Sharp created a bit of a stir in Japan earlier this year with the announcement and release of the IS01 clamshell Android MID. Following up on the promising Android debut, the company has now announced in a joint press conference in Tokyo the new IS03 smartphone, which is also running on Japan's KDDI au network.
As is evident by the title of this post, the headline feature of the IS03 is unquestionably its 3.5-inch 960×640 high res display, one which technically equals the iPhone 4's much touted "Retina Display" in terms of numbers. The IS03 uses a technology called Advanced Super View (ASV) LCD for excellent viewing angles. It's uncertain exactly how this compares to the iPhone 4's IPS display technology, but early impressions of the visual quality have been very positive. There is also a small slim section at the bottom of the main screen that is an energy efficient monochromatic LCD for displaying information such as the time and notifications at all times.
Moving on from the display to other details, the IS03 runs Android 2.1 with 2.2 promised in a later update, includes built-in Flash Lite 4.0, and has a 9.6MP rear-facing camera with autofocus and image stabilization, a one-seg TV tuner, microSD card slot, and a built-in Osaifu-keitai contact-less IC payment chip supporting a large range of services/shops in Japan. The smartphone also includes the standard b/g WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR connectivity and supports global CDMA networks. Unfortunately, there hasn't been any details regarding specifics such as the processor, RAM, or any local storage.
Sharp and KDDI plan to release the IS03 in Japan next month with the final price to be revealed closer to the time. No international release has been mentioned yet, but the inclusion of support for global CDMA networks does at least open the possibility for sale abroad.
As the first Android smartphone to go beyond the usual WVGA resolution and join the few tablet MIDs that also have higher res displays, it's good to see manufacturers pushing forward to improve display fidelity and quality in mobile devices. Hopefully the rest of the IS03 matches its headlining screen when it hits the market in November.