Essential has only sold 50,000 phones (but that may not be as bad as it sounds)
It's no secret that Essential has been struggling to get off the ground. After several delays, the departures of a few key executives, and a rocky release, nobody expected the Essential PH-1 to post sales numbers competing with Samsung or Apple. However, current estimates paint a grim picture, pegging total sales at 50,000 units or less.
These sales numbers are based on the total number of downloads of the Essential Camera app, an app that's exclusive to the Essential PH-1. According to Android Police, the downloads numbers may be an accurate estimate of sales figures for the PH-1 because the only device that can actually download the app is the Essential PH-1 (or a phone mimicking the device, which is unlikely).
In fact, 50,000 may be a bit too generous, as the app could have been downloaded again (through an update) by a second-hand buyer who used a new Google Play account. The app also could've been downloaded multiple times by Essential themselves during the testing and debug phases for each iteration, which is a fairly common practice among app developers. All said, the number of downloads is the best standard we have outside of a financial statement, which we may never get. Essential is a privately held company and isn't required to release financial information publicly like Samsung, LG, or Apple are.
While these sales numbers sound bad on paper, they may not be that terrible. Keep in mind that Essential was founded by Andy Rubin to shake up the industry, not necessarily to make a sweeping profit. On top of that, from a pure revenue standpoint, 50,000 units would generate a decent chunk of change. Using the recent price drop, 50,000 units at USD $500 would generate $25 million in revenue. There are costs that eat into those revenues, such as development and payroll, but Essential is a small start-up. For one, they' don't have the payroll overhead that other companies do, nor do they have the massive marketing costs of juggernauts like Samsung and LG. While $25 million would be terrible for companies that routinely spend dozens of millions on advertising alone, Essential may have been able to turn a small profit. At the very least, it's likely they have been able to mitigate costs.