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Review of Sharp Docomo SH-01C
Today we scrutinize a spring release by SHARP Ц SH-01C for the Japanese carrier Docomo. This phone has absorbed all the fashionable features of the land of the rising sun: dust and water resistant body, WiFi, a big 3.4" rotary screen with AQUOS technology, an excellent 14.1 MPix CCD camera capable of Full HD recording (1920x1020) and much more. Of course, as compared to European standards many of these features may seem rather trite, but in the hi-tech but also a rather secluded market of Japan some of the features listed above are only becoming popular. I must add that Docomo SH-01C as well as most Docomo phones can work in GSM roaming.
As well as other top Sharp phones (like Docomo SH-01B, Docomo SH-07B) the Docomo SH-01C package includes a cradle which is completely useless if this is your first Japanese phone. As usual there is no charger or USB cable or headset adapter. You have to buy those separately. What you have is:
To make the phone work with any GSM carrier you ought to have at least the handset, a charger and a hypersim for unlocking the GSM module. During the test as I used as I usually do InexVer. 3.60 hypersim and a Beeline SIM card.
I must admit I find all new phones of the 2011 winter-spring season extremely boring or at least until I get my hands on them. This applies to Lumix phone (Docomo P-03C), Docomo N-03C (Burton), Docomo F-01C. In case of this Sharp model I was having similar feelings. So I finally get the phone and the first thing I notice is that the surface of the phone is extremely smudge prone. The whole surface of the phone is glossy. The phone itself is built very solidly Ц no wobbling or creaking. If you want the glossy phone to look as new you will have to carry it in a case.
In life the gradient color pattern from black to blue on the front side of Docomo SH-01C looks amazing. Indoors and outdoors it looks different Ц a nice play of colors. Besides the unusual color use the designers added rows of LEDs that cover about a third of the flip part. In the settings you can specify the pattern and the color of this light indicator. I have noticed a long time ago that Sharp is very creative when it comes to light decor of their handsets Ц you may also remember the light indicators of Docomo SH-01B placed around the perimeter of the phone.
The handset itself is rather big - 112x50x16.8 / 4.4x1.97x0.66 mm. it feels like a completely solid plastic bar and sits well in hand. Thanks to the handy slot between the two parts it is rather easy to flip the phone open with only one hand but I would still recommend that you use both hands when you open it just to be on the safe side.
The phone is available in three colors. The black/blue and the gray/white variants will suite most people, the red variant is not that neutral but it's all arbitrary. Docomo SH-07B, for example, looks pretty good in red. SH-01C weighs in 138 g / 4.9 oz.
As I have already mentioned all the surface of the phone is glossy and you are unlikely to keep it that way for a long time so always keep special cleaning clothes around. The phone is also rather scratch prone. The short life of its good looks is definitely a downside of the phone.
The front side of Docomo SH-01C is a solid flat piece of plastic without any texture. Your attention is driven only to the unusual color pattern. Girls will surely use the phone instead of a mirror. When under sunlight the colors become very deep while indoors the colors alter depending on how much light there is: from dark blue to violet, the phone is practically a chameleon.
Between the black and the blue of this surface there is a 192x64 1.4" monochrome screen. You can choose between three display modes. Under the display there is the spectacular array of LEDs.
On the left side of the phone there is a micro HDMI slot protected by a lid with rubber sealant. In practice the lid actually works and prevents water and dust from getting inside so feel free to make underwater pictures. Closer to the bottom of the handset there is the slot that connects the phone to the dock station. It is also protected with a similar sealant only this time it seals it from the inside. In the top corner there is the strap hole but I doubt it is convenient to wear such a big phone on your chest. It is probably meant for a charm.
On the right side there is nothing besides the camera button and the digital TV antenna. The shutter button works just as in other modern phones: first you focus then you shoot.
On the bottom of the handset as usual for Sharp phones there is a universal slot for connecting accessories. As you may know all Docomo phones use a single slot for the charger, USB cable and audio jack adapters. The slot is protected by a lid with silicone sealant.
The back side of Docomo SH-01C features a single speaker, IR port, the flash, microphone and the camera eye compactly grouped at the top. The back panel is arc shaped and it gets a bit thicker around the camera. The main downer of the design is that there is no bumper or other protruded parts that would protect this part of the phone from, let's say, the table surface. The phone could use a couple of tiny feet and unfortunately, when you put the phone down it is the flash cover that comes in contact with the surface.
Often people buy such phones because they have outstanding cameras and this case the camera is actually superior to the competition. If you use it a lot the battery will be dead in just 2-3 hours. The quoted data of the battery life time are as usually overstated: 250 hours of standby and 200 minutes of phone calls. My test gives different data: 70-75 hours of standby and about 150-170 minutes of phone calls. Naturally, the battery life time heavily depends on how much you use WiFi, music player, the screen brightness level, how often you use the camera etc.
The phone uses an 800 mAh battery which is not much. A bigger battery would require a different design and spoil the looks. Docomo as well as any other Japanese carrier never uses large capacity batteries. So you will have to rely on USB cables, car charges, solar chargers and spare batteries.
The water resistant body will protect all main components like the battery contacts, the circuit board etc. After the phone takes a dive you'd better clean it up with a dry cloth and don't worry about water getting into the mic or the speaker holes Ц they are well protected from the inside. You might only need to blow the water out.
The battery lid of Docomo SH-01C as well as in most shock resistant phones has a rubber cushion and a lock that tightly fixes the battery to the handset creating a vacuum cushion. Tests show that water gets under the battery lid anyway but then is stopped by the rubber cushion. All over the rubber sealant you may then observe moist but the battery remains dry. The manufacturer claims that the phone can be submerged under up to one meter for as long as half an hour but I didn't dare to test the validity of these numbers.
In case of SH-01C the engineers changed the location of the microSD slot moving it away right above the SIM card slot. But it has not made the process of extraction of the SIM any easier Ц you will have to turn off the phoneand take the battery out.
The AQUOS SHOT series which Docomo SH-01C belongs to is mainly targeted at the use of the phone camera, naturally, after the principal communicative function. All handsets in this series have a rotary display design conveniently transforming the phone into a point and shot camera. The controls are right on the touchscreen whether the phone is open or closed. It supports multitouch and several desktops together with a kind of multitasking. These are just a few of the features that make the phone so easy to use. The screens size is 3.4" and the resolution is 480x854 which is has become a standard for this kind of devices. The screen can display up to 16 million colors and it is made of plastic.
The display is securely fixed to the sizeable hinges that allow it to rotate 180 degrees. Unlike some old similar phones SH-01C has no special room left for rotation of the screen and it works fine solely because of the clearance between the display and the lower part of the handset.
Above the screen to the right of the speaker we find a video call camera. In GSM networks it is only good for taking auto portraits. The front camera has the following available resolutions:
Under the screen to the left there is a light sensor that determines the lighting conditions. The power saving settings (EcoMode) allow you to save a lot of the battery charge by turning on the auto brightness adjustment,
Under sunlight the auto brightness adjustment works fine and makes everything legible. Below you can find a few screenshots of the Docomo SH-01C and Samsung Galaxy S screens.
It is Japanese classics Ц nothing unusual: large keys well placed apart from each other making key pad very easy to use. The black Docomo SH-01C is the only one of the three colors available that has a blue ring around the navigation button Ц the others some why have a white ring.
The backlight of the key pad is quite unusual: instead of a regular solid white light of all the keys the phone has a white mesh with round holes and that look like cells. It creates an interesting visual effect and in darkness the key pad looks great Ц just look at the pictures.
Under the key pad there is the mic and awesome silicone bumpers for the upper part of the handset that prevent screen from touching the keypad which often happens in some other flip phones and the key pad leaves a distinct print on the screen. But in SH-01C the clearance is at least 1 mm and even if you try to push the halves together they won't touch each other.
Besides the flip variant you can also use this phone as a touchscreen candy bar phone Ц you just need to flip te display and close it screen up. It is very convenient for picture taking and viewing images and videos. But in other scenarios I don't think it is really convenient to use the phone this way.
Those who think that the time of camera phones has gone might be right this time. Sharp's Docomo SH-01C is a camera phone and its main competitor is Docomo F-01C by Fujitsu which I am going to review a bit later. The both offer similar picture and video quality.
I am not going to compare the optics and the post processing of Sharp and Fujitsu I am just offering you to compare the results. All pictures are taken in the maximum resolution of 4320x3232 pix (14.1 MPix). The video resolution is 1920x1080 (FullHD). I can't say that European analogues are not able to deliver similar quality but I have already mentioned that I really like the Pixon quality but I didn't have an opportunity to put it against these contenders.
Photo comparison Docomo SH-01C vs. SamsungGalaxy S:
A few shots taken by Docomo SH-01C:
Video samples 1920x1080:
As you might know you cannot browse the web on Docomo phones and if you need any kind of connect at all you will only consider the WiFi models. So you will only be able to connect to the Internet via a hot spot. The WiFi settings in Docomo SH-01C has regular for any smartphone Ц no Japanese exclusives here.
I cannot really say what's special about Sharp SH-01C among other spring 2011 Docomo phones Ц the Japanese are not offering anything outstanding: just a few extra MPix for the camera, a water resistant body and a rotary display. But these are dictated by the fashion and the real breakthrough is that it has Wi-Fi, the excellent AQUOS screen and good looks. I am waiting for Sharp to make something really new and overwhelming but taking into account the economic situation and the earthquake aftermath I have only optimism to keep me waiting.
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Published 07 July 2011
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