The Google Play Store’s “installs” icon isn’t just there to help users choose apps: it can also clue us in to the often secretive territory of smartphone sales. Where apps are exclusive to a certain device, we can use the app’s install figure as an approximation of how many of those phones are in operation — something we saw in effect earlier this year with respect to Google Pixel sales.
The Essential Phone’s Camera app just crossed the barrier into the 50,000-100,000 install mark in the Play Store a few days ago, signifying that the device has accrued in the region of 50,000 sales since release. This number is unlikely to be completely accurate because there are several factors which affect it, however.
For example, should an Essential Phone owner sell the device to another person, the Play Store will register another camera app install when the phone is launched with the new Google account. Similarly, you could use a custom ROM on a different device to download the app and increase this number.
Still, the Play Store provides a decent estimate, and the exceptions could only mean that the device has shipped (slightly) less than 50,000 units. While this might not sound like a lot of phones — and compared to what the likes of Samsung, Huawei, and Apple are shifting, it’s not — this isn’t a particularly small figure considering Essential’s circumstances.
The first smartphone from any startup sold in select markets and mostly through the web (Sprint is the only carrier attached to the phone currently) is never going to sell incredibly well and Essential is still building its name; outside of people in the business or who read tech websites, how many people even know the phone/company exists?
What’s more, the device has only been shipping since late August and only saw a crucial $200 price drop at the end of October.
In an interview ahead of the phone’s release, the general impression Rubin gave was that there wasn’t a need for the phone to sell in huge numbers right out of the gate. “Profits come with success so I don’t need to monetize the first device that comes out the door,” said Rubin adding that his intention was on “winning the hearts and minds of consumers” first and foremost, and that scaling would follow later.
None of this is to say that Essential is going to become a booming business, or that it has nothing to worry about in terms of future operations. The point is simply that 50,000 sales and a largely successful phone may not be a bad start.
The big question is whether Rubin is on track to winning the hearts of consumers with the Essential brand as he intends — how do you think Essential is doing on that score? Let us know in the comments.