Andy Rubin’s new company Essential dropped a bombshell on Monday. They revealed the upcoming ‘Essential Phone’ will be a Sprint carrier exclusive in the US. This means that Sprint will be the only carrier to have physical inventory of the Essential phone on hand. There’s been no word on if this “exclusivity” will be a permanent deal, or if it’ll just be for the initial launch. Going with a single carrier seems to be an odd choice for a company that needs to have breakout success against the iPhone and Samsung devices. Some might argue that sales of the Google Pixel phone weren’t what they could’ve been in large part because of an exclusive deal between Google and Verizon.
From a business perspective, this deal may be a direct result of previous commitments from Andy Rubin. It was not that long ago, that Japanese carrier Softbank had been named as one of the initial investors in Rubin’s company Essential. Although that deal fell through, it looks like a new one was made as Softbank is still a majority owner of Sprint. Rubin is also mentioned as an advisor to Softbank’s Vision Fund as well.
While the Essential PH-1 has yet to get an official release date, Sprint is saying they will start carrying the phone “later this Summer.” Best Buy will also carry the device, although it is unclear as to whether they will carry just the Sprint version, or if they’ll have the unlocked model as well. Those of you who are interested in this device, but not necessarily allured by Sprint’s network need not worry. It’ll still be sold unlocked and for use on any carrier through the Essential website. Reservations for that model are already live, and I would expect that Sprint will start taking preorders soon as well.
The Essential PH-1 will release later this Summer, and will retail at $699.