Close the phone, and you'll see the 1-inch-diagonal, 262,000-color external screen, which displays signal strength, battery life, voicemail/message status, photo caller ID info, and customizable wallpaper. The display also acts as the camera viewfinder when the phone is closed--perfect for self-portraits. Just above the speaker grille is the camera lens and a small switch for close-ups, while to the left is an LED flash that pulsates during calls and when the phone rings. Also, the tiny flash sits to the left of the speaker. Last but not least, the slot for the Mini SD card (which is protected by a rubber flip-up cover) is on the top edge, right next to the antenna.
Flip open the phone, and you'll find the big, gorgeous 262,000-color internal display. Measuring a little more than 2 inches diagonally, the razor-sharp TFT display looks great, with rich colors and plenty of detail. We also like the animated main menu, although it's not quite as elaborate as those we've seen on other multimedia-type phones. Our only real complaint is that it's hard to see the LCD in direct sunlight, a problem that's typical of TFT displays.
The MM-5600's keypad looks sharp, but it took some time for us to acclimate to the small oval keys. That said, we like the dedicated speakerphone control between the Talk and End buttons; the shortcuts on the five-way navigational keypad for messaging, contacts, and Sprint PCS downloads; and the dedicated camera buttons--one above the Talk button and the other on the right edge of the phone. Other buttons on the sides of the phone let you start a call using voice commands, tweak the volume, record a voice memo, or access Sprint PCS's two-way Ready Link service (see Features).Billed as a multimedia phone, the Sanyo MM-5600 has a jam-packed feature set that doesn't disappoint. The handset comes with a 300-name phone book with room in each entry for six phone numbers and an e-mail address. Caller ID contacts can be paired with a photo and any of 17 included polyphonic ring tones. Other features include a vibrate mode, voice commands and memos, a speakerphone, a calendar (with daily and monthly but no weekly views), a world clock, a calculator, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, support for Sprint's 1xRTT network and Ready Link two-way radio service, three-way calling, text and multimedia messaging, and a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The mobile offers 3MB of shared memory and a 16MB Mini SD card, which you can plug into your PC with the included adapter. You even get a USB cable for phone-to-PC transfers, a luxury that doesn't usually come in the box. Missing from the mix, however, is Bluetooth and infrared connectivity for wireless file transfers and headsets. When it comes to fully functioning Bluetooth, Sprint is still behind the curve.
The MM-5600 comes with an excellent 1.3-megapixel camera that's equipped with a 20X digital zoom (a 4X digital zoom is the norm) and takes snapshots in 960x1,280, 480x640, or 240x320 resolution. Camera phone fanatics will appreciate the wide range of options, including modes for soft focus, mirror image, beach/snow, and scenery; a 5- to 10-second self-timer; color tones ranging from red, green, and blue to negative to black and white; brightness and white-balance controls; and Economy, Normal, and Fine quality settings. You also get a flash a macro switch for close-ups. Our snapshots looked impressive for a camera phone, with plenty of detail, rich colors, and little in the way of video noise. Unsurprisingly, night shots weren't quite as clear, and the LED flash can light objects within only a few inches. Once you're done snapping, you can send them to friends via a multimedia message or along with a quick voice memo in an e-mail, transfer them to your PC via the USB cable or the Mini SD card, assign them to contacts, or use them as your internal or external LCD wallpaper. All in all, it's a great mix of features.
Along with the MM-5600's camera comes a video recorder, which takes clips up to 30 seconds long (or 15 seconds in Rich mode) at 176x144 or 128x96 resolution. While many camera video recorders we see skimp on features, the MM-5600's is relatively packed. It includes the same 20X digital zoom and picture/brightness modes found on the camera, as well as a self-timer and the LED camera light. The handset will even say "roll camera" and "cut" when the recording stops. Though the recorder is very nice, we wish it would take clips longer than 30 seconds, given the Mini SD card that's available.
The MM-5600's slick media player supports MP3s and unprotected AAC audio files, which you can transfer from your PC using the included USB cable or the Mini SD card. The interface is a step up from that of the dull, bare-bones players we've seen in other phones, and there's even a cool graphic EQ animation when music is playing; look carefully, however, and you'll see that the EQ bars aren't really moving in time to the music. You can pause, scan forward or reverse within a song, and choose from random and repeat modes. It may not be much compared to a run-of-the-mill MP3 player, but the MM-5600's player is pretty robust next to other phones'. Our tunes sounded good over the included stereo headset, although you can't crank the volume that high.
If you're in the mood for some eye candy, you can download and play videos from Sprint PCS. The mostly 1- to 2-minute, for-pay videos average about $4 per clip and range from breaking news from CNN to segments from Fox Sports, the Weather Channel, E Entertainment, Cartoon Network, and AccuWeather. Compared to the clips from Verizon's V Cast service, these snippets are murky and jittery, and we often had to wait several seconds for video buffering to complete. However, Verizon runs on a 3G EV-DO network, as opposed to Sprint's 2.5G 1xRTT service. Data speeds are between 50Kbps to 70Kbps, compared with to 300Kbps to 500Kbps on Verizon's V Cast, and video clips play at 15fps, whereas a normal television set comes in at 30fps.
The MM-5600's customization options are impressive. You can download songs as ring tones or even music videos that will play on the internal (but not external) LCD when the phone rings. You can also assign photos and ringers for specific contacts, use a snapshot as the internal or external wallpaper, pick an animated screensaver, or activate My Buddy--a little animated character that occasionally struts around the internal display. We turned off the last feature in short order. Rounding out the MM-5600's features are such extras as Java (J2ME) demos for Jamdat Solitaire, Ms. Pac-Man, and Tetris Deluxe.We tested the Sanyo MM-5600 (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800; 1xRTT) in New York City, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Calls came through loud and clear, and callers said they had no trouble hearing us. There was also plenty of volume, though audio quality sounded a bit hollow on a couple of occasions. Calls made using the speakerphone and the included stereo headset were only slightly less clear.
We got about 3 hours, 40 minutes of talk time for the MM-5600, just beating the 3 hours, 20 minutes promised by Sanyo. We got about 5 days of standby time, however, half of the rated time of 10 days. According to the FCC, the MM-5600 has a digital SAR rating of 0.72 watts per kilogram.