Andy Rubin’s Essential Phone will be exclusive on Sprint

After a much-hyped reveal last month, there is more news about the Essential phone, the sleek-looking smartphone created by Android founder Andy Rubin.

But there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that Essential is no vaporware and will be hitting the shelves. The phone will be shipping in the summertime and as early as later this month.

The bad news is that Essential will be exclusively provided on Sprint, the nation’s fourth largest carrier. Right after the announcement, there were many questions about what carriers will support Essential phone.

It turns out Essential picked the smallest of the bunch to try to crack into the saturated smartphone market.

“We like to bet with where we think the market is going as opposed to where the market was,” explained Essential President Niccolo de Masi to USA Today. “I feel like we are a new brand and a new consumer electronics company and we are partnering with the network of the future.”

It is unclear what the price tag Essential phone will have in Sprint stores. The phone itself can be bought directly from Essential for $699.

The bigger three carriers — Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile — released statements after Essential’s announcement in May that the smartphone will work with their carriers but did not guarantee the full quality of service as a non-partnered phone.

De Masi said Rubin partly chose Sprint because he has a close friendship with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, whose company owns 83% of Sprint, according to USA Today. Rubin serves an advisor to the SoftBank Vision Fund, the investment fund for the Japanese internet conglomerate.

However, their close relationship could not save a $100 million investment plan from Softbank into Essential in March. Softbank backed out of the deal due to its increasingly close relationship with Apple, according to Wall Street Journal.

Rubin, however, did raise $300 million for his latest venture and the company is valued at almost $1 billion.

Rubin and de Masi’s strategy to built from bottom-up by starting with one network and hopefully partnering with T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon is bold to say the least. Market analysts believed for Rubin to crack the market and challenge with the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy, he will need as much carrier partnerships as possible for maximum exposure when the product launches.

Many tech journalists and observers on Twitter tweeted the news with heavy skepticism about the future of the infantile Essential phone.

 

 

 

Photo: Essential phone will come with a magnetic connector at the back through which it can connect to accessories. (Courtesy Essential)

 

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