SoftBank and US subsidiary Sprint have inked a deal that will see Japanese vendor Sharp developing ‘low-cost smartphones’ on an exclusive basis.

The device, to be called Aquos Crystal, is notable due to its extremely thin bezel. Speculation suggests it will have a 5-inch 720p screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, and LTE support.

It will be available from 29 August in Japan, and is ‘expected to be released’ in the US.

And a 5.5-inch screen phablet sibling is also anticipated before the end of the year, gaining a full-HD (1080p) display.

While Sharp has previously held a dominant position in the Japanese device market, it has found its share diminish with the transition to smartphones, which has paved the way for international rivals such as Apple and Samsung.

But as overseas companies have increased their presence in Japan, Sharp has been unable to extend its own influence overseas. In 2011 it announced a deal to offer a device developed with NTT Docomo for the Japanese market via Orange in Europe, but this did not mark the start of a Euro ramp-up for the vendor.

Aside from its work with operators in Japan, Sharp has previously worked closely with international operators to boost its credentials. The company’s GX10 was the flagship for Vodafone’s launch of its Vodafone Live! mobile internet service in 2004, and Sharp subsequently formed a central part of Vodafone’s 3G rollout.