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Essentual

The Essential Phone, the first product from Andy Rubin's new startup, is a beautiful piece of hardware, but at its core is essentially yet another high-end Android phone. Nearly everything that makes it special is on the outside: its titanium and ceramic casing, the wraparound-the-selfie-cam screen and its iconic, if a bit thick, shape. It's also got a unique magnetic accessory connection, but for now the add-on options are limited.

Who it's good for: The Essential Phone is great if you are looking for a phone that looks a little different, is a bit of a conversation piece, or want to support the company's aim of building a new kind of hardware company.

Who it's not: Those looking for the thinnest phone will need to look elsewhere, as might the risk averse, since buying the Essential phone means betting on a startup (albeit a well-heeled one with a highly-regarded founder).

The practicalities: The phone is available unlocked for all four major carriers from Essential's Web site and Best Buy for $699. If you want to buy it at a carrier store, your only option is Sprint, though the No. 4 carrier is offering it on lease at a significant discount.

One important caveat: I haven't yet gotten to test the 360-degree camera attachment, one of the things designed to make the phone stand out from other phones on the market. I have played around with the latest Moto Z and a similar attachment. Making 360-degree capture mainstream is a lofty goal and the arrival of more such cameras will eventually make such images and videos far more useful. But for today it's probably not a game changer.

The company hopes to have additional add-ons at the rate of about one per quarter, but even larger companies have struggled with this approach.

Go deeper

CPAC Republicans choose conservatism over constituents

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CPAC proved such a draw, conservative Republicans chose the conference over their constituents.

Why it matters: More than a dozen House Republicans voted by proxy on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in Washington so they could speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. And Sen. Ted Cruz skipped an Air Force One flight as President Biden flew to Cruz's hometown of Houston to survey storm damage.

Border Democrat warns Biden about immigrant fallout

Henry Cuellar (right). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

A Democratic lawmaker representing a border district warned the Biden administration against easing up too much on unauthorized immigrants, citing their impact on his constituents, local hospitals and their potential to spread the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told Axios he supports President Biden. But the moderate said he sees the downsides of efforts to placate pro-immigrant groups, an effort that threatens to blow up on the administration.

3 hours ago - World

Iran rejects nuclear talks with U.S., for now

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at Iran/EU talks in 2015. Photo: Carlos Barria/POOL/AFP via Getty

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that conditions are not ripe for informal nuclear talks between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers.

Why it matters: The Biden administration had proposed the talks as part of its efforts to negotiate a path back to the 2015 nuclear deal. The White House expressed disappointment with Iran's response, but said it remained willing to engage with Tehran.

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