The Aquos Crystal’s internals fall pretty squarely in the middle of the road, with a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor running at 1.2 Ghz, backed by an Adreno 305 GPU and 1.5 GB RAM. That should be plenty enough to get you around the phone with minimal lag, play most games without issues, and run media with ease—and most of the time, it is.
But there are odd occurrences that pop up here and there. In one instance, when taking photos under average conditions and with normal settings, each snapshot took about three seconds to save, preventing us from capturing the moment as desired. In other instances, the phone took several seconds to unlock, we had an occasional pause or two while browsing the web, and there were very long loading screens when running games that work fine on other handsets.
None of these issues happen regular or ruin the experience, but they’re unexpected on a handset that should be able to handle common tasks without sudden hiccups. But at $240 or less outright, you’re not getting a top-of-the-line experience, that’s for sure.
And the phone’s unique build presents an interesting problem of its own: There’s no earpiece atop the display. The Aquos Crystal instead uses a Direct Wave Receiver to send the signal vibrating across the surface of the phone. Seems a bit questionable, right? It is. The call quality on Sprint’s LTE network wasn’t very good at all, with a hushed, distant-sounding signal coming through. Meanwhile, one person on the other end of the line said our voice sounded muffled during conversation. It’s usable in the quiet comfort of your own home, but good luck in a noisy public space.
As mentioned before, the 8 GB within doesn’t provide a lot of internal storage space, but it’s not a huge concern—you can easily slide in a microSD card up to 128 GB behind the back cover, which offers an opportunity for ample media storage if you want it.
The Sharp Aquos Crystal packs a 2,040mAh battery, which sounds like a pretty solid offering for a phone of this price and is rated for approximately 13 hours of talk time. However, we found it only adequate in testing. It’ll get you through a full day of moderate use, assuming you’re not logging ample time with high-performance games or running a lot of streaming video over LTE, as both are sure to diminish the number of hours you pull before it’s depleted.
And if we didn’t plug the phone in overnight, it seemed like a larger-than-expected chunk of the battery life disappeared in the span it sat idle. It requires a nightly charge, for sure, and particularly heavy users might also need to top it off by early evening. So it’s a shame that the battery isn’t swappable: it’s secured beneath several screws and a stern warning label.
You’ll find Android 4.4.2 KitKat on the Aquos Crystal out of the box, and mercifully, it’s pretty much stock. What a relief; perhaps Sharp’s lack of a dedicated presence in the smartphone scene means it doesn’t feel the need to develop a custom skin without lots of devices to run it. Whatever the case, Google’s own version of Android is what you’ll find almost throughout, with the camera app really the only thing that seems to be swapped out.
Unfortunately, Sprint once again couldn’t leave well enough alone. Although the core experience is nearly stock Android, this version of the Aquos Crystal is overloaded with junk apps and widgets that you probably won’t want or need. How inane is some of this stuff? When we first loaded up the phone, the notification center displayed a huge banner ad for the Samsung Galaxy S5 via one of Sprint’s apps. If we had just spent a couple hundred bucks on this phone, we’d be pretty upset.
It’s mostly bloatware that you can easily delete—things like the Scout social widget, NBA Game Time, and NASCAR Mobile, and all manner of Sprint services, like Sprint Music, FamilyWall, Sprint TV, and Sprint Zone, an app and media-suggesting hub. But right out of the gate, it just feels like a shackle on your new phone, and it’ll take quite a bit of deleting and reconfiguring to start fresh.
There’s been no official word from Sharp or Sprint on whether the Aquos Crystal will receive Google’s Android 5.0 Lollipop update. Considering the price level and the fact that it launched before the big OS update, we’re guessing it probably won’t make the leap. This is unfortunate, as Lollipop brings big functional and presentational enhancements, but it’s mostly flagship devices that are riding that wave for now.
Here’s one of the bigger downsides of the Aquos Crystal, unfortunately: Both the back and front cameras are pretty meager, making the handset one to skip if you really care about your mobile snapshots. The 8-megapixel back camera produces shots that appear washed out and devoid of contrast. Photos may show a nice bit of detail, but the colors lack pop, and we certainly wouldn’t recommend using it for capturing lasting memories. Video shot from the back camera at up to 1080p delivers similar results: It’s decently crisp and of fair quality, but the muted color contrast doesn’t make for the most appealing footage.
The 1.2-megapixel selfie shooter on the front is found on the bottom of the device, and angled upwards to produce unflattering, fuzzy shots from the normally held position. The app tells you to turn the device upside down for better results—another one of the odd quirks of using the Aquos Crystal.
As noted, the camera app breaks from stock Android, but not in any particularly dramatic way. Here, the big focus is on automated assists, such as framing guides that pop up when a face is detected, as well as a Night Catch function that lightly improves low-light photos (which still, expectedly, aren’t great). And you can grab rapid-fire photos with the Sequential Shots feature. Otherwise, it’s a pretty straightforward and easy-to-understand app, although the performance issues noted earlier can be a drag when you’re trying to catch something in the moment.