When Sanyo and Sprint launched the Sanyo Katana a year ago, we called it yet another Razr competitor, and couldn't help but compare it to the infamous skinny flip phone. Indeed, the Sanyo Katana had a slim silhouette that looked remarkably like the Motorola Razr V3m. That said, it only offered basic features--a VGA camera, Bluetooth, and not much else--so it wasn't quite the Razr-killer we expected.
Fast-forward a year later, and Sanyo and Sprint have launched two new Sanyo Katanas. The Sanyo Katana DLX is an amped-up version of the original Katana, with multimedia and broadband offerings aplenty, while the Sanyo Katana II only has a few minor upgrades. In this review, we'll concentrate on the Sanyo Katana II. The Katana II has the same features as the original Katana, save for slightly improved memory and a more streamlined design, so it's clearly meant for those who want a stylish phone without a lot of bells and whistles. The Sanyo Katana II comes in pink fascination, cosmic black, and midnight steel. And while we're disheartened that it's not too different from the first Katana, we're pleased that it's quite a bit cheaper at $49.99 after a two-year contract.
As we mentioned, the primary difference between the first Katana and the Sanyo Katana II is in the design. Though it still has a superslim profile, the Katana II has a much sleeker and streamlined look on the front, with clean straight lines and a shinier appearance. The Katana II measures 3.7 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, which makes it a hair smaller than its predecessor. It's comfortable to hold in the hand and next to the ear, though its glossy surface makes it prone to fingerprint smudges.
The external display is the same as that of the first Katana as well. It's about 1 inch diagonally and supports 65,000 colors. It displays the usual signal strength, battery life, time, photo caller ID, plus it also acts as a camera viewfinder for self-portraits. The volume rocker is on the left spine of the top flap, while the headset jack is on the left spine of the bottom flap. On the right side there's a dedicated camera button on the top, plus a charger jack on the bottom. We felt the side buttons to be way too skinny for our tastes.
The main or internal display is like that of its predecessor as well, measuring about 2.2 inches diagonally with 65,000 colors. You can change the display's backlight time and font size but not the brightness or contrast. You can also choose to have a screensaver, or display a clock/calendar on the main page. The menu design has a far more colorful look than the first Katana, with animated and bright icons.
As for the keypad, the button layout is a little different from its predecessor, with a circular four-way toggle instead of a square one, and the buttons are a tad smaller. Otherwise, they're pretty much the same: The navigation array consists of two soft keys, the aforementioned toggle that acts as shortcuts to contacts, the alarm clock, the My Content folder, the wireless Web browser, and the middle OK key. There's also a dedicated camera button, a back button, the Talk and End/power keys, plus a speakerphone key between them. The keys are raised enough above the surface to dial by feel.
Features on the Sanyo Katana II are not that different from the first Katana. In fact, the only feature upgrades are an increased memory of up to 21MB and an update to Bluetooth 2.0. Therefore, the following section lifts heavily from the review of the original Katana.
Behind the Katana's slim silhouette is a disappointing feature set. It doesn't have nearly the multimedia clout that the Razr and the Samsung MM-A900 have in terms of a megapixel camera, media-player functionality, and 3G support. Yet the Katana II has several basic features that should satisfy most users. The dinky 300-entry address book holds up to seven numbers per entry, an e-mail address, a Web site URL, a home address, and a memo. Plus, you can assign a contact to a group, a photo ID, and one of 16 polyphonic (72-chord) ringtones. There's also text messaging, instant messaging, e-mail, picture mail, voice recording, Bluetooth, a calendar, an alarm clock, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, a world clock, a calculator, a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, and a wireless Web browser. We liked that you could activate the speakerphone before you make calls. The Katana II also has a built-in GPS that has access to location-based services like Sprint Navigator.
The Katana II offers a VGA camera, which produced predictably disappointing picture quality with washed-out colors (not to mention way too much orange) and blurry object edges. You can take pictures with three different resolutions (640x480, 320x240, or 160x120 pixels), three quality settings (Fine, Normal, Economy), and the choice of either two shutter sounds or silence. Other camera settings include five picture modes (Normal, Beach/Snow, Scenery, Night/Dark, and Soft Focus), a self-timer of up to 10 seconds, multiple shot, stitch shot, 10 picture frames, eight color tones, brightness, and white balance.
You can customize the Sanyo Katana II with a variety of screensavers and animation graphics, though there doesn't seem to be an option to change the wallpaper. Plus, you have the option of downloading more screensavers, graphics, and ring tones from Sprint via the wireless WAP 2.0 browser. On the gaming front, the phone comes with Midnight Pool, World Poker Tour, and demos of Ms. Pac-Man and Tetris. You also have the option of downloading more games from Sprint.
We tested the dual-band, trimode (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) Sanyo Katana II in San Francisco using Sprint's service. Signal strength and call quality were great, as both parties could hear each other loud and clear. Speakerphone quality was similarly good, and we were impressed with how loud the calls were. We successfully managed to pair the Sanyo Katana with the Cardo S640. Browser speed was predictably poky, taking a few seconds to load each page.
The Sanyo Katana II has a rated talk time of 3.5 hours and a rated standby time of seven days. Impressively, our test showed a talk time of 4 hours, 27 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Sanyo Katana II has a digital SAR rating of 0.554 watts per kilogram.