Sprint, SoftBank partner with Sharp for low-cost phones, starting with Sharp Aquos Crystal

Sprint (NYSE: S) and its parent SoftBank are partnering with Japanese display and handset maker Sharp to deliver low-cost smartphones in Japan and the U.S. The first device in their partnership is called the Sharp Aquos Crystal, and SoftBank indicated that its scale will enable it to sell the phone at a low cost.

According to the Wall Street Journal, SoftBank is also discussing a new service that allows unlimited downloads from a selection of apps for a fixed monthly fee. Meanwhile, reports have indicated Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure will unveil "very disruptive" new pricing plans later this week.

The 5-inch Aquos Crystal will be released in Japan Aug. 29 and then later in the U.S. Sharp also announced the 5.5-inch Aquos Crystal X, which will be released in Japan in December. For Sharp, the partnership is a boon since its smartphone business has struggled mightily in recent years.

The Aquos Crystal runs on Android 4.4.2 KitKat, has an edge-to-edge display, 1.2 GHz Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 400 processor, 8 GB of internal storage and Harman-Kardon audio. The edgeless display of the design is notable because Sprint is holding a media event in New York City tomorrow in which it has invited attendees to "take the edge off," indicating the carrier could use the event to announce the U.S. version of the phone.

Sharp Aquos Crystal sprint
Sharp Aquos Crystal

Meanwhile, the Journal reported that Sony has approached Sprint about selling its Xperia-branded smartphones in the U.S. Last month Sony cut its annual smartphones sales target to 43 million units from the 50 million it had announced in May. Sony declined to comment on its talks with Sprint, the Journal said.

"We had received a number of offers from different vendors," Yoshiaki Adachi, a SoftBank manager in charge of product design, told the Journal, adding that SoftBank could enter into similar partnerships with other device vendors in the future. "That we would be able to make this offering exclusive was a large draw."

For more:
- see this release (translated via Google Translate)
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this PhoneScoop article
- see this Phandroid article
- see this The Verge article
- see this Bloomberg article

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