Is Frame-Free the Way to Be?

Sharp Highlights the Frameless Fashion Trend

Frameless_aquos_crystal_lAre good looks enough to make a flagship smartphone?

Yesterday, Japan-based Sharp unveiled two sleek-looking Android devices: the Aquos Crystal and the larger Aquos Crystal X. The defining feature of the phones is the nearly frameless design, reflecting a trend seen in the market for high-end televisions and computer displays. The devices have average hardware specs for phones introduced this year, but are first and foremost about style. The Aquos Crystal will be sold later this month by SoftBank in Japan and Sprint (majority owned by SoftBank) in the US, providing Sharp with a flagship smartphone in the US market. The larger Aquos Crystal X is expected to go on sale later this year.

The Aquos Crystal has a five-inch, 1280 × 720 LCD display with a thin bezel on three sides and a front-facing 1.2-megapixel camera placed toward the bottom of the phone. The Aquos Crystal will ship with Android 4.4.2 KitKat running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 1.2GHz quad-core processor. The phone is LTE-capable, has an eight-megapixel rear camera and features Clari-Fi sound, developed by Harman Kardon to improve the playback quality of compressed audio files. The higher-end Crystal X has a 5.5-inch, 1080p screen, a 2.3GHz Snapdragon processor and a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera. Pricing information wasn’t provided, but we expect the phone to be in line with other subsidised devices available in the markets.

It’s an opportunity for Sharp to gain recognition in the US smartphone market, stressing style over function. Sprint is the third-largest wireless operator in the US, with about 55 million subscribers. News of the Aquos Crystal phones comes a few weeks before other flagships including devices from Apple and Samsung are announced. Sprint is expected to officially unveil the phone today at an event with the tagline “take the edge off”.

Selling style as a premium isn’t unprecedented in the handset industry. Motorola’s Razr, released 10 years ago in 2004, became one of the best-selling consumer electronics devices of all time and took share from market leader Nokia. Razr’s success was based largely on appearance as it became the must-have device for fashion-conscious consumers across the globe.

Sharp has caught the beginning of a trend in much sleeker smartphone design; manufacturers are balancing the mix of plastic and metal frames in their current portfolio, but Sharp has nearly eliminated the frame altogether. The Aquos Crystal gives Sharp the potential to define a smartphone trend at the high end. We expect to see more fashion statements from smartphone makers. This is a display of beauty could help put Sharp back on the map.