Andy Rubin's Essential Phone has a rather interesting carrier surprise.
In an interview with USA Today (opens in new tab) on Sunday, Essential president Niccolo de Masi revealed that the company's new handset will be available exclusively at Sprint. The move means Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T won't be able to sell the smartphone, despite it supporting their networks.
The news comes just weeks after Rubin unveiled the new Essential Phone, along with a smart home device called Essential Home. The Essential Phone has a 5.7-inch screen that nearly entirely covers its face. It also runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and comes with a dual-camera array. But the most interesting feature is that the Essential phone will support all sorts of magnetic add-ons.
So, why did Essential choose Sprint as its carrier partner? The answer might surprise you.
"We like to bet with where we think the market is going as opposed to where the market was," de Masi told 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."
The justification might be a little difficult to understand. Sprint, after all, is the smallest of the major U.S. carriers and has been handily beaten by its closest rival T-Mobile for years. It also finished last among the big four carriers in our recent nationwide speed testing.
Perhaps de Masi has been impressed by Sprint's 5G roadmap, but the network isn't launching until 2019.
As USA Today points out, however, Essential's decision to choose Sprint might have more to do with its founder than the so-called "network of the future."
Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank owns 83 percent of Sprint. Rubin, Essential's founder, serves as an advisor to the SoftBank Vision Fund.
Whether the move will ultimately help or hurt Essential is unknown. However, the Essential Phone is designed to work with any network and can be purchased unlocked from the company, so if you don't want to run your handset on Sprint's network, you're not required to do so.
Essential will sell its Phone for $699 through its website. Sprint hasn't yet announced pricing through its stores.