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Panasonic GU87 (AT&T) review: Panasonic GU87 (AT&T)

Panasonic GU87 (AT&T)

Joni Blecher
4 min read
Editors' note:
If you live in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, or Chicago and use this phone with AT&T Wireless service, the company invites you to trade in your phone for one of these four newer models: the Sony Ericsson T226, the Nokia 3100, the Nokia 3200, or the Siemens C56. This does not mean that your existing phone will stop working or even have a decrease in service. The four models offered work on AT&T's expanded GSM 850 frequency in those locales, which means a wider coverage area for you.

With its matte-silver casing and external LCD, the Panasonic GU87 is sleek and stylish. While it has a slim, 0.9-inch profile and is relatively lightweight (3.6 ounces), it's one of the longer flip phones out there; some users may find it uncomfortable to talk on a mobile of this length.


Panasonic GU87 (AT&T)

The Good

Large, vibrant color display; built-in camera; infrared port; solid battery life; world phone; MMS; speakerphone.

The Bad

Hit-or-miss call quality; no side volume control; speaker's sweet spot can be hard to find.

The Bottom Line

AT&T's first phone with an integrated camera has its share of high-end features but loses points on usability.

Panasonic's first flip phone--and the first camera phone--for AT&T Wireless service has a lot going for it, not just snapshooting capabilities. Its large, vibrant color display, its world-roaming capabilities, and its built-in speakerphone provide the backbone for a solid, feature-rich mobile. But at $300 with new service, the GU87 isn't the most affordable camera phone available. Will it hold its luster once other camera phones fill out AT&T's lineup?
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Large load: The GU87 is one of the bigger flip phones available.

Ergonomics aside, the GU87's internal eight-line, 65,536-color display is one of the more impressive screens we've seen to date on a flip phone. However, Panasonic should have made the phone's earpiece bigger; we found ourselves having to reposition the unit to hit the listening sweet spot.

To navigate the GU87's menu, you get a four-way rocker key; in the middle of it sits an unmarked OK button that lets you select the features. You use the surrounding buttons to maneuver through the menu, as well as to send and end calls. While the backlit keypad is large and tactile, we wish there were an easy-access control for the camera to complement the quick-launch mMode button for accessing AT&T's wireless Web service. It's true that you can program a key to activate the camera, but it's not the same. We would have also appreciated controls on the side of the phone to adjust volume level during calls.

As with many other camera phones, you can snap pictures using the large internal display as your viewfinder. You can also close the phone, point it in the direction of your subject, and press the shutter-release button positioned just beneath the external LCD.

The GU87 has enough high-end features to satisfy even the heaviest power users. Highlights include 20 ring tones, a vibrate mode, caller ID, call logs, an alarm, a game (Herding Sheep), a calendar, voice commands, a calculator, a money converter, a Mute button, and a built-in speakerphone. You can also record four 14-second memos and forward incoming calls to another number. In addition, you can store 200 contacts in the phone book, as well as another 250 names and numbers on the SIM card. Not surprisingly, you can use this Panasonic to send and receive SMS, e-mail, and MMS messages.

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The camera lens is positioned just above the phone's external LCD.

As noted, one of the GU87's major selling points is the built-in 1.1-pixel 2X zoom camera, with which you can take pictures at four levels: JPEG Fine, JPEG Normal, JPEG Economy, and PNG. You can then save approximately 100 photos--or as many images as will fit--in the phone's 1MB of memory. You'll also find a self-timer; sepia-tone, monochrome, and negative effects; brightness adjustments; frames for your pictures; and the ability to add 10-second voice notes to images.

Although Panasonic buries it in the menu, like the Sanyo SCP-5300, the GU87 has a self-portrait mode that you can use to snap shots of yourself. You can also save images as wallpaper or take advantage of the photo caller-ID feature and associate pictures with names in the phone book. If you're running out of subjects in your own life, you can always download graphics, pictures, and polyphonic sounds to the phone.

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Bright pics: Image quality isn't stellar on any of these camera phones, but the GU87 takes better photos than most.

Once your photos are stored on the phone, there are multiple ways to share them. The no-cost option is to send them via IR to another IR-equipped device--a feature that is missing on the Samsung SGH-V205. In our tests, we successfully beamed images to a Palm Tungsten T2 and an IBM ThinkPad. Unless you have an mMode plan, sending an image to an e-mail address or another AT&T MMS-ready mobile will cost you 40 cents each time. Keep in mind that capturing and delivering high-quality images is not the goal of this type of phone. In fact, the images are mediocre at best and not suitable for printing.

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Power phone: This mobile has impressive talk time.

In the performance department, the trimode (GSM 900/800/1900) world phone delivered mixed results. We tested the phone in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area; when we were able to get a strong signal, call quality was excellent. Unfortunately, that wasn't as often as we would have liked, and depending on our location, callers said they could barely hear us. Additionally, our conversations often cut out. On the plus side, the speakerphone worked well, and callers sounded clear.

The phone fared better in battery-life testing. Using the included cell, we managed to clock an impressive 4 hours, 19 minutes of talk time, which falls right in the middle of Panasonic's claimed rates of 1.6 to 7 hours. Meanwhile, in standby testing, we got 90 hours, which is on the lower end of the company's rated span of 75 to 220 hours. It's worth noting, however, that taking and uploading a lot of pictures will drain your battery more quickly.


Panasonic GU87 (AT&T)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 8
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