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Sharp introducing new 'Feel UX' UI for Android devices this summer

Japanese phone maker Sharp is doing its best to stand out in the Android crowd, today announcing that it will release a new smartphone user interface all its own.

In partnership with global design firm Frog, Sharp is developing Feel UX, a custom UI that will be rolled out gradually, beginning this summer in the Japanese market with the upcoming Aquos smartphones, the company said in a press release.

Feel UX users will be greeted with a Welcome Sheet lock screen, where the main shortcut icons, date, time, and battery life information are laid out against a black matte, without overlapping the wallpaper photo. Feel UX allows users to launch the phone, email, or camera functions directly from the lock screen, as well as check missed calls or get real-time updates on weather and stock prices.

"By simplifying the interaction model and reducing clutter through a more curated experience, it will be immediately apparent to customers how to use the phones and make them more personal," Paul Pugh, vice president of creative and software innovation at Frog, said in a statement.

The streamlined, three-page home screen is more in line with Apple's iPhone interface than most Android options, featuring icons and shortcuts lined up in three columns, with a center calendar-and-clock widget sheet. Sharp is focusing on the app launcher instead of the typical multi-screen layout, leaving less room for users to drop their favorite apps on a home screen, but integrating shortcuts to contacts and actions like tweeting.

A number of smartphones now come equipped with a different UI on top of the built-in Android version, including handsets from Sharp rivals Sony, HTC, and Samsung.

"Through our collaboration with Frog, we have adopted an advanced approach to Android's concept, features, and philosophy, creating a distinctive device that will ultimately increase the life of the product and enhance customer satisfaction," Itsuki Kouchi, Sharp's division deputy general manager of the Global Product Development Center, said in a statement.

Sharp said it is "exploring" the option of releasing Feel UX in international markets, as well.