While smartphone exclusivity has not been a viable marketing tool for mobile carriers to use in the U.S. for some time, Sprint Corp (NYSE:S) is banking that customers will be intrigued that it's new smartphone, the Aquos Crystal, made by Sharp Corp. (TYO: 6753) is a foreign device with U.S. availability; the Aquos Crystal will also be offered in Japan.
Sharp is a highly regarded smartphone maker in Japan, but the Aquos Crystal is the company's first smartphone release in the U.S. A Sprint representative told International Business Times at a press event for the Aquos Crystal on Tuesday that Sharp and rival electronics giant Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) are the Japanese equivalent to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Samsung Electronics Co. (KRX: 005930) in the U.S.
The Aquos Crystal should serve as a test to see how the U.S. market receives the foreign device, especially as Sprint's parent company, the Japan-based telecom Softbank, hopes to gain clout in its overseas markets, which includes the U.S., Owens noted that it was major contributions by Softbank that brought the Aquos Crystal to the U.S.
"We probably couldn't have done this two years ago. Softbank was able to commit volume in units in Japan, and Sprint was able to go across our brands and drive a lot of volume," he said.
Following the introduction of its new Family Share plan, which offers up to 10 lines and 20GB of shared data for $100, Sprint is establishing a theme of affordability. The Aquos Crystal falls in line with this theme as it will sell in the U.S. for just $239 off-contract and $149 on contract. The device will also be available through Sprint's Easy Pay Program for $10 per month.
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Sprint plans to tantalize customers is by filling the Aquos Crystal with value. The device includes such features as HD voice, Wi-Fi calling, Harmon Kardon audio enhancements and support on Sprint's Spark LTE network. The device will also be available on Sprint's affiliate networks Boost and Virgin Mobile brands, which Owens, said would allow users to look for "the latest technology but at an affordable price."
Notably, another Sharp smartphone, the Aquos Crystal X, which includes more high-end specifications will release in Japan in December. It is not known whether the Aquos Crystal X will also be available in the U.S., but Sharp is expected to release follow up phones for the American market.