Is the clamshell form factor ideal for smartphones?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: May 23, 2011

Android has been the recipient of a plethora of praise for bringing choice of price point, form factor and manufacturer to the smartphone scene. We have already seen countless candybar phones and horizontal sliders, but as the race for the biggest, baddest phone around continues, some manufacturers are exercising their creative bone and thinking outside of the box. Others are regressing back to older form factors that we're more familiar with.

Back on Friday over in Japan, SoftBank announced a new and ... different Android phone. Made by Sharp, the AQUOS Hybrid 007SH is the mutated offspring of an Android phone and not-so-cool flip phone from the late 90's. At first glance, I literally laughed out loud at the thought of a clamshell Android phone. But after giving the specs a once over, I realized the 007SH is actually one serious device that can likely pack a punch.

It is equipped with a 3.4-inch touchscreen display (854 by 480 pixel resolution) with 3D capabilities, Android 2.3, a 16-megapixel shooter around back capable of 720p video, and it's waterproof as well. What's even cooler is that the display swivels and can take the candybar form if you so desire. This thing won't nearly top all the charts when it comes to specs, but it is a nice attempt at a new (or old) style. But I am left wondering if anyone would ever buy an Android phone in the clamshell form factor.

You may recall towards the end of 2010 when BlackBerry released a clamshell device on Sprint's network. The BlackBerry Style wasn't a bad device by any means, but the angled hinge made it just awkward to type on and to hold. The Style didn't have a touchscreen either. Albeit somewhat odd, the clamshell form factor worked for BlackBerry.

The clamshell form factor does pose some unique advantages like the bottom half protecting the display that would not otherwise be protected in any other form. It also provides extra phone to hold on to while in use, and it allows you to use the phone however you like.

But I don't see any of this as enough to justify a phone that is over twice as thick as most others, has a number pad for dialing, and a swivel hinge that will undoubtedly weaken over time. Just based on the video and pictures provided, the AQUOS Hybrid looks extremely unwieldy and is a very funny shape. It's nearly nine inches tall when opened, and almost 20mm thick when closed. Sacrificing a large display for a folding dial pad simply doesn't make sense. This form factor doesn't seem ideal for the Android platform and how it is used.

Although I'm not sold on the design, Stefan over at IntoMobile did appear to be disappointed that the 007SH likely won't be coming stateside anytime soon. It leaves me curious, readers. Even though this bad boy has a decent spec sheet, would any of you consider buying it if it came stateside? Or does the phone have to have top notch specs and a not-too-different form factor before you will even consider it? Will we see more clamshell smartphones in the future, or is this the last of a dying breed?

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