Though you may think push-to-talk usage is solely the domain of delivery drivers and construction workers, Sprint has other ideas. With the Samsung VI-A820 (SPH-A820), Sprint brings its Ready Link push-to-talk service to the masses. Clad in a simple cell phone form factor and eschewing pricey extras, the VI-A820 is ideal for families seeking multifunction connectivity in a user-friendly design. You still get useful extras such as a speakerphone and voice dialing, but the Samsung VI-A820 maintains a fair price of $199 (or cheaper with service). Just be advised that it's missing a camera--an omission that many users are likely to bemoan. The oval-shaped, silver-and-gray Samsung VI-A820 looks like your basic Sprint flip phone. That's not a bad thing, though: the simple shape and the rounded edges are pleasing to the eye. Measuring 3.56 by 1.88 by 1.06 inches, weighing 3.13 ounces, and lacking an external antenna, it's not exactly the , but it's still thin and compact enough to fit in a tight jean pocket. Tech geeks might be turned off by the passé postage stamp-size monochrome external screen, though the displayed time, date status, and caller-ID icons are far more readable, and therefore far more practical, than those on a color LCD in daylight. You can even invert the display (from black text to white text), and a flick of the volume toggle on the left spine turns on the backlighting for increased readability.
Above the screen is the grille for speakerphone and Ready Link calls. Of course that means sound flows in the wrong direction with the lid flipped up. But when using the speakerphone, you can close the lid in midconversation without disconnecting the call, which refocuses the sound toward your ears. The microphone is smartly located next to the power jack on the bottom rim rather than on the lower flap below the dial pad. As a result, closing the Samsung VI-A820 doesn't cover up the microphone.
Inside, the 1.8-inch-diagonal, 65,000-color display is plenty bright, but its colors look bleached unless you turn up the contrast to the highest setting. You can change fonts, but they're all large and highly readable, as are the function icons. The screen is great for scrolling through the simple but user-friendly menus.
Navigation controls are nearly flush with the surface of the Samsung VI-A820 and a bit small, which may make menu manipulation awkward for those with larger thumbs. The five-way toggle can access shortcuts to four user-defined functions. The phone also has two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, and a Clear key. On the black dial pad, the center row of keys (2, 5, 8, and 0) are slightly recessed. While this design quirk aids a bit in dialing by feel, the lip on the 2 key actually makes the key harder to hit accurately with the tip of a thumb. The bright-white key backlighting vastly improves both indoor and in-the-dark dialing.