Sharp's Stunning New Phone: Best Android Bargain Yet?

It's like holding one of Sharp's HDTVs in your hand. The new Sharp Aquos Crystal, available on Sprint, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, has a 5-inch edge-to-edge display that could set a new design standard for smartphones. Available this fall, the Aquos Crystal ($150 for Boost and Virgin, $10 per month on Sprint) is being aggressively marketed by Sprint as an affordable, yet attractive option.

We went hands-on with the Aquos Crystal and came away impressed with the value proposition.

As a mid-tier phone, the Crystal has just a 1280 x 800-pixel LCD panel, which is a lower resolution than you'll find on the top-end devices from Samsung and HTC. Still, it was plenty bright. More interestingly, the display doubles as a speaker; we're looking to test it against the HTC One's BoomSound speakers to see which is louder and clearer.

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Augmenting the speaker--as well as any headphones you plug in--is Clari-Fi, which helps restore fidelity to compressed MP3 files as well as streaming music. Also, Harman/Kardon's LiveStage will help boost audio quality. 

One quirk of the bezel-less display is that the front 1.2-MP camera is located below the screen, which makes things awkward if you're trying to take a selfie. In fact, a warning appears on-screen, telling you that you'd be better off rotating the phone upside-down. 

Inside, the Crystal has a 1.2-GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, 1.5GB of RAM, and 8GB of ROM. Consumers can add microSD cards up to 128GB in size. The Crystal runs Android 4.4.2, and from our hands-on time, it looked to be a very clean install, with no skins. 

The Crystal's rear panel is a dimpled plastic that comes in black or white. Sprint customers will get to choose between the two, while Boost customers only get black, and Virgin Mobile customers only get white. The back pops off so you can add storage, but you can't remove the Crystal's 2,040-mAh battery. 

Sprint is looking to make the phone attractive to consumers on a budget not just through the price of the phone itself, but also through some of the apps it offers. App Pass, a $4.99 per month subscription service, will let users access a number of premium apps from developers such as Gameloft, Oceanhouse Media and EA, and will get $5 per month to spend on in-app purchases. 

Overall, the Sharp Aquos Crystal looks like a very strong mid-tier device. We can't wait to bring you our full review.

LAPTOP Reviews Editor