Sharp 903 review: this month's coolest phone

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So what’s this month’s hottest new phone? The Nokia N90 camera phone? Mmmm. The Apple Motorola ROKR? Don’t make me laff! Nope by some clear distance the gadget phone for September has to be the Sharp 903 available via Vodafone.

I managed to get my hands on one the other day and have to say that if the 903 is anything to go by the days of the budget digital camera are numbered. It is fairly similar to the equally groundbreaking 902 but with some neat additions.

Sharp has tweaked the style a bit so now it comes in black (haven’t seen the red in the UK yet) and has slightly bevelled edges. It doesn’t sound like much of a makeover but it is one that’s actually pretty impressive. The SD card slot is gone replaced by one of those annoying mini SD ones. Though at least the phone does come with an SD card adaptor.

The big change however is that Sharp has upgraded the camera from 2.0 mega pixels to 3.2 mega pixels and judging by the images the handset takes that is one huge leap. Colour is enhanced, contrast level are significantly better but obviously the big difference is that you see levels of detail that on the 902 and all other camera phones would have just been something of a blur. Sharp has also worked hard on the camera’s facilities which now include a very effective auto focus, a highly useful 2x optical zoom and a variable exposure option.

The rest of the phone is every bit as good as the 902. In particular I like the MP3/AAC player which is not only one of the best I have heard so far on a phone, but also sounds great through the 903’s integrated speakers. The phone’s two and half inch 262k colour screen is also a wonder – still the benchmark which rival phone makers have to aspire to. There’s also person to person video calling, video capture and access to Vodafone’s Live! 3G services. The downsides, well the interface is fine but nowhere near as elegant as say a Nokia Series 60 handset. Also while Sharp has included POP3 email, it is a bit tricky to set up and use. There’s also a web browser on board, which, to say the least is fairly basic. Finally the phone is, just like the 902, a bit of monster. If you want something small and slinky to pull from your pocket buy a Moto RAZR or a Nokia 8800. Finally Voda hasn’t been at all generous with the storage, the phone is bundled with a 64MB card which, given the size of 3.2 mega pixel images, should fill up in moments.

Overall though this is a cracking phone. Forget your iTunes and Walkman handsets, they are just trying to sucker you in via their branding, this is the real deal. If you want a better camera, better screen, tons more features and a pretty good music player to boot the 903 is for you.

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6 comments

  • Greetings, Ive used this mobile for almost a year now, when compared with other 3.2mp camera phone’s out there, it is unbeatable. Battery life is max four days for me, with some texting, mp3’s, some pictures. I agree though, when saving a picture it does take some time, approx 5-9secs. The pictures taken are extrememly clear, it can be compared to a 4mp camera. Never had a problem with this phone. Excellent phone. Japan should make the Sharp910sh available on other networks, instead of wcdma only.

  • Is it honest feeling or lesser knowledge feedback? on contrary, i found my sharp gave an excellent photo results which is far better than my other handset of Sony Ericsson K8001i (both same 3.2 MP camera). All photoshops printers got shocked when they found out I took brilliant and sharp pictures using my sharp phone.
    John, I guess you go faulty set so the results is under expectation.
    Hope can give fair feedback as I am using Nokia, Sony too.

  • Excellent review, John. Honest and straightforward. Always like to read user’s true feeling as oppose to inflated reviews from the publishers. I too am walking away from buying it.

  • Thanks.
    This is what I was looking for!!

    I wondered why Sharp 903 had always a good review. Now I’m walking away from buying this model. Thanks to ya~

  • I would normally have just surfed on past this review but it is so far off the mark that it deserves a response. The Sharp 903SH for Vodafone is a large brick of a phone with the slowest autofocus you could imagine (unless you’ve tried its predecessor, the snail-focus 902SH). Despite the relatively high pixel count, both of these phones take a less than acceptable photo. I don’t know if it’s a lack of post-processing or a sinple reflection of the fact that Sharp is not a camera maker, but the hype about the high pixel count is misplaced for a number of reasons.

    First, the picture just does not look good: unsharp with low contrast. Second, the phone writes incredibly slowly event to a top-of-the line Panasonic Pro High-Speed media card. Third, the monitor pivots laterally, BUT to the wrong side! So, when you want to shoot a photo, you have to deliberately do everything backwards from the way that would be most natural. Fourth, the shutter button for the camera is awkwardly placed and easy to mis-fire as it has multiple functions depending on the way and number of times it is pushed — none of this is properly documented. Fifth, there is insufficient control for the shooter over the resolution and format of the image. Sixth, the menus and interface are not merely a step down from the norm, they respresent an ambiguous and difficult-to-master set of repetitive routines that show no sense of understanding of even the most basic rules for designing a user interface. And seventh, to top it all off, the phone is woefully underpowered with the tiny battery that it takes and with the data crunching rising with the high-pixel images and music playback one would be lucky to get through a day before the Vodafone logo comes up and you’re waving goodbye not just to your camera and music, but to your phone connectivity itself.

    Ooops! I forgot to mention, while the Vodafone 900 series does feature Bluetooth, at least the 902SH is completely unable to sync with the Mac OS X address book.

    I recently returned to Vodafone to buy the only SONY product they offer here in Japan so that I can get a photo (even if it is lower res) when I shoot and so my data will sync with my Mac.

    Sorry for the bad reveiew, but the public deserves to know.

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