Softbank and Sharp team up to tackle cheap cell phone market

Image Credit: Sharp
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Update Aug 19: Sharp announces that the Aquos Crystal will launch in the U.S. “soon.”

Sprint-owned Japanese telecom corporation Softbank is teaming up with Sharp Electronics to build a series of cheap mobile phones, the company announced Monday.

Best known among consumers for its televisions, Sharp also provides display technology to a number of companies, including mobile phone maker Xiaomi.

The first phone of the planned series, the Aquos Crystal, will be carried exclusively by Softbank. To give Softbank a competitive edge, the phone will feature a new service that lets users make an unlimited number of downloads from certain apps for a fixed price.

Partnering with Softbank may be just what Sharp needs to pull its handset business out from under water; especially as trendy new competitors like Xiaomi continue to emerge.

In the last quarter, Sharp’s shipment of mobile phones only comprised 12.1% of total mobile shipments in Japan, compared with 67.4% for Apple, according to the Wall Street Journal. Sony sits below Sharp, with only 10.6% of shipments in Japan.

In the global arena, neither Sharp nor Sony even rate in the top five mobile vendors.

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