Essential Phone in 'mass production' as Amazon, Tencent add backing

Amazon just backed the smartphone company created by the founder of Android

The Essential smartphone will be available unlocked at retail via Amazon, Best Buy and Essential.com, as well as through carriers Sprint and Telus. While those who pre-registered to purchase the handset are still waiting to get their hands on it, the company has confirmed Amazon and Best Buy retail availability for the Essential Phone.

In addition, the startup unveiled that it has raised $330 million in its latest round of funding from a large roster of investors that includes Amazon, Tencent, Access Technology Ventures, Vy Capital, and Australia's sovereign-wealth fund. Equidate, a marketplace for private-company shares, estimates Essential's valuation at $1 billion.

Essential is Rubin's first big product company since he left Google in 2014. Andy Rubin has now announced that the Essential Phone is currently in mass production. But weeks before the phone goes on sale, Essential has had a huge boost that might just make this whole thing viable.

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Essential, Andy Rubin's new electronics startup, is getting ready to reveal more about its anticipated smartphone, even as it announced it has has an intriguing new backer - Amazon. The e-commerce giant may be interested in Essential not only for the smart home device, but also to gain a stronger foothold in phones, after it failed to break into that market with its own Fire Phone.

Rubin said his new phone could find its place by disrupting that duopoly and offering customers something different. "We are excited to see Alexa become part of that vision where interacting with technology is simple, helpful and creates an interface that others can build on and innovate". However, with Sprint as an exclusive partner in the USA and Telus in Canada, Essential may not have such a far-reaching impact - at least not this time around.

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