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Sharp's edge-to-edge AQUOS S2 is a glimpse at your next phone

Even if it won't be a Sharp phone.
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Andy Rubin's Essential Phone may have wowed us with its edge-to-edge display recently, but let's not forget that Sharp has been driving this design with many of its previous Android phones -- 28 of them, to be precise. Today, the Japanese brand unveiled its 29th release dubbed AQUOS S2 which, funnily enough, looks rather familiar. From afar, the S2's screen and the Essential Phone's screen share the same front-camera notch at the top, except the former is a smaller 5.5-inch panel with a slightly lower 2,040 x 1,080 resolution. The more notable difference here is how the corners at the top appear to be hastily trimmed, which is a bit of a letdown, but at least you're still getting a nice 135-percent sRGB gamut plus a handy 550-nit brightness.

Thanks to Sharp's very own Free Form Display technology, the S2 has an impressive 87.5-percent screen-to-body ratio. It's also a much smaller device: we're talking about tucking a 5.5-inch display into the body of a conventional 4.9-inch smartphone. And don't worry, you still get a 3,030 mAh battery which is plentiful, especially considering that the phone is powered by Qualcomm's mid-range Snapdragon 660 (8x Kryo 260; 2.2GHz + 1.8GHz; 14nm) or Snapdragon 630 (8x ARM Cortex A53; 2.2GHz + 1.8GHz; 14nm), depending on which of the two price tiers you're going for.

While the S2 is no powerhouse, it comes equipped with a pair of nice cameras. The front imager has an 8-megapixel 1.4um sensor with f/2.0 aperture, which is pretty good given how compact the module is. The f/1.75 dual camera on the back consists of a 12-megapixel sensor plus an 8-megapixel sensor, both also feature efficient 1.4um pixels and together offer a seven-level bokeh effect.

Compared to previous Sharp smartphones, the S2 has ditched the old bone conduction actuator in favor of a conventional earpiece that's hidden underneath the screen, next to the front camera, with its audio channeled to a thin pipe placed along the top edge of the screen for clearer sound. While the front camera is no longer placed on the chin, there's now a fingerprint reader centered there -- an interesting choice when both the Essential Phone and Xiaomi's Mi Mix opted for a rear fingerprint reader instead.

Another interesting engineering feat here is the use of a "3D" single-sheet glass back on the premium model: it's named as such because not only are the four edges curved, but it's also molded with the camera bump to give a more elegant finish. As a bonus, the "Sharp" logo is engraved near the bottom, which is a much nicer touch than the usual silk-printed branding. For those who are wondering, Sharp claims that the S2 has passed its "rigorous" drop tests for all six sides and four corners thanks to its aluminum mid-frame design, but we'll believe it when we see it.

It's unclear which other markets will the AQUOS S2 enter, but for now, Sharp is already taking pre-orders in China. The standard model with Snapdragon 630, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage is priced at 2,499 yuan (about $370), and it comes in black, white, blue or mint green. The premium model due to arrive later is asking for 3,499 yuan (about $520) and packs a Snapdragon 660, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage plus the aforementioned "3D" glass back, but it doesn't have the mint green option.

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