Sharp and Apple created the first Personal Digital Assistant in 1993. Apple's version product was called the Message Pad, while Sharp's version was named the Expert Pad. Both ran Apple's Newton OS which was also licenced to manufacturers Digital Ocean and Motorola in 1995.
AS the Newton-OS-based Expert Pad sales figures failed to impress, Sharp abandoned the project only after two models, the PI-7000 and the PI-7100 and began working on their own line of mobile computers, the Zaurus, which has become a "household" name among programmers and users alike. The Zaurus ran a proprietary OS until 2000 when it switched to Linux. The Linux Zaurus series was officially discontinued in February 2007 but manufacture did not cease immediately because of strong demand.
The mobile personal tools by Sharp have never been limited to one OS only. Windows Mobile touch screen UMPCs with display sizes between 5 and 10 inches have been produced since 1997, when the first of the Mobilion series was launched running Windows CE 1.0. Sharp's Windows Mobile line, made for Japanese operator Willcom, is called W-Zero3 and first appeared at the end of 2005 with the world's first VGA-display pocket PC running Windows Mobile 5, the WS003SH.
In November 2009, Sharp launched a new line of mobile computers, said to the be successor of the Zaurus, named NetWalker, running Linux Ubuntu. In May 2010 Sharp's first Android device came out, the IS01 by carrier AU KDDI, a foldable qwerty mobile communication tool (MIT) with a 5-inch 960x480 pixel screen, followed in October 2010 by the IS03, the Japanese answer to the iPhone 4 invasion of the Japanese market.
Meanwhile, two highly anticipated projects failed because of the market's wariness of 'revolutionary' projects amid a global economic crisis. The new concept OS mobile tool, the First ELSE, was announced in November 2009 by Israeli IT company ELSE, formerly Emblaze Mobile and was rescheduled twice for Q2 and Q4 of 2010, but was officially suspended on June 30, 2010. And on July 1, Microsoft's successors of the popular Danger Sidekick line, the Kin One and Kin Two, running a tailored Windows Phone 7 backbone with Silverlight skinning, was announced 'dead'.
Starting in mid-2010, Sharp focused exclusively on the production of Android-based smartphones as the platform managed to overtake the Japanese market in less than a year. Android-running smartphones and tablets have been released for domestic Japanese carriers NTT DOCOMO, SoftBank, AU by KDDI, and Willcom, as well as for China, Taiwan, and even Russia. There is also a line of low-range Android smartphones made exclusively for the Indian and Brazilian markets but these are not listed on this website. Plans to enter the European and US markets, initially announced for late 2011, were postponed indefinitely because of the financial crisis, with only one Sharp smartphone brought officially to Europe (Germany and France), the SH80F, which is a version of the SH-12C made for the carrier Orange. After the acquision of 66% of shares by Foxconn in 2016, the plans were renewed: in February 2018, at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress, Sharp and Foxconn are expected to announce new European models.
Sharp keitais used to be the most popular mobile telephone brand in Japan (1/4 of market until 2011), shrinking to 16% in mid-2013, second only to Apple's iPhone. SoftBank models run a proprietary OS developed by Japanese Access Corporation who are also known for their NetFront Browser. [* Access are also the coders behind the First ELSE boasting the Else Intuition OS nicknamed sPlay.] The OS is based on Linux but is heavily customized to meet the needs of Japanese carrier SoftBank (second largest). Together with the leading mobile operator in Japan, NTT DoCoMo, Sharp make a number of mobile phone lines all using a custom-tailored operating environment based on Symbian. Although traditionally partially function-locked, Japanese Sharp phones are popular among fans world-wide because of their look, feel, quality, robustness and unmatched specifications. I am a proud owner of a 904SH keitai myself, an exceptional phone which still does a great job despite its 5 years of age (released April 2006, unlocked December 2007).
By mid-2011, Android OS was already the dominant platform for mobile devices and very few keitai were released running the old proprietary OS's. SoftBank and DOCOMO released their last high-end non-Android phones, the Aquos Shot 002SH and the Aquos Shot SH-03D, respectively, in the winter 2011 collections. This collection also saw the end of the high-end flip/swivel keitai – emblematic for Japanese phones. SoftBank actually made an attempt at prolonging the life of flip keitais with the Aquos Phone The Hybrid, codenamed 007SH, which ran Android 2.3. This was, sadly, short-lived, as the slate/slab form factor with its potential for larger touch-operated screens, had already gained the upper hand, notoriously through the appeal of the iPhone.
Flip-keitai that were released between 2012 and 2015 continued to employ their non-smart OS's but were now low- to mid-range phones with nothing to impress. Eventually, Android arrived in even the traditional 'garaho', or feature phones – in their spring 2015 collection, the AU launched the Aquos K SHF31, which wielded some impressive specs and had a heavily-customised Android 4.4. Not achieving the market impact that was sought, this remained the last flip keitai to have a great camera: all garaho phones made after it have feeble cameras, lowest-grade processors with barely sufficient RAM – and aren't even touchscreen. Today, in the end of 2017, the glorious sun of the traditional Japanese keitai has set, with Sharp remaining the last manufacturer to create impressive, albeit slate-type, devices out of Japan.
Sharp have always been excessively protective with their phones. Not even to this date has anyone managed to unlock the bootloader of a Sharp smartphone – hence, it is impossible to install an OS, or a version of an OS, that is different from what Sharp have officially sanctioned. The traditional keitai could only be partially unlocked to work with a different SIM card through the use of HyperSIMs, 1-mm-thick devices that you place onto of and stick to your SIM card, after cutting a corner to accommodate the slightly bulkier chip at one end. This would enable radio reception, meaning you could use your Japanese phone for calls and SMS, but no mobile data. The multimedia (camera, video player, audio player) features on high-end SoftBank garahos, however, remained locked (the DOCOMO models did not have a multimedia lock). A software unlock was developed for a couple of the phones but was prohibitively expensive (100+ USD). Although in 2011 the Japanese government issued a recommendation to mobile operators to remove the SIM-lock upon request, only DOCOMO complied. Thus, SoftBank's phones, including the glasses-free 3D Android phones 003SH, 005SH, 007SH, and newer, remained usable only through the use of HyperSIMs. In 2013, a full software unlock was developed for just those models (because they had the same processor). Luckily for those remaining keitai fans, the Japanese government reissued its SIM-unlocking policy in 2015, now no longer a recommendation, but an order. Thus, every Japanese phone released after 1st May 2015 can be SIM-unlocked – read more in the News section of this website. Meanwhile, Sharp continued working, successfully, on enhancing the protection of their phones, and no device released with Android 5.0 or later can be rooted.
This site was originally conceived as a database of Windows Mobile devices manifactured by Sharp, containing useful information, a.k.a. HowTos and Applications, as well as a Device List, where brief descriptions are given of these devices. With the advent of Android OS and abandonment of Windows Mobile, the inclusion of Android-based devices was the natural development.
Featured are all Windows CE (Compact Edition, a.k.a. Mobile), Windows (standard edition), Linux and Android devices manufactured by Sharp.
All application- and howto-related information comes from personal experience and almost all of the applications have been personally tested on the Sharp devices I own: the W-ZERO3 (WS003SH), the EM ONE (S01SH), the Galapagos 005SH, the Aquos Phone SH-01D. The appeal of Sharp devices - because of quality, features, and uniqueness - has proven irresistible to the people around me, and I have bought two Aquos Phone SH-12Cs, one Aquos Phone sv SH-10D, one Aquos Phone Zeta SH-02E, one Aquos Phone Zeta SH-06E, and one Aquos Phone si SH-07E for my brother, my girlfriend, her brother, and friends - and have also performed tests on them. If I have not personally tested something, I have mentioned this in the article. Anyway, please use at your own risk and send feedback and/or any information you might consider useful.
For more details or to ask questions and share your experience, feel free to contact me.
Disclaimer: Neither this site, nor myself are in any way affiliated with Sharp Corporation or any subsidiaries or agents.