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Sprint nabs Essential Phone exclusive, sort of

You'll also be able to purchase an unlocked device directly from Andy Rubin's Android phone startup.

Now Playing: Watch this: Essential Phone heads to Sprint
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Andy Rubin's recently unveiled Essential Phone will be exclusively available on Sprint in the US, according to USA Today.

Rubin, known as the father of Android, worked at Google for the better part of a decade after the tech giant bought his long-ago phone startup. Then in 2015 he launched Playground Global, a tech incubator, to provide funding for other startups. Now he's back in the Android business with a high-end device, the Essential Phone PH-1, designed to breathe new life into the concept of modular phones.

"I feel like we are a new brand and a new consumer electronics company and we are partnering with the network of the future," Essential President Niccolo de Masi told USA Today.

That doesn't mean, though, that the phone will be available only to Sprint customers. Sprint will be the only carrier to offer the PH-1, but the device can also be purchased directly from Essential. An unlocked Essential Phone bought from the company's website will set you back $699. Sprint hasn't yet revealed its own pricing for the device. It's set to go on sale in the US later this summer.

The going won't be easy for Rubin's startup as long as most consumers see the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8 (and their successors) as the default options when it comes to premium phones. Android purists, meanwhile, can turn their attention to Google's Pixel phones. Samsung and Apple combine for nearly 40 percent of the smartphone market, according to Gartner. Most of the players that trail those two succeed by selling cheap phones.

"I see it for Android purists who see Rubin as a brand rather than Essential," Carolina Milanesi, Creative Strategies analyst, said when the Essential Phone debuted two weeks ago.

Sprint didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

CNET's Roger Cheng contributed to this story.

Correction, 6:19 a.m. PT:  This story originally misstated an element of Andy Rubin's career history. After leaving Google, he launched a tech incubator before starting Essential Phone.

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