Mixed reality experiences continue to play their roles in helping us understand concepts, tell stories, market products, or in just letting us hang out with a virtual Pomeranian for a hot second. For Android phones, that means having Google certify that your phone supports its ARCore APIs. We've got our first batch of new supported devices for 2021 right here.
Now that more people are staying at home these days, augmented reality has the potential to become even more important. AR may not be as novel as it once was, but that doesn't mean Google isn't continually expanding its ARCore SDK to more devices to enable them to seamlessly access AR experiences like its virtual zoo.
There are a lot of fun 3D objects like skeletons, cars, planets, and animals you can view in Google Search, which might be perfect to pass the time while you and your kids are stuck at home. The underlying technology enabling this is called Google Play Services for AR, formerly known as ARCore. It's an engine that powers most games and applications on Android that use augmented reality effects. However, since the framework has to be tuned for each device, Google has to periodically update Play Services to support new phones and tablets.
Sharp has been making strides in the bezel-elimination race for years. In 2014, it released the Aquos Crystal, which had practically no bezels at all on three sides of the display (and a huge one on the fourth). Then, in August 2017, the company beat Apple and even Essential to the punch with the first commercially available notched-display smartphone. Now, Sharp is continuing to try new things with the Aquos R2 Compact, which has not one, but two display cutouts.
If there ever was a market that could do with more competition, it's the OLED smartphone display industry. Samsung has long ruled the roost with its organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, with LG and Sony several paces behind. There are other, less visible players in the market, of course, but overall it's a relatively small group, considering the panels are now a hallmark of premium handsets. A new competitor has entered the market as of today, however. Japan's Sharp has announced that it will offer OLED panels in its new smartphones this year starting with the AQUOS Zero, and also plans to sell displays to other manufacturers.
The year 2017 will go down in history for being the beginning of the end for bezels. Who needs 'em anyway? Samsung, LG, Apple, and others are doing everything possible to get rid of all that unused space on the front of their phones, but Sharp has been tinkering with the bezel-free approach for some time. Remember the Aquos Crystal from a few years ago? Now, Sharp has unveiled the Aquos S2, which bears a striking resemblance to the Essential Phone.
Sharp hasn't sold phones in North America for a while, but the company is still working on some very interesting devices. Back in 2014, it released the Aquos Crystal, one of the first "bezel-less" phones to hit the market (I use that term loosely, because it had a massive bottom bezel). Now it appears to be working on two similar phones, the Sharp Aquos S1 and S2.
Over in Japan, Sharp has taken the wraps off of its newest flagship. Dubbed the Aquos R, it features some top-tier specs with a lot of hype around the display technology and included artificial intelligence. The choice of the letter 'R' has a four-fold meaning around which the phone's marketing will be unified: Reality, Response, Reliability, and Robotics.
Android One isn't Google's most-loved product initiative, but it does proposition consumers with a deal they aren't getting anywhere this side of a Nexus: updates direct from Google and minimal bloatware. Android One has predominantly launched in Southeast Asia and a few other locations - such as Turkey - but has remained firmly out of tier-one economies to date. Today's announcement by Google, Sharp, and Y! Mobile, then, is quite interesting.