Review: Sharp Aquos Crystal for Boost Mobile
The Crystal uses Android 4.4.2 KitKat as its backbone. Sharp hung its own flesh over the core operating system, but the appearances are only skin deep. The home screens look a bit different, but many of the underlying menus rely on stock Android in both appearance and functionality.
The lock screen offers minimal utility. It can show notifications, but the only shortcut opens the camera. In other words, you won't be jumping from the lock screen to the phone or your messages. There are five home screens active out of the box, and thankfully only two of them have any content pre-loaded. The Android controls appear below the dock as needed.
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The main app menu is more or less unchanged from stock Android, as are the notification tray and the settings menu. Disappointingly, the main app menu only supports an alphabetical grid view of apps; you can't arrange them in your own preference, nor drop them into folders. (Icons on the home screen panels, of course, can be arranged however you like and do support folders.) Swipe one finger from the top of the screen to access the basic notification tray, or swipe two fingers to access toggles for radios and other controls. The settings tools are plain text laid out in a plain vertical menu. Google Now is available by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
Like many Sprint / Boost Mobile / Virgin Mobile devices, the Crystal includes Boost Mobile iD. With Mobile iD, you can download theme packs for the Crystal. The packs generally include wallpapers, ringtones, and sometimes third-party apps — all based on a central concept such as "work" or "cars" or "music." Sprint iD has been around a while. It works fine and the selection of theme packs is solid, but many of them contain unwanted junk.
I didn't see any performance hiccups with the Crystal. It has a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.5GB of RAM. This combo was enough to keep the Crystal running smoothly while I reviewed it. As I've said with other phones running this processor, about the only issue I've noticed is that it takes longer to download/install apps.Calls and Contacts
Like the menu system, the Crystal uses the stock phone and contact applications. They work the same across all Android 4.4 KitKat phones.
There are tabs across the bottom of the phone app screen offering access to the dialpad, call log, and contacts. The dialpad is nice and big, and the in-call tools run the regular lot. The speakerphone, mute function, and Bluetooth radio all have distinct on/off switches that make them easy to decipher and use when in the middle of a call.
The contact app includes its own tabbed home screen, which separates contacts between the entire list, favorites, and groups (if you have any). Individual contact cards can hold tons of data and sync seamlessly with pretty much any account you care to use. There are several home screen widgets, too, as well as the ability to put direct actions to select contacts on the home screen.
The Crystal includes all the same messaging apps found on other Sprint/Boost phones. Most of the messaging functions are Google's services, such as Gmail, Google+, Hangouts, and so on. All the Google apps work without issue, just like on every other Android device.
Sprint has set the stock Android messaging app as the default for SMS/MMS. Since Google now lets Android device owners pick which app they want to use for SMS, you can ditch the stock app if you want and use Google's Hangouts app instead. Hangouts combines SMS, instant messaging, and — if you pair it with your Google Voice number — phone calls.
Neither Facebook nor Twitter is pre-installed, so you'll have to download them from the Play Store yourself.
Hands-On: Sharp Aquos Crystal for Sprint
Sharp debuted its first phone for the U.S. market in years this week.
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SoftBank, which owns Sprint, today said it has chosen Sharp to supply it with low-cost smartphones. The handset deal with Sharp includes Sprint, which will also sell phones made by Sharp.
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Boost, Sprint, and Sprint Prepaid today revealed launch details for the Sharp Aquos Crystal. Boost is selling the Aquos Crystal beginning today for $150.
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