Business / Corporate

Sharp unveils Japan makers' first 5G-ready smartphone

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Sharp Corp. unveiled its first 5G smartphone model Monday, ahead of the ultrafast network service launch scheduled for March.

The Osaka-based electronics firm, reportedly the first Japanese maker to introduce a 5G-ready smartphone, has boasted the top share of the Android-based smartphone market in Japan for the past three years, but competition will likely be tougher in the 5G era as foreign rivals are also gearing up for the opportunity.

Sharp officials said the company won’t see an immediate impact on its supply chain and production from the coronavirus outbreak, but it will closely monitor the situation if the crisis continues for a long time.

During a news conference in Tokyo, company officials said the new model, the Aquos R5G, takes advantage of the speed of 5G, which may be 100 times faster than that of a 4G network.

Shige Kobayashi, general manager of Sharp’s personal communications system business unit, stressed that the new phone will come with a four-camera system, which is able to take pictures and shoot video with 8K quality.

Because ultrahigh-resolution 8K images are huge in size, they take a long time to upload at 4G speed, but that won’t be a problem with 5G, Kobayashi said.

“With the launch of 5G, we believe we’ll be seeing drastic changes in visual communications,” he said.

The Android-powered Aquos R5G, which will be available only in the Japanese market for now, has a 6.5-inch LCD display and 12 gigabytes of memory with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 5G chipset. It will be available this spring and its price will be similar to current high-end smartphones, Sharp said.

While 5G service is already available in other countries, such as the U.S., China and South Korea, Japanese major mobile phone carriers are set to finally launch their 5G data services next month.

Apple iPhones dominate the Japanese smartphone market, but more Chinese makers have joined the fray recently to challenge Apple. Beijing-based Xiaomi, the world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker, made a foray into Japan in December, saying the start of 5G service is a good opportunity for the company.

In the SIM-free smartphone market, Huawei Technologies Co. has been a popular choice among consumers.

Kobayashi said Sharp, which according to market researcher BCN Inc. held the No. 1 share of Android smartphones in Japan last year, can differentiate its 5G device from rival makers by providing adequate support and updates for users on top of the 8K capability.

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