Sprint PCS is making a big bet that people want their cell phones to function as a source of entertainment as well as a communication tool. The carrier's first multimedia phone was the , and that approach is again evident in the Sanyo MM-7400, which features streaming audio and video capabilities. The handset's low-resolution camera is a step backward, but the MM-7400 packs in Ready Link service and a wealth of features that are suitable for business use. At $379.99, the mobile will stretch your wallet, but you should be able to find it for considerably less with a service contract. If you're looking for style and stealth, the Sanyo MM-7400 won't exactly fit the bill. Coming in at 3.64 by 1.97 by 1.13 inches and 4.06 ounces, it's on the large side, though it's no bigger then most Sanyo phones. On the other hand, the handset's rubberized grips give it a solid construction, and the mobile feels comfortable when held to your face. As for design, the interchangeable faceplates lend a bit of color to what would otherwise be a rather industrial-looking style; metallic red and titanium versions are included, with black onyx, ocean blue, and deep blue available as accessories. The 1-inch-diagonal external display supports 65,536 colors and shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID (where available). The speaker, the camera lens, and the flash are above the screen, and though there's no self-portrait mirror, the external display doubles as a viewfinder.
The internal LCD is a fairly large 2.1 inches and beautifully displays 65,536 colors and changeable font sizes. The roomy navigation controls include dedicated buttons for the speakerphone; they can also be used to back out of submenus. Although there's a five-way navigation button and two soft keys, the buttons are well spaced and well marked, resulting in a handset with a relatively easy learning curve. The blue-backlit dial-pad keys are raised slightly off the body of the unit, which makes for easy touch dialing.
We were glad to see that Sanyo included a dedicated camera button, which provides access to the camera and camcorder functions, on the right spine of the unit. Directly above the camera button is the Voice/Call key, which lets you place calls by automatic speech recognition. On the left spine, you'll find the volume rocker and the control for making walkie-talkie-style calls with other Sprint Ready Link customers. Aside from the audiovisual bells and whistles (see below), the Sanyo MM-7400's feature set is solid. The 300-entry phone book holds up to 500 phone numbers, as well as 300 e-mail and 300 Web addresses. Contacts can be organized into caller groups or be paired with a picture, a screen color, or any of eight monophonic and eight polyphonic (72-chord) ring tones for caller ID. You also get support for Sprint's Ready Link service, and a special Ready Link phone book supports 200 entries for both business and personal contact lists. As for other calling features, the MM-7400 has automatic speech recognition for dialing by phone number or name; if the contact has more than one number, you can specify by label, such as Mobile or Home. You also get a meeting mode that plays an automatic message asking incoming callers to remain on hold until you take the call. Other goodies include vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a 72-second voice recorder, a calendar, a to-do list, an alarm clock, a calculator, a world clock, a speakerphone, and a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser.
The MM in the MM-7400 stands, of course, for multimedia. One of the phone's more notable features is the capability to air nearly real-time streaming television feeds via the MobiTV service ($9.99 a month). The 15 channels include MSNBC, the Weather Channel, E Entertainment, and Discovery. Unlike the , however, the MM-7400 does not support Sprint TV. But as with the earlier handset, the feed is via Sprint's existing 1X network at a rate of 15 frames per second (see ).
Sanyo chose to integrate a VGA camera rather than a megapixel model. For the phone's price and target audience--people who'll put the mobile's multimedia capabilities and Sprint's PCS Vision services to full use--a VGA camera seems chintzy, especially when megapixel camera phones are quickly becoming the norm. The camera features, however, are strong, and they include autofocus, a flash, a self-timer, and a multishot option that snaps three pictures in a row. You also get a 4X digital zoom that magnifies--and distorts--distant subjects; nine Fun Frames to decorate your shots; three resolutions (640x480, 320x240, and 160x120); and six color effects, including sepia and negative. Picture quality is about average for a VGA camera; that is, colors are washed out, and detail is minimal. Contrast levels, however, were surprisingly good.
The integrated camcorder records clips from 15 to 30 seconds with or without sound, depending on the quality settings (176x144 and 128x96). The camera flash doubles as a video light, though the range is so short as to be nearly useless. You can use the self-timer and set up effects to have a voice from the phone say, "Roll camera, action," just before shooting and "Cut" when recording has ended. You can store up to 39 pictures in the camera or 16 videos in the camcorder. The camera and camcorder share memory, meaning the more pictures you take, the less room you have for videos, and vice versa. Of course, the phone is tightly integrated with Sprint's Picture Mail service. With just a few clicks, we uploaded 39 VGA-quality pictures to Sprint's Web site in 15 minutes over the carrier's 1xRTT data network. You also can send them to a friend via a multimedia message, but Bluetooth support and an infrared port are not included.
You can personalize the handset with a variety of wallpaper, screensavers, or sounds, or you can download more options and more ring tones. The MM-7400 also supports Java (J2ME), but you'll have to download your own games and applications. We tested the trimode (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) phone in the Chicago area. Call quality was generally clear, although callers sounded a bit hollow in the earpiece. The volume level was fine, and callers could occasionally tell we were using a mobile. Calls using the speakerphone were fine as well.
Video playback is a jerky, pixelated 15fps (standard television plays at 30fps); it's not quite like watching MSNBC at home, but it'll do in a pinch. Before watching TV, be sure to adjust the display settings to turn off standby mode; otherwise, the screen will dim after a few seconds. The speakerphone was loud enough to listen to video feeds in quiet indoor environments, but outdoors or in a public space such as an airport, you may find yourself straining to hear it. In those cases, you're more likely to use a headset with the streaming audio or video features, anyway. Most of these problems are to be expected, though; data speeds average 50Kbps to 70Kbps, which is far below true 3G speeds of 220Kbps to 320Kbps. (Alternatively, the promises a true 3G network.)
As for battery life, we squeezed out 3 hours, 40 minutes of talk time, in line with the rated 3.5 hours, but we managed only 4.5 days of standby time, compared with the 12-day rating. According to the FCC, the MM-7400 has a digital SAR rating of 0.95 watts per kilogram and an analog SAR rating of 1.39 watts per kilogram.