Japan has a lot of mobile users that aren't quite ready to make the move up to a smartphone — many see the touch controls as intimidating or difficult to use. As such, there's still a market for certain form factors that are all-but-dead in other parts of the world. Sharp has capitalized on this before with its Aquos Phone The Hybrid series of Android clamshells and sliders on SoftBank, and it's unveiled a similar product today as part of KDDI / au's summer 2012 lineup.
The Aquos Phone SL IS15SH is a portrait-orientation slider with a 3.7-inch qHD LCD screen, a 1.4GHz Snapdragon S2 processor, and an 8-megapixel camera, along with standard issue Japanese features like water and dust resistance, infrared, and 1seg TV. It's 14.9mm thick due to the slide-out keypad, and while it does feel a little plasticky there's a satisfying snap to the sliding action. The SL runs Android 4.0, and the skin is pretty similar to the excellent implementation we saw on the Aquos Phone 104SH's, though KDDI hasn't been able to resist including more of its own software. There are some tiny on-screen buttons for use when the phone is closed, but you can access some of the same functionality with hardware buttons in the open position.
Overall it's a device we could see quite a few people buying as their first smartphone here — while it's not particularly flashy or powerful, the software is good and the form factor is versatile. It probably goes without saying that we won't ever see it overseas, but for those of you in Japan it'll be out in July in pink, teal, and a shade of purple so dark it almost counts as black.