SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has reportedly axed plans to invest $100 million in Android founder Andy Rubin's smartphone startup, reportedly because of SoftBank's close business ties to Apple.
In a new report from the Wall Street Journal, not only has the investment in the company been cancelled, but a plan to have the marketing arm of SoftBank advertise the phone has been scuttled as well. It is not clear what impact the withdrawal of funding will have on the startup, valued at about $1 billion assuming the investment had been made.
Essential Products was registered in California in 2015 by Rubin and a cadre of ex-google employees . A trademark listing for the company in 2016 listed smartphones, tablets, and "computer operating software for mobile phones" all associated with the company name.
According to sources familiar with the matter, Apple did not actively block the "nearly complete" funding deal.
Rubin's company was reportedly in the prototype process of a high-end smartphone to compete with the iPhone 7 pricing. A magnetic connector of some sort was associated with the effort, allowing for easy expansion of the phone, a concept that Google itself stopped developing when it cancelled Project Ara.
It is not known if the $100 million was coming from SoftBank itself, or the $100 billion "Vision Fund" aimed at incubating U.S. tech businesses. Apple is a contributor to the "Vision Fund."