It’s not their first-ever GSM handset - but Sharp’s GX10 model offers its users a different taste of what to expect, especially when it comes to looking at phone functionality and how it is presented to us. While Sharp also manufactures mobile phones for its local Japanese market, they have implemented ideas used on those products and put them into the GX10.
Unfortunately, we won’t be getting all the fantastic features that are available on those Japanese i-Mode phones. But in the meantime, enjoy the support provided by the GX10 for some of the latest trends and technologies available in the GSM arena!
Probably one of the reasons why Sharp has re-entered the GSM handset market is that colour screens and mobile imaging have finally arrived (while the Japanese have enjoyed having this luxury for quite some time now!) The GX10 offers support for multimedia messaging (MMS) while also having the ability to snap up shots and send them via this method. As for other things, the GX10 comes equipped with all the basic necessities of a current-day GSM handset - plus polyphonic tones and support for Java applications and games.
In many ways, both the Sharp GX10 and Panasonic GD87/88 share a very similar design - from the use of a clamshell design, dual displays, camera with self-view mirror located on the top folder; and right down to the similar opening/closing mechanism used to join the two faces together. At the end of the day, you can’t really blame them for these similarities - since the manufacturers are both Japanese.
Although similar, not everything is entirely the same. Probably the biggest issue that I had with the GX10 is the seemingly thicker form factor. Measuring in at 27 millimetres, the GX10 may be 4mm thicker than the GD87/88 - but due to its squarer design, it also makes it feel even thicker on a visual level.
I found the phone quite hard to hold properly in my big hands. I was able to maintain a firm grip, but not a comfortable one that is achievable with most other handsets. Fortunately, weight was not an issue.
At the base of the phone is the charging and data socket, which is protected by a non-removable rubber cover. Unlike other phones where the rubber can be taken off permanently (and can be either lost or forgotten about), the one on the GX10 is attached to the actual phone unit and provides the socket with protection from the elements while not in use.
On the inside, everything is laid out quite well - including the sizing of the actual LCD display, and the layout of the numeric keypad and navigational keys. Performing tedious operations with the keypad (messaging, for example) is effortless and maximum comfort is retained thanks to good levels of tactility and the handset’s correct weight.
User Interface & display
The 65,535-colour LCD screen is indeed comfortable to look at, and provides extremely good colour depth for all that’s displayed - including simple colour graphics for menus and games, and images taken with the built-in digital camera.
There’s nothing hard about using the GX10. Accessing the menu simply requires a tap of the “M” button at the centre of the 4-way navigational key. To go into different menu trees, press either the “M” button or right arrow to enter the menu or function, and left arrow to return back to the previous screen or menu level.
Lastly, you may find some slight discrepancies with the menu layouts and colours used on different GX10-based models. As the one I used for review was a Vodafone-stock model, its menus and colours have been customised for their own network - including the implementation of the Vodafone live! service.
Making and receiving calls
Call handling on the GX10 is similar to most other active folder phones, with the small exception of needing to press the “answer” button even after opening the clamshell (see Problems/issues for more details). You can take calls through the actual phone earpiece or via a headset - there’s no speakerphone function on the GX10.
Polyphonic tones are becoming pretty standard on recently-released mobile phone models. The GX10 offers these tones - but not just for incoming calls. You can set built-in and custom tones for incoming message alerts, warning, keypad, and power on/off tones too!
Having both text and multimedia messaging options available at your fingertips is sure handy. But a fundamental issue that I had with the GX10 was using the assigned function keys for changing the current input mode, which required a long depress of the star (*) key to switch between numeric, small letters, all caps, and sentence mode. If you required changing between these modes in a message, the average time required to complete such a message is increased.
The T9 predictive text system on the GX10 isn’t all that great either. To scroll through the word list, you would need to use the up/down arrow instead of using either zero (0) or the star (*) key, which is usually quicker because there’s no need for great finger movement. Additionally, the phone also has trouble in accepting fast keystrokes - in other words, if you typed too fast, the phone will miss a few letters causing the entire word to be completed incorrectly. Therefore, if you usually use two hands with T9, I suggest going back to just one to avoid disappointment.
It’s also a rarity to hear that a GSM phone is made in Japan. In the case of the GX10, this is exactly the case - and I found the build quality of this model to be quite “Japanese”. The phone’s overall construction is quite rigid and all of the attachments (back cover, internal battery, rubber socket cover) fitted comfortably into their rightful places.
As with most colour screen models, if you make great use of the primary LCD screen you will experience an overall low standby time. Alternatively, if you only use the phone and its features when necessary, average standby time is increased accordingly.
On average use, I was able to obtain approximately 2 hours worth of talk time, and 2-3 days standby. Again, these numbers will vary greatly depending on how you actually use the phone.