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The new smartphone by Android's founder has only secured one US carrier partner

  • Essential says it will only sell its smartphone on Sprint in the U.S.
  • Customers can also buy it unlocked for use on other carriers, though they'll need to pay the full cost out of pocket.
  • This shows how hard it is for new phones to break in to the U.S. market.
Handout: Essential smartphone
Essential

Andy Rubin, the founder of Android, was only able to secure Sprint as a wireless carrier to sell his new Essential smartphone in the U.S., according to USA Today.

One likely reason is that carriers don't seem to be interested in new phones, and mostly stock their shelves with the latest devices from established players such as Samsung, Apple and LG.

Essential will still sell its new Android smartphone, unlocked and without carrier contract for $699. If purchased unlocked, the phone will work on all U.S. carriers.

The U.S. wireless landscape is particularly difficult for new entrants to tap into. Lenovo, for example, bought Motorola Mobility in large part because it already had relationships with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint.

Newcomers such as Huawei, OnePlus and others have had to seek new methods to sell phones, whether through retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon or direct-to-consumer. HTC, once a major smartphone maker in the U.S., was only able to secure Sprint to sell its latest U11 flagship smartphone.

Handout: Essential smartphone 2
Essential

Essential is spinning the Sprint partnership in a positive light. "We like to bet with where we think the market is going as opposed to where the market was," Essential president Niccolo de Masi said in an interview with 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."

Sprint, once considered the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier behind Verizon and AT&T, now trails behind T-Mobile as the fourth-largest player. It may try to use phones such as the Essential smartphone to help attract customers who can't buy the device on a contract elsewhere.

CNBC reached out to Essential for comment but a spokesperson was not immediately available.