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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

3 hours ago - World

U.S. and NATO answer Putin in writing while bracing for Ukraine invasion

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty

The U.S. and NATO provided Russia with written proposals on Wednesday to advance a "diplomatic path forward," even as they warned that Russia could invade Ukraine within days.

Why it matters: This is a delicate diplomatic balancing act. The U.S. and NATO want to show they're serious about diplomacy but unwilling to compromise on "core principles" — all without providing Vladimir Putin with an additional pretext for escalation.

The political leanings of the Supreme Court justices

Data: Martin-Quinn scores; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Supreme Court will continue to have a solid conservative majority even with Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement.

How to read the chart: An analysis by political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn, known as the Martin-Quinn Score, places judges on an ideological spectrum. A lower score indicates a more liberal justice, whereas a higher score indicates a more conservative justice.

The front-runners for Biden's Supreme Court pick

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson (left) and Justice Leondra Kruger (right) Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images and Lonnie Tague, US Department of Justice

Two highly accomplished Black female judges — Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court — are seen as the early front-runners to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The big picture: Jackson is a powerful federal judge with a record that progressives feel they can trust. Kruger was a highly regarded litigator and has carved out a reputation for working well with conservative judges.

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