Sprint PCS has always done well with its line of Sanyo phones, and the VM4500 (Sanyo SCP-5500) is no exception. It has its fair share of high-end features, including a built-in camera/video recorder with flash and an impressive speakerphone. But some will find the phone's large size off-putting. At $199 with service, it's not particularly overpriced, but it does face stiff competition from the current megapixel camera phones hitting the market. The first things you'll notice about the Sprint VM4500 are its navy blue hue (it is also available in silver) and its rather large size. At 3.6 by 1.8 by 1 inches and 3.8 ounces, this mobile is larger than many flip phones. That said, a large size does have its advantages: a well-spaced keypad, a spacious color display, and a comfortable feel when held against the face. While the phone fits in a pants pocket or a purse, it leaves a decidedly large bulge in a shirt pocket.
With the large speakerphone on the front flap, the VM4500 offers a design similar to that of its older sibling, the Sanyo , but it adds a built-in VGA camera (see Features) on the back of the phone. The postage-stamp-size external LCD screen is also taken from its predecessor. Supporting 65,000 colors, it displays network strength, battery life, time, caller ID info where available, and a picture of your caller if an image is associated with the caller's phone-book entry. Also on the front of the phone is a white, rectangle-shaped LED, which does triple duty as a camera flash, a video recorder light, and a blinking alert when you receive calls or messages. (Note: The light is user programmable.)
Open the handset and you'll see the VM4500's internal, 2.1-inch-diagonal, 65,000-color TFT display, which is the real eye-catcher. We particularly appreciated the animated yellow dog that sometimes appears on the screen, though it can be turned off. The Sanyo's list- or icon-based menu interface is easy to navigate via the phone's four-way navigation button and two dedicated menu-selection keys. Below the navigation button is a dedicated button that launches the speakerphone--a nice touch.
You can snap pictures using the large internal display as the image finder for the digital camera or flip the phone closed and use the small, 1-inch external display to frame a self-portrait. In a pinch, the latter also serves as a decent substitute for a mirror. On the side of the phone, there's a shutter-release button, a Push To Talk button that works with Sprint's Ready Link service, a headset jack, and two volume-control buttons, which can be used to scroll through the VM4500's menus. The Sprint VM4500 has its fair share of features. Highlights include a 300-name phone book that can store up to seven numbers and an e-mail address for each entry, a 200-contact phone book for Sprint PCS Ready Link service, voice-activated dialing, text messaging, a calendar, a world clock, a to-do list, a calculator, text and multimedia messaging for pictures and video, and wireless Web access via Sprint's 1xRTT next-generation network. There's also a speakerphone, which can be activated when placing a call or at any time during a call. You also get eight polyphonic (32-chord) ring tones and a vibrate mode.
The VM4500 is GPS ready, and as one of Sprint's PCS Vision mobiles, it supports Java (J2ME), so for a few dollars more, you can download screensavers, graphics, games, and applications. Additional ring tones are also available. Frequent fliers will appreciate that you can switch to a special Airplane mode that lets you play games without having the cell radio on
As noted, one of the VM4500's major selling points is the built-in VGA digital camera. You can take pictures in three resolutions (Low, Medium, and High--up to 640x480) and save as many images as will fit in the phone's 8MB of memory. At the lowest quality, there's room for up to 150 images. You'll also find a self-timer, color-tone and brightness controls, and the ability to add 10-second voice notes to images. As with most VGA camera phones, the photo quality is good for photo caller ID purposes or posting on the Web but not much more. The camera also does double duty as a video recorder. You can record 15-second videos with audio and send them as messages to other Sprint video-capable phones.
You can even upload the pictures to the Sprint PCS Web site and send the URL on the fly to a friend. If you opt to share your photos, be aware that unless you are e-mailing them to another Sprint PCS Vision mobile, the recipient will receive only a URL address where the pictures can be viewed. Although the phone will work with a separate USB cable to upload images directly from phone to computer, it lacks an IR port to wirelessly transfer images to other IR-enabled devices, such as a Palm or a Pocket PC. Overall, the dual-band, trimode (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) Sprint VM4500 performed quite respectably. We tested the handset in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles and found call quality to be exceptionally good and almost too loud. Callers said that they couldn't tell we were calling from a cell phone, and on our end, they sounded clear. Likewise, the speakerphone was phenomenal.
The mobile also did well in battery-life testing. Using the included battery, we managed to meet the 3.5 hours of talk time but fell a couple days short of the 10-day standby rating. Keep in mind, however, that taking and uploading a lot of pictures considerably drains battery life.