, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant — to control it.

In a statement, Paul Bernard, the director of corporate development at Amazon’s Alexa Fund, said the company was looking forward to collaborating with Essential.

“Essential Products has a compelling vision and roadmap for connected devices that integrates voice technology in novel ways,” Bernard said in the statement. “We are excited to see Alexa become part of that vision where interacting with technology is simple, helpful, and creates an interface that others can build on and innovate.”

The PH-1 phone, Essential’s first product, will be available unlocked through Amazon’s web store, as well as Essential’s and Best Buy’s websites, a company representative said. The phone will also be available through Sprint in the US and Telus in Canada.

In addition to Amazon, Essential’s investors include: the Chinese internet company Tencent; the Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn; the Australian sovereign-wealth fund Future Fund; Playground, Rubin’s startup incubator; the venture-capital firm Redpoint; and the tech investors Vy Capital and Altimeter Capital.

Essential is Rubin’s first big product company since he left Google in 2014. Though it has yet to launch a product, the company has already seen its share of turmoil, losing several key executives in recent months.

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