Japan’s Sharp Aquos R7 is the cure for poor smartphone design

Enlarge / The Sharp Aquos R7.


The final entry in our continuing coverage of “cool phones you can’t buy in the US” is the Sharp Aquos R7.

This phone will arrive in Japan in July, and it’s proof that you can create a differentiated smartphone these days. Sharp is no stranger to unique designs, and with the R7 it corrects many confusing design decisions from other smartphone makers.

First, Sharp is continuing its trend of shipping absolutely massive camera sensors in its smartphones. The rear of the phone is dominated by a single 47.2 MP camera with a 1-inch sensor and a large lens. Most smartphone makers ship three to four smaller, questionably useful rear cameras on the back of their devices, but Sharp is giving people a giant camera, which has the potential to produce better quality images.

Next to the huge camera sensor is a tiny 2MP sensor, but a Google translation of the product page calls it a “distance measuring sensor” so it doesn’t look like you can take photos with.

The display is also something to write home about. The phone features a 6.6-inch, 2730×1260 Sharp-made IGZO OLED with a best-in-class 240Hz refresh rate. Even better, the display is apartment, unlike other Android flagships, which insist on using a curved screen that distorts the sides of the screen. No manufacturer has ever explained the benefits of a curved screen.

Look at this camera!  Look at that gorgeous flat screen and those reasonably sized bezels.
Enlarge / Look at this camera! Look at that gorgeous flat screen and those reasonably sized bezels.


The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will have the challenge of rendering Android at 240 fps (good luck with that). Other specs include 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and a 5,000mAh battery. There’s a microSD slot, IP68 dust and water resistance, a 12MP front camera, and a USB-C port. Sharp has even found room for a top headphone jack.

Another great-sounding feature that you can apparently only get on hard-to-find smartphones is Qualcomm’s “3D Sonic Max” fingerprint sensor. This in-display fingerprint sensor makes a name for itself by being really big. Sharp doesn’t specify its size, but previous presentations have indicated that the sensor is large enough to fit of them fingers. A major problem with in-display fingerprint sensors is that the glass display, which has no touch indicator to know where to place your finger, makes it easy to miss the sensor and fail at the reading your fingerprint. Simply making the whole thing bigger is an obvious (albeit expensive) way to make the in-display fingerprint sensors work more reliably. Qualcomm announced this sensor in 2019, and the number of phones that have adopted it since then is inexplicably in the single digits.

Overall, the R7 looks like a very nice slab phone that fixes most of the issues we usually complain about in reviews. A big camera, a big fingerprint sensor, a flat screen and a headphone jack? Please, other smartphone makers, take note.

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