At the moment the arms race in mobile phone cameras is all about the number of them, with two, three, or four rear lenses and sensors being commonplace. Sharp is bucking that trend with the Aquos R6, which features just one massive rear camera bump. It's a 20.2 megapixel sensor with a massive surface area of one square inch, f/1.9 lens made by Leica, and it's paired to a phone that's no slouch in other departments, either.
But focusing (sorry) on that camera: it's about five times the physical size of a standard mobile sensor, with seven different elements in the Summicron lens creating 1/10th the distortion of a conventional design. While there's no zoom feature, its combination of a huge physical sensor and high resolution means cropping should be acceptable for most standard shots, and the low depth-of-field can achieve true bokeh backgrounds without resorting to processing tricks. To the right of the main aperture is an LED flash and a time-of-flight sensor.
There have been a few other phones with sensors this large: Samsung's Galaxy K Zoom and its predecessor were essentially point-and-shoot cameras with a phone on the back, boasting a 20.7MP camera complete with a zoom lens. And Nokia briefly flirted with incredible cameras back in its Windows Phone days, notably the Lumia 1020, with an unbeatable (at the time) 64MP rear shooter. But both of those devices are the better part of a decade old, and failed to take hold in the market. While it's premature to make predictions for a phone that's just launched, on paper, the Aquos R6 would appear to be the single-lens champion of the current smartphone world.
The rest of the phone is impressive too. It's packing the latest Snapdragon 888 processor, a massive 6.6-inch OLED screen with 240Hz refresh rate, a 5000mAh battery, 12GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage plus a MicroSD card slot. The phone uses an under-display fingerprint reader, Android 11, and an IP68 water resistance rating. The Aquos R6's front-facing camera is an impressive 12.6MP, in a Samsung-style centered cutout. And surprisingly, it manages to include space for a headphone jack and a dedicated Google Assistant button.
Sadly, Sharp has withdrawn from most international mobile markets, focusing its efforts on its home territory. The Aquos R6 is going on sale at Docomo and SoftBank carriers in Japan starting tomorrow. Pricing is unknown, but expect it to be intimidating, at least the equivalent of $1000+. It's exceedingly unlikely that the Aquos R6 will be released outside of Japan, but we can hope that it spurs competition from other manufacturers.