Taking cues from Chromecast, Sharp turns TVs into art displays

One of the features Sharp had on display at its CES booth looked vaguely familiar: Sharp’s 2015 TVs automatically display a series of works of art and great-looking photos when not in use, which the company is calling “wallpaper mode.”

Sharp has teamed up with cloud art provider ArtKick for this, which gives it access to thousands of classic and contemporary art pieces and photographs that are accessed directly from the cloud. Users can also add their own photos via USB, and a Sharp spokesperson at the booth told me that it only eats up around 40 watts on a typical 4K TV.


Google’s Chromecast streaming stick has of course used similar wallpapers for its Backdrop feature for some time. Sharp’s spokesperson told me that the company actually began to include a small number of photos in its 2014 TVs, and called it “the greatest feature that no one ever talks about.” Instead of leaving a giant black hole in the living room when the TV is not in use, it actually turns it into a great-looking picture frame.

Sharp announced at CES that it is using Google’s Android TV system for some of its new TVs, but the wallpaper mode feature is being included with all models. ArtKick has been around for some time, pitching its product to consumers with Chromecast streaming sticks and Roku boxes, but this appears to be the first time that the company has struck a direct partnership with a TV manufacturer.


Sharp’s 4K smartphone screens are going to be great for virtual reality

Sharp is working on a screen with a 2560 x 1600 resolution in a 4.1-inch LCD panel, which would work out to an eye-popping 736 pixels per inch. The new screens may not significantly improve your smartphone experience, but the extra pixels could end up being essential for immersive virtual reality.

Sharp’s nearly bezel-free smartphone is a great value if you’re on Sprint


The Sharp Aquos smartphone with those oh-so-skinny bezels announced earlier this week in Japan is officially coming to the United States, and no surprise, it’s headed exclusively to Sprint and its prepaid subsidiaries, Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile. But what is a bit of a surprise is how attractively priced it is: At $240 without a contract, it represents a strong challenge to the Moto G LTE for the mid-range Android crown. It’s even cheaper on Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, checking in at $150 when purchased locked from Sprint’s prepaid MVNOs. There isn’t an official release date yet, but it should be available later this fall.

Apple reportedly buying the display division of Japanese chip firm

Apple appears to be continuing on its path to ever more vertical integration as Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported that the consumer electronics giant is in talks with Japan’s Renesas Electronics to take over a unit that supplies all of Apple’s iPhone liquid crystal displays. Displays aren’t only the “face” of the phone, they are also the largest consumer of battery power. With such IP in-house, I’m sure Apple’s engineers can not only create a reliable supply of these components, but also improve the most important customer-facing aspect of a phone or tablet. Apple is reportedly seeking to buy a 55 percent stake of Renesas SP Drivers, a joint venture Renesas has with Sharp and Powerchip.

Home solar leasing business shines for SunPower

SunPower is signing up residential solar leases at a nice pace in the U.S. while seeing a good demand for its highly efficient solar panels in Japan’s residential market. The company is still posting losses, though it’s doing better than in previous quarters.

A power conversion startup buddies up with Japan’s electronics giants

A startup that makes more efficient power conversion devices has raised money from, and partnered with, a group of Japanese electronics giants. Transphorm is a venture-backed startup and its move is a symbol of the growing importance of corporate partners as well as overseas investors in cleantech.