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This Japanese phone shows us what a network exclusive device should be like

Japanese carrier KDDI has announced a new, exclusive smartphone called the Infobar A03, and it’s the latest in a line of custom smartphones designed and sold by the network. Often, network exclusive phones are low-spec, bland, or uninspired repaints made to cash-in on an event. That’s not the case with the A03.

First, it looks great. The curvy body is made from anodized aluminum and comes if four different color combinations, including a soft pink Sakura Iro version ready for spring. Unusually, the standard Android keys under the screen have their functions written on them, instead of using symbols, and are individually colored in contrasting shades. Swipe a finger across all three, and the phone comes out of sleep mode.

Android 4.4 KitKat is installed, with KDDI’s own unique Iida UI over the top, which has been created by award-winning Japanese designer Yugo Nakamura. The phone is a collaborative effort between several big names in Japanese design, and various cool, minimalist accessories are also sold to complement the phone’s look. These include a desktop stand included in the box, plus matching leather folio cases, stylus, some crazy cases, and even similarly styled bags.

The A03 is surprisingly compact for a modern smartphone. The screen measures 4.5-inches and has a 1080p resolution, it weighs 130 grams, and measures 8.9mm thick. The processor is a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 with 2GB of RAM, there’s a 13-megapixel camera on the rear, plus the phone is IPX5 and IPX8 water and dust resistant. The UI is very different to standard Android, and places key information on a vertically scrolling homescreen, in a way reminiscent of Nokia’s X-series phones. Just with oodles of style.

KDDI will put the Infobar A03 on sale in February, and it will almost certainly remain exclusive to Japan. Networks elsewhere in the world take note, this is how you’ll persuade us to buy one of your own-brand smartphones.