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Sprint PCS Sanyo VM 4500 Video Phone Review
Posted: 22-Jun-2004 [Source: Mobile Tech News]

[Mobile Tech News takes a look at the Sanyo VM4500 featuring the ability to record, play and send 15-second video clips as well as push-to-talk functionality using the Sprint PCS Ready Link service.]

By Jean Panke, Mobile Tech News -- On the surface there isn't a huge difference between the three video phones available through Sprint PCS. All are approximately the same size, clamshell, dual TFT LCD screens and offer 15 second video-clip functionality. However, underneath the clamshells lie some interesting differences.

Mobile Tech News hasn't had its hands on a Sanyo for a while, so we were curious how the Sanyo VM4500 stacked up against the Samsung VMA680 previously reviewed by Mobile Tech News. The sleek midnight blue color of the VM4500 we previewed was a nice change from all the silver handsets we've been seeing lately. The small clamshell design weighs in at 3.85 ounces and measures 3.60"x1.85"x1.07". The external TFT LCD display measures 1" and sits below the LED/flash and speaker on the front cover. This display identifies callers via Photo Caller ID or can be used as a viewfinder when taking a self-portrait. There is a side call key for placing calls without opening the phone and a side camera key for displaying the Picture & Video menu and to take pictures and videos. A side volume key lets you adjust the volume during a call or the ringer volume in standby mode. There is also an extendable antenna.

Opening the handset exposes the main 2.1-inch, 65,526-solor TFT LCD display. The keypad consists of a main navigation key for navigating through the menu options. The right arrow for Contacts, the left arrow accesses My Shortcut, the up arrow for Messaging, and the down arrow for Downloads. In the center of the navigation key is the standard Menu/OK button for selecting menu options. To the left of the Navigation Key are the Softkey and the Camera Key. To the right of the Navigation Key are the right Softkey and the Back Key. The Softkeys allow you to select the menu corresponding to the bottom right or left line on the Main LCD. The next row of buttons includes Talk, Speaker Key and the End/Power. Below sits the Keypad, so all in all, a fairly standard button arrangement.

So, what's unique about this video handset? The VM4500 offers Sprint PCS ReadyLink service capability. Ready Link is the Sprint PCS push-to-talk, walkie-talkie communication feature. You can call one or up to five others on the same call to any other PCS Ready Link user anywhere on the Sprint Nationwide PCS Network. Pressing the Ready Link key on the side of the handset brings up your Ready Link contact list. You can scroll to highlight your chosen contact whether it's a new entry, company list or groups, personal list or personal group, outgoing calls, incoming calls, or missed call. Scroll to highlight the contact or group you want to call and press and hold the Ready Link key to place the call and get the floor. You will see R-Link calling...and Connecting... followed by "You have floor." You can now begin speaking or press and release the Ready Link key to place the call. The call will connect as described above, but "Floor is open" will appear on the display and either you or your contact may press and hold the Ready Link key to take the floor and speak. During a Ready Link call, the "floor" is the right to speak. When you see "Floor is open,." the first person to pres the Ready Link button can speak while holding the button. Only the person who has the floor can speak. The phone beeps if you press the Ready Link button when another contact has the floor. When the other party takes the floor, you will see the speaker's name and phone number and the text "has floor." When the call is finished, press END to end the call. When you receive a Ready Link call, you will hear an incoming special ringtone and see R-Link Call and the caller's name and number on the screen. At this point you don't have to do anything to answer the call. You will see the message "has floor." and hear the caller speaking. When the caller finishes speaking and releases their Ready Link button, you will see "Floor is open." on your display. Press and hold the Ready Link key to take the floor and reply. You will see "You have floor." and hear a tone confirming that you may speak. When the call is finished, press END to end the call. When neither party has the floor during a Ready Link call, "Floor is open." appears on the display. If no one takes the floor for 20 seconds, the Ready Link call will end automatically.

Voice functionality: I've been using this handset for two weeks and continue to be impressed with the sound quality. It is crisp and clean even in marginal coverage areas. Call features include speed dial, call waiting, three-way calling, and voicemail. The speaker phone is oh so simple to turn on and off with its own key. There is also an option to select separate ringtones for roaming. Since the 5500 is tri-mode, you can either choose to stay solely within the PCS network, search automatically for alternative wireless networks when PCS Service is unavailable, or search for an analog roaming system. To correlate with this feature there is an option to change the ring tone and color of the LED so you can easily identify when you are receiving a roaming call. In addition, there is call guard to remind you when you are making or receiving a roaming call. This is a nice feature for those of us who like to get into the back country but still have cell phone coverage (of course, you have to be willing to pay some hefty roaming charges).

Camera functionality: Camera menu includes flash, self-timer, fun tools, image controls camera settings, self portrait, go to my pics and go to camcorder. You can send just the photo, or photo and 10 second voice tag, or photo, voice tag and text message. The 15 fun frames available with this handset are truly fun! With the option of easily taking a "self portrait" you can put yourself in lots of funny frames and send your photo off to give someone a smile or a laugh. Overall photo quality is great. The flash allowed pictures taken in almost totally dark rooms to be surprisingly viewable. In reasonably good light, the flash seemed to have little impact on picture quality. The VGA resolution is 640 x 480 and up to 31 Fine quality VGA photos can be stored in internal memory. The overall sound recording and playback is great!

Video functionality: After being pleasantly surprised with the camera functionality, I was ready to move on and see what the video performance was like. First, when Camcorder is selected, the recording space is bordered by what looks like the edges of film negative--kind of retro, kind of cool. Below that is a recording timer so you can keep track of your video and complete your shooting sequence in the 15 seconds allotted. Camcorder menu includes videolight, self-timer, image controls, camcorder settings, self-portrait, go to my video and go to camera. I ran a few tests comparing shooting the same video sequence with flash on or off. In a fairly dark room, as you would expect, the flash video was much improved. However, both had a grainy blue line running vertically throughout the video making for poor viewing. End result, the flash improves quality but the end product is still poor. If your application needs find you using your video option frequently in low light, the movie light at least makes this type of video functionality usable but not enjoyable for viewing. The handset can store 33 Normal quality 15-second video clips. The video resolution is 96 x 128 pixels. Added features include a built-in answering machine that allows users to screen calls or to answer anytime while the caller is leaving a message. The VM4500 features a WAP 2.0 browser/Java (J2ME) and has programmable reminders for holidays, birthdays or other significant dates. It has an event calendar, to-do list, and call alarm. Battery life offer 3.25 hours of digital talk time.

Bottom line is there aren't a lot of major differences between the Samsung VM-A680 and the Sanyo VM4500. The Sanyo has a somewhat larger main display, but the overall color quality, ease of navigation, sending text messages, etc. was fairly equal. However, the Sanyo VM4500 sets itself apart by including PTT functionality via the Sprint PCS Ready Link service. Picture quality, recording, viewing and sending were all fairly comparable. They both offer fun frames and ways to personalize your photos. The Samsung does offer more variety in the picture taking category by way of effects and the capability of using a personal video as a screen saver.

The Sanyo VM4500 scores its highest points for audio clarity, speakerphone performance and audio enjoyment when playing back videos. It has a clean ergonomic design, a clutterfree face and fairly intuitive functionality. Overall a great video camera handset.

The PCS Phone by Sanyo VM4500 is available nationwide in Sprint Stores, RadioShack and Best Buy, or online at at a suggested retail price of $379.99 with special rebate offers depending on the service agreement.

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