Top billing might go to devices like the iPhone 6 and Galaxy Note 4 right now, and that’s to be expected; they are among the best smartphones you can buy. But, quietly flying under the radar, Sharp’s Aquos Crystal has become the most interesting phone on the market. It’s not difficult to see why.
We see a lot of phones year after year, and they’re more advanced than they’ve ever been. That should be enough to get the juices of any tech fan flowing. But it’s been so long since a phone elicited such astonishment—I’m talking mouth agape, speechless, hard to breath astonishment. After laying eyes on the Aquos Crystal, it just might be the most surprising phone we’ve seen all year.
Whereas a lot of big flagships this year focused on pushing the boundaries of beefy internals, the Aquos created a device with a more dazzling display. Sure, it’s not 1080p, or even QHD. But the lack of bezels just flat-out makes the phone look awesome—on par, if not better than a lot of high-end flagships. Where handsets like the iPhone 6 seem to flaunt large bezels, the Aquos Crystal follows a design philosophy that all but eliminates them, with only a distinguished chin as a reminder that, yes, this is a phone.
What’s amazing is that the Aquos Crystal’s 5-inch display seems incredibly small, like it’s in the 4.3- or 4.5-inch range. Yet the device is noticeably shorter than the iPhone 6, which only has a 4.7-inch screen. Of course, the Aquos Crystal doesn’t sport a home button equipped with Touch ID, and it’s not nearly as thin, but it’s amazing what shaving off bezels can do. Overall, the Aquos Crystal’s design is pretty solid; the materials feel premium (though the phone is entirely plastic), and the rounded back is a nice touch.
I’m not a big fan of the power button’s placement on the top of the phone, however, and the volume rocker feels a little flimsy. And because the front-facing camera is on the bottom of the phone, you’re actually required to flip the phone upside down for selfies to look natural; it’s odd, but not that big of a deal. Otherwise, the Aquos doesn’t have an appearance of a mid-range phone whatsoever, and that’s something to be commended.
Another really impressive thing about the phone is that the entire screen can be used as an earpiece. Because there’s no microphone up top, Sharp used a direct wave receiver, which vibrates the screen to transmit sound. The call quality is so-so—nowhere near what you’d get with today’s top-end smartphone, but still impressive considering the design. With a little improvement, hopefully this won’t be an issue down the road.
Internally, the Aquos Crystal sports a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, a 2040mAh battery and an 8-megapixel camera, which we’ve found to just be ok in our early testing. The device also sports a mostly vanilla version of Android 4.4 KitKat, though there are a few little additions here and there, including Harman Kardon audio enhancements. Obviously not the best specs out there, but the device can more than hold its own.
For just $150, you’re not going to get the same performance as the Note 4, but the Aquos is still solid. Scrolling through the different home screens is fast and fluid, and even opening apps is pretty snappy. The more you throw at it, the slower the device will get; 1.5GB of RAM is only going to be so fast. But, by and large, the Aquos is decent all things considered. Just peer at that screen and any hiccups in performance will fade away.
The Aquos Crystal will probably get looked over by consumers this holiday season, but it really does deserve your attention, especially for the price. The edgeless display is amazing, and the design overall is quite nice. I do have to note, however, that in the unit we received, there are a few spots where the light leaks around the edges, but it’s only noticeable when you hold the device at an extreme angle.
You can pick up the Sharp Aquos Crystal through Sprint, Boost Mobile or Virgin (or Amazon) for $150 off-contract. That’s incredibly cheap, especially for a phone of this quality that also supports HD Voice and LTE.