Sanyo is no stranger to rugged phones, so we weren't surprised when it announced its durable Taho for Sprint. We're still unsure exactly how to pronounce it--is it Tay-ho or Tah-ho?--but the handset offers a serviceable feature set in a design that truly can take some punches. It's not pretty by a long shot, but beauty isn't the point here. Call quality is fine and it's quite affordable at just $99 if you buy it online and sign a new two-year contract.
In an era where slim and sexy dominate cell phone design, the Taho stands tall and proud as a bulky phone with extra padding. It sports a touch plastic skin with extra rubber padding around the edges. The latter gives the phone a firm grip in the hand and ensures that it's certified to military specifications for dust, shock, vibration, extreme temperatures, blowing rain, and a 30-minute dunking in 3.28 feet (1 meter) of water. We subjected it to a bit of torture--put it under a running faucet, submerged it in a vase, and threw it on a concrete floor--but weren't able to make a dent.
At 4 inches long by 2 inches wide by 0.9 inch deep, the Taho is a bulky and heavy (4.7 ounces) device, but that's the price you pay for a tough build. With its large speaker, black and silver face, and small monochrome display, the Taho has a no-frills, industrial feel. Though far from stylish, we think it offers a cool retro appeal. The display shows the time, battery life, and signal strength; a thin light below the screens flashes when you're receiving a call.
The Taho's hinge is as sturdy as its shell. You can open and close the flap with one hand, but it snaps firmly into place on either end. Inside you'll find the main display, which measures 2 inches and supports 262,000 colors (320x240 pixels). Though it's smaller than we'd like, the resolution befits a phone of this class. Photos and graphics show up well, and the menu system is easy to use and straightforward.
The navigation array has one of the best designs we've seen in a while. All keys are raised, there's plenty of space between them, and the OK button in the center of the circular toggle has a textured finish. Besides the toggle, which doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined features, you'll find a camera shutter, a Back key, the Talk and End/power controls, and a speakerphone shortcut.
The raised keypad buttons also have a great design. They're spaced far apart so we never had any misdials and we appreciated their rubbery feel. The numbers and letters on the keys are quite large, so we'd recommend the Taho for people with visual impairments.
On the right spine you'll find a voice control shortcut, a volume rocker, and a Micro-USB charger port. The 2.5mm headset jack sits by itself on the right spine, and the camera lens is around back next to the flash. Fortunately, a raised metal border surrounds the camera lens and protects it from any bumps when the phone is resting on a surface. The battery cover is locked securely to protect the battery from any water intrusion, but it's not a problem to remove it. As with most water-resistant phones, you'll need to get under the battery to access the microSD card slot.
Though the exterior of the Taho is unique, its insides are fairly ordinary. Indeed, you'll find a standard midrange set that's functional, if not flashy. The phone book holds 600 contacts with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, an e-mail address, a URL, a street address, a birthday, a job title and company name, and notes. As always, you can organize contacts into groups and pair them with a photo and one of 37 polyphonic ringtones.
Basic features are just what you'd expect; you'll find text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a calculator, a voice memo recorder, a countdown timer, a speakerphone, a stopwatch, and a world clock. Higher up in the feature chain, there's stereo Bluetooth, GPS, speaker-independent voice dialing, an airplane mode, limited parental controls, and PC syncing.