At first glance, the Sanyo VI-2300 is nothing special. Its cheap-looking exterior plastic case, its pedestrian industrial styling, and its old-school exterior display don't exactly grab the eye. But with a little patience, you'll see that the Ready Link walkie-talkie service and the excellent speakerphone make this Sprint PCS flip phone one of the great bargains in cell phone land, especially if you need to arm a group of people such as your family or workforce with functional but inexpensive phones. And in case you are buying a few models at once, the VI-2300 comes in six different colors for easy personalization. It's relatively cheap, too, at $189 (or less with service), but we could have done without the shrill voice quality. No one who sees you wielding the Sanyo VI-2300 will gush over its looks or your tech aesthetics. A large speaker dominates the front flap, much of the cover is a flimsy plastic, and the monochrome external display (which shows the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID) is so tiny that it's barely visible. It's not the slimmest phone either, at 3.34 by 1.85 by 1.05 inches and 3.6 ounces. While mostly unremarkable in appearance, it is available in six bright colors: Silver, Deep Forest Green, Satin Red, Graphite, Blue Ice, and Champagne Rose (we reviewed the Blue Ice version); you can avoid the traditional cell phone silver if you wish. The antenna is extendable, but be careful: its construction is not solid.
Open up the VI-2300, and things get a little better. The square display (1.13 inches diagonally) supports 65,536 colors but is not especially bright, even though it employs STN (supertwist) technology that is supposed to improve contrast. We especially noticed a difference between the VI-2300's display and the more vivid one on Sanyo's higher-end. You can change the backlighting time and contrast, and while you can also alter the font size, users with vision impairments should take a closer look before buying.
A clean and functional layout includes de rigueur clear-plastic navigation and dial-pad keys that are relatively large and well spaced; however, they're flush with the phone's surface, making operation by feel difficult. Though not exactly haute couture, the lime-green keypad backlighting is bright enough to ease dialing in the dark. Your contacts, the messaging menu, the downloads list, and a user-definable list of menu shortcuts are all instantly accessible from the five-way circular navigation toggle, and there are direct Web, speakerphone, and dedicated Back keys above the dial pad. Other navigation controls consist of two soft keys and a Back button.
The exterior Ready Link push-to-talk and volume-toggle buttons are the same color as the body and nearly flush with the left spine, making them tough to spot and access. The phone lacks the usual exterior speakerphone button found on most Ready Link models but includes a 2.5mm earphone jack.