Overland Park, Kan. — Sharp will raise its profile in the U.S. cellphone market with the launch of an Aquos smartphone through Sprint and through its prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA.
Sharp phones aren’t currently available through the major U.S. carriers, though a handful of Sharp feature phones were available through select carriers in years past. A number of Sharp feature phones and older Android smartphones are currently available unlocked through online retailers.
The Aquos Crystal, which will be available exclusively in the U.S. under the three Sprint brands, will come preloaded with a new subscription service called App Pass, which represents a new way for charging for data. App Pass gives users access to a catalog of premium apps and games for $4.99/month after a 14-day free trial. App Pass offers unlimited data access to the apps and games across two devices. Consumers also get a $5 credit each month to spend on in-app purchases.
The service will also be preinstalled on new Sprint Android phones starting Aug. 29 and become available after that for download on consumer’s existing Sprint Android phones.
Sprint is launching the service because “many customers find value in premium apps but hesitate to make the purchase without knowing more about the app,” said Sprint business and product development VP Wayne Ward. With App Pass, he said, the carrier “makes it easier for our customers to ‘app all you want’ with a curated list of popular premium apps.”
Availability dates haven’t been announced, but Sprint will offer Aquos Crystal in black or white for an unsubsidized $239 or, under the Easy Pay installment-payment plan, at $0 down with 24 monthly payments of $10.
Crystal is Sharp’s first Aquos phone available in the U.S. through a carrier. The Aquos brand is also used for Sharp TVs.
The launch is the result of a collaboration with Sprint majority owner SoftBank, which is bringing the phone to the Japanese market with a similar app-subscription service. “The combined power of SoftBank and Sprint will bring our customers this high-end device for an extraordinarily value,” said David Owens, Sprint’s product development senior VP. “We are thrilled to welcome Sharp to the U.S. wireless market.”
The Crystal features a 5-inch HD 1,280 by 720 edgeless LCD display, Android 4.4.2, 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 1.5GB RAM, HD Voice, 2,040 mAh lithium-ion battery, 8GB internal memory expandable with an additional 128GB, Sprint Spark tri-band LTE technology, and Harman’s Clari-Fi technology, which enhances the fidelity of compressed music. The HTC One M8 from Sprint is the only other phone with Clari-Fi.
Direct Wave Receiver technology uses the entire panel of the phone to create sound. Wi-Fi calling allows users to use voice and messaging services over Wi-Fi networks.
The phone also comes with Microsoft OfficeSuite to edit documents, and the Speaktoit Assistant lets people use natural language to get answers to questions, open apps, check the web, retrieve news and weather, set up schedule reminders, get map directions, place calls, send texts and emails, post to social media and the like.
The phone measures 5.16 by 2.6 by 0.4 inches and weighs 4.97 ounces.
With the phone’s App Pass service, a curated selection of apps and mobile games from such developers as Gameloft and Oceanhouse Media will be available, including OfficeSuite 7 Pro, Camera Zoom FX, Minuum Keyboard, CamScanner and Color & Draw for Kids.
App Pass is powered by Mobiro, which develops and manages app subscription platforms globally. It will also be pre-installed on all new Sprint Android devices beginning Aug. 29. After that, Sprint customers can visit Sprint’s website to download the app. New apps and games will be regularly added to the storefront.
The phone’s photo features include a 8-megapixel rear camera with flash and 1080p video capture at 30 fps, 1.2-megapixel front camera with 720p video capture at 30 fps, and Night Catch, which brightens the subject and background of nighttime shots. Sequential Shots catches rapid motion in quick succession via one hold of a button, and Framing Advisor delivers eye-line adjustment, grid guidelines and modes for capturing food, people and nature, Sharp said.
Clip Now takes screenshots with one swipe and saves them with an embedded URL to share with family and friends.