It's a good idea to temper your expectations in the FX Plus' 3-megapixel camera, and even more so in its camcorder. The Android software offers presets and options for white balance, color effects, and so on. Since there's no flash, well-lit and outdoor photos will do better than indoor pictures. The latter tended to have a yellow glow depending on the light source. Since the camera shutter takes so long to snap, photos have a tendency to come out blurry if you jiggle your arm or move the camera before it completes its lengthier exposure--for all types of shots. Suffice it to say, achieving a perfect focus was an issue, although we were able to take some photos with nice color and brightness.
The camcorder took jerky, frequently grainy movies that also had a harder time staying true to color. While sometimes the point of a video is to simply tell a story, we'd have hoped for a less pixelated tale. The same goes for the voice quality with on-device playback. It was loud enough, but also tinny.
You'll have 512MB internal memory for multimedia, plus up to 32GB external storage through the microSD card slot.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Sharp FX Plus in the San Francisco Bay Area. Call quality was good in areas of strong signal and predictably terrible in AT&T dead zones, where calls cut out. In the coverage zone, those on both sides of the call thought it sounded very good. Both we and our caller noted strong volume and natural-sounding voices. There wasn't any distortion or background noise, though the voice clarity was just slightly muffled.
Sharp FX Plus call quality sample
Speakerphone also had good volume and strong call clarity--without any white noise or digital distortion. Both sides found that voices sounded hollow, tinny, and echoey. On their end, our caller also said we sounded muffled, like we were holding a hand over our mouth. Some of this is to be expected with speakerphone.
On the phone's performance side, the FX Plus' 600MHz processor, unfortunately, lagged behind. Programs took a beat or two longer to open and to switch functions. As we mentioned, the camera seemed to be the biggest casualty, with capture time taking a little longer than normal.
3G fluctuated during our test period, ranging from no 3G to strong 3G paired with full signal bars. With three bars of signal, CNET's mobile site loaded in about 20 seconds, and the graphically heavy full CNET.com loaded in about 35 seconds. Later, with just one signal bar, it took the typically faster-loading New York Times mobile site to load in 37 seconds. Over a minute later, the complete New York Times Web site loaded, also with just one bar of signal.
Battery life is a pressing issue on any phone, and it's too bad that Sharp didn't take this opportunity to lengthen the lifespan on its Sharp FX. Like its predecessor, the FX has a rated battery life of 3 hours talk time and 10 days standby time on its 1240mAh battery. FCC tests measure the FX Plus' digital SAR at 0.60 watts per kilogram at the head.
Kudos to Sharp for giving the Sharp FX Plus a visual and OS refresh. Android 2.2 Froyo isn't the most current of Google's mobile operating systems, but AT&T, Wal-Mart, and Sharp all know that smartphones, especially Android ones, have a certain reliability and market allure. It has going for it a compact keyboard, an Android OS, a pleasing body, and an affordable price. Unfortunately, there's also a check list of features where the device falls a little short--the camera for one, performance speed for another, and battery life for a third. Don't get us wrong--this isn't among the phones you'd best avoid, but it is an entry-level phone best-suited to first-time smartphone owners who aren't particularly looking for anything fancy.