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Review: Sanyo M1 multimedia flip phone By Philip Berne, Friday 8 December 2006  E-mail story  Print story 
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Sanyo's new clamshell stresses substance over style with 1GB internal memory and dedicated music buttons. Is the extra heft worth its weight?

Design

The Sanyo M1 resembles a Jeep more than a cell phone. It has a large blocky shell with a circular music control button on its face, like a round Jeep headlight, and the hinge sticks out when the clamshell is open. The M1 is narrow but disconcertingly thick, and when we first opened it we wondered how such a large phone could have buttons that seem so small. The phone's various ports -- for AC power, headphones, and a data cable -- are protected by rubber covers that you peel open, and though this is probably safer for the phone, trying to flick them open was an annoying process.

Calling - Very good

The Sanyo M1 makes calls that sound good, clean and accurate with no static and little trouble from background noise, although breathing sounds were a bit of an issue due to a microphone that faced our mouth. Reception also could have been better; we got three bars on the Sanyo M1 while our Palm Treo 700p got four on the same network. Also, the phone has a strange bug: if it's set to vibrate and you plug it in to charge, it switches to silent mode instead of turning the ringer on (as do most other phones). Hopefully Sanyo will fix this in a firmware update. The phone features a dedicated speakerphone button, which is a nice touch, as well as all our favorite amenities, such as Bluetooth, three-way calling, and voice tagging (although not speaker-independent voice dialing). The address book holds a suitable number of fields, including e-mail and URL fields. Your contact list can also be backed up to Sprint's servers thanks to a subscription backup plan. In our tests of battery life, we got about three hours, 20 minutes of talk time, which is about a half hour less than Sanyo claims.

Messaging - Very good

Messaging on the M1 is a pleasant affair, thanks to the phone's nicely raised, easy-to-find keys. The navigational keys were a bit of a jumble (why does the phone need two camera buttons?), but typing was comfortable. With different available font sizes, the phone displayed hundreds of characters on screen for incoming messages, and the text was among the smallest we've seen on any phone, but still quite legible. On outgoing messages, more than 160 characters were viewable at once. The phone has built-in access to AOL, MSN, and Yahoo for both instant messaging and e-mail, as well as Sprint's PCS mail. MMS messaging and voice SMS messages are also supported.

Camera - Good

Almost every camera we've tested on a mobile phones has been disappointing, and the Sanyo M1 -- which excels at almost all other functions -- is no different. Indeed, the snapshots we took using the phone's 2-megapixel looked fuzzy and cold. Videos from the camcorder were better, but still showed a great deal of pixilation and noise. The phone has a plethora of editing options, including cropping, fun frames and color effects. Also, it is easy to send your (lousy) images to your computer via Bluetooth or USB, to friends via MMS or e-mail, or even to a printer via PictBridge.

Video - Good

Though the content offering on Sprint's Power Vision network is excellent, streaming speeds to the M1 were not as good as we've seen recently on other phones, such as Samsung's SPH-M610. The Sanyo M1 did display videos full screen, in either portrait or landscape modes, a feature that's lacking in the M610 (and in most other Sprint Power Vision phones, for that matter). Initial buffering speeds were fine, usually about five seconds to start a video, but videos sometimes became blocky or stuttered. Our Bluetooth stereo headphones worked with the M1's audio player but not with streaming audio or video. Also, video content was poorly organized, with the same content found in multiple locations, and sometimes within multiple player applications. Sprint needs to do a better job organizing and consolidating its Power Vision content.

Music - Very Good

The Sanyo M1 skips the memory card slot and instead packs its own 1GB of internal memory, a choice we appreciated not only because it's a money saver, but also because we found sideloading speeds to be quicker on the M1 than we've seen on other music phones (we loaded more than 900MB of music in 15 minutes). The dedicated music buttons on the front clamshell were occasionally unresponsive; usually we had to open the phone to get things started, but the four-way design allowed us to navigate playlists while the phone was closed, which we liked. The bare-bones player interface worked well, with responsive fast forward and rewind controls, and literally hundreds of thousands of tunes are available for download from the Sprint Music Store. Our only real complaint is that you can't use your own tracks as ringtones, only ringtones you've purchased from Sprint (natch).

Web browsing - Very good

The phone managed to load the complicated The New York Times home page in its entirety – which is unusual for a non-smartphone -- but the layout was a mess. The masthead of the Grey Lady's Web site was shrunk to minute proportions, and links tended to overlap each other. The phone was unable to load our own InfoSync World site. Navigating pages was also a chore, as the phone will only display one-column layouts, so long pages required plenty of click-scrolling.

Accessories

Bucking the trend of Verizon and Cingular phones, the Sanyo M1 comes with every accessory you need to access all the phone's features, including a USB cable, stereo headphones and a headphone adapter that allows you to plug in your own 3.5mm headphones. Also, unlike slimmer phones from Samsung, the headphones and charger don't share the same spot, so you can watch video to your heart's content without disturbing your neighbors. The phone also features GPS by subscription through Garmin's mobile program.

Related phones: Entertainment clamshells on Sprint

Samsung SPH-M610
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Samsung SPH-M610

Score: 82% When: November 2006 Worth: $150 - $330

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This wafer-thin clamshell features stereo Bluetooth, a 2-megapixel camera and access to Sprint's Music Store and TV services. Does the M610 belong in your pocket? More...
Motorola MOTOKRZR K1m
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Motorola MOTOKRZR K1m

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Pros:

1GB internal memory. Very good audio player. Loads of streaming video content. All the accessories you need. Great call quality.
Cons:

Ugly as a brick. Navigation keys are cluttered. Camera is disappointing. No stereo Bluetooth support for streaming media.
Conclusion:
The Sanyo M1 may not be as flashy or thin as, say, the Motorola KRZR K1m or the Samsung SPH-M610, and your friends won't crowd around when you take it our of your pocket. But what it lacks in style it makes up for in substance. The phone handles audio very well, video better than most, and, most importantly, boasts excellent call quality. Sanyo has been very thoughtful packing in all the accessories you need (seriously, Verizon Wireless, pay attention), as well as 1GB of memory, which was more than enough for days worth of tunes. While slimmer phones like the Samsung Trace are for taking to a party, this is a phone you can settle down with.
79%
Very good


Price and availability

The Sanyo M1 is available immediately from Sprint and retails for $350 or $200 after a two-year service contract.

 
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