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The company of Sharp - models of 2005 and strategy
The company of Sharp doesn't spoil its worshipers with plenty of mobile phones, however many of them become popular and find its customers. There are two evident components of its success. They are the speed of launching models with new functions (mainly cameras and screens) and unusual design for European customers. Let's remember the market accepting the GX30. Even now it remains the phone with one of the best 1.3 MP camera. And for the launch moment that was the first product with such characteristics. And even newer products often gave way to Sharp GX30 in our comparisons.
The next company step was Sharp 902 with a 2MP camera; however the photos didn't differ any greatly from the GX30, for some of them only resolution grew. As a result the model was not so popular and was not demanded as much as the previous device.
One should remember the company prefers to work with operators both on the European and home markets, and releases special phone versions for them. Vodafone is the main company partner in Europe, and the second place belongs to T-Mobile. This close collaboration and few operator markets prevent the company from significant actions. Thus if Vodafone is not interested in this or that product, the model is not launched. Operators are like wholesale customers, they choose a model, its colour, design from several variants (yes, it is possible), and then decide on the shipment volume and the price. And since the operators prefer to order 2-4 models by one manufacturer, the last one has no need to produce more. Otherwise the manufacturer will have to bear promoting and support costs on his own. Sharp finds it unprofitable, and that's why they focused on producing several models with the max set of functions and high price correspondingly. Sharp ships variations of operator models to the markets where partner-operators are absent. At the same time such models are conformed to operators (secretly) in order not to get conflicts of interests (both in price and functionality). A side effect of such cooperation with operators is the absence of original software, menu design and interface. As a rule, those are pooled operator's menu similar in other models sold under the brand of Vodafone or T-Mobile. The demand on original software for Sharp phones is great, and many users fill own software to get rid of the operator's version.
Reasoning from the company's strategy we could have supposed the launch of the new models will be very fast, there is a direct relation to the operators that order the music.
Now let's consider the products of 2005 that were not officially announced yet.
Shap 903. The model created for Vodafone replaces Sharp 902. It distinguishes in the presence of a 3.2 MP camera. The max photo resolution is 1536x2048 pixels. A CCD module with autofocus is provided. The objective is made of glass and consists of 5 lenses. 2x optical zoom is supported. The flash is still the same - that is a light diode or a backlighting resource (it is not impact). There are 7 various LED colours like in the previous models.
A complete list of all the supported photo resolutions:
Video is recorded in three resolutions; they are 240x320, 176x144, and 128 x 96 pixels. The quality is good, and in high resolution the frame frequency forms 15 frames a second, which is not bad. Reproduction is possible at 30 frames per second. For video H.263 codec is supported and AMR for video.
The company tries to keep its leadership in manufacturing the most qualitative screens, and the model proves this title. It is equipped with the second 2.4" display in its class that is designed according to Mobile Advanced Super-V LCD technology (the same screen goes with the 902; it is one of the best on the market today). Screen resolution is QVGA or 240x320 pixels, 262000K colours.
The upper part of the clamshell is rotational and allows turning the phone into a small photo camera when the internal screen is from above (similarly to Philips 760, Siemens SF65). For 3G networks video calls you can rotate the upper part at 45 degrees, then the device will be like resting on the bottom part which is comfortable.
A TV-OUT cable is included into the kit. It allows viewing the memory contents on a TV-screen. And besides pictures and video images from Java-games are shown, that means you can play games on a large screen (the picture is certainly imperfect due to the different resolutions, but it is quite bearable). Now only some of Philips's phones and Samsung D600 have such an accessory.
The presence on the stereo loudspeakers should be mentioned as a modern capability. They are placed on both sides to provide 3D effect (as the manufacturer claims). In the standby mode the musical player (minimized player in a background mode) shows the performer's name and the song title. For the first time for the European market the polyphony is 128-tones. And the manufacturer stresses that some of the games and the majority of the call melodies were specially prepared for the model to realize the capabilities of the sound synthesizer in full measure. But using mp3 melodies you won't hear any advantages. As for me, the device sound extremely pleasant. It's a pity the list of preset melodies is too short.
All the possible today interfaces for connection to a PC are provided. There is USB (USB Mass Storage is also present), IrDA and Bluetooth. And by the way wireless interfaces are fully functional and work without any constraints.
Memory cards used are miniSD ones, they became the company standard. A 64 MB card is included into the kit, and evidently it should be at once changed for a more capacious one.
Supported diapasons include GSM900/1800/1900 and UMTS. The device weights 148 grams. The absence of an external screen may be considered a disadvantage. The battery equals the one in the 902, which is a Li-Ion battery. According to the manufacturer it is capable of up to 260 hours of standby time and up to 240 minutes of talks.
The model will be produces only in one colour, which is black. The backlighting is red. The kit includes:
Since September the model will be sold in Vodafone's network. The price level will be similar to Nokia N90. As for the characteristics the models by Sharp wins over the Nokia's one. In the majority of cases the photo quality is comparable and under poor light conditions is even better. The nominal difference is a better lens system providing a higher picture minuteness and clearness. The size of Sharp 903 is less than for Nokia N90, but we should remember that is not a smartphone. The model won't be shipped to non-operator markets. The company of Sharp made a version of the model for GSM markets first (no UMTS module). But following a soft request by Vodafone the modification was cancelled. At the presence of an original GSM version the sales in the Vodafone network would be much lower.
Sharp 703. The 703 is to become a cheap 3G phone in a clamshell form-factor. In some way the target group is the same as for Sony Ericsson K600.There are two cameras - an internal VGA one for video calls and an external 1.3 MP (CMOS). The presence of a miniSD card expansion slot is an advantage. The internal screen has a QVGA resolution, a 2" diagonal and shows 262K colours. The polyphony is 40-tones, and you can use mp3 files as a call melody. The musical player supports mp3, AAC, and AAC+. IrDA and Bluetooth are present. Generally the device is typical of the company in characteristics and is pleasant to deal with and in design.
Sharp GX-17. The GX-17 is a turned GX-15 in fact, all the specs equal. The main change is the presence of a fully-functional POP3 mail client. The rest specs tell about a TFT-screen with the resolution of 120x160 pixels, 65K. The integrated CMOS camera has a VGA-resolution and supports recording video. The polyphony is 40-tones, IrDA and Bluetooth are present. In general the device is a nice plane low-end model only for calls. Since September it will be shipped to the Russian market for 200 USD or less. That is not an optimal choice for this sum. The actual price must be lower than 150 USD despite a qualitative screen.
Sharp GX-40. This model is possible to coma under several indexes such as GX-42 or GX-E400 (the last one is for the Russian market; in other countries the model will be called GX-40). This model is to replace the GX-30. The changes are the body is smaller and the antenna is internal. An advantage is the mp3 player control buttons are placed on the front panel. There are miniSD cards, and the device resembles the GX-30 in software, no serious differences. This is a good solution for a mid-segment that will be sold since the end of September. The price will be 400 which doesn't seem right.
So, we have discussed the main company models for the current year in shorts. Only two will be shipped to the Russian market, and this makes the company remain a third echelon manufacturer with the sales amounted in thousands of terminals. The presence on the Russian market is exclusively a fashion step for Sharp, since the expenditures on the ads are not recompensed at all. Stable sales are impossible with no formed product line. At the same time contracts with operators prevent from launching top models like Sharp 903 on other markets. That is why the company can't fix its positions even in such a little segment as exclusive phones.
On the European market the company remains a small player also due to its dependence on the operators. But here the company has at least one or two interesting products.
Published 20 July 2005
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