When Sprint merged with Nextel almost three years ago, there were concerns with how Sprint would integrate its CDMA network with Nextel's iDEN network, and how the two companies would coordinate their respective push-to-talk services. A new push-to-talk technology was developed by Qualcomm, called QChat, to help that process along. QChat is a CDMA upgrade to iDEN, and allows interoperability between CDMA phones and the iDEN network. Three years later and we finally see the first QChat phones to hit the market, in the form of the Sanyo Pro Series--the Pro-200 and the Pro-700. Even though both phones are CDMA handsets to be used via the Sprint network, they are compatible with Nextel Direct Connect.
The Pro-200 and the Pro-700 have essentially the same features, with different designs. The Pro-200 is the lighter of the two with a slightly more streamlined look. Aside from push-to-talk capabilities, the Pro-200 has Bluetooth, built-in GPS, a speakerphone, and EV-DO Rev. A. It doesn't have any multimedia capabilities, but the Pro-200 is meant for the workplace anyway. The Pro-200 is currently available for $49.99 with a new two-year service agreement.
The look of the Pro-200 is all business. Measuring 4 inches long by 1.7 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Pro-200 isn't meant to steal the fashion show with its simple silver-and-black color scheme. That said, the Pro-200 is fairly slim for a push-to-talk phone, and at 3.4 ounces, it's pretty lightweight too. It has a nice solid feel in the hand and fits comfortably in a pocket or bag.
Right on the front of the Pro-200 is a 1.5-inch monochrome external display. It displays date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID. You can adjust the backlight time and font size, but nothing else. The speaker grille sits at the bottom of the phone, while the microphone for the speakerphone is above the external display (The speakerphone microphone is only activated in speakerphone mode). The left spine is home to the volume rocker, the Direct Connect or push-to-talk key, and charging connector. On the right is a headset jack, a Side Call key that lets you make calls when the phone is closed (using voice dial or the recent calls list), and a Side End key that ends the call. The Side Call key also toggles the Direct Connect speaker on or off, and the Side End key also brings up recent call history on the external display.
Flip open the phone and you'll find a very staid 1.9-inch 65,000 color display. It displays images and graphics just fine, but they just don't look too rich or detailed. You can adjust the backlight time, the background, the animation for outgoing calls, the color for incoming calls, the contrast, and font size. The menu is easy enough to navigate through, using Sprint's standard interface.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a dedicated new text message button, a four-way toggle with middle Menu/OK key, a dedicated Web key, and a dedicated Back key. The toggle also acts as shortcuts to the messaging menu, the My Content folder, the recent Direct Connects list, and the calendar. There's also the Talk and End/Power keys, plus a speakerphone key. The keys are rubberized and slightly raised above the surface of the phone, making it a breeze to navigate. Similarly, the number keypad is well-spaced apart and make for easy dialing.
The Sanyo Pro-200's big feature is that it utilizes QChat for push-to-talk communications, but it has other smaller features as well. For starters, it has a 600-entry phone book, with room in each entry for seven numbers, an e-mail address, a URL, a real address, and a memo. You can also add them to caller groups or Direct Connect groups, or pair them with one of 26 polyphonic ringtones or one of four vibrating patterns. You can add an image for picture caller ID, but bear in mind that the Pro-200 doesn't have a camera, and the external screen won't support it. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a countdown clock, a world clock, and a calculator. Also, the Pro-200 steps it up a notch from other push-to-talk phones with a very fast EV-DO Rev. A connection (which it uses to run QChat), a wireless Web browser, instant messaging, e-mail, Bluetooth, voice dialing, and built-in GPS.
Of course the reason to get the Pro-200 is its compatibility with Nextel's Direct Connect push-to-talk network. You have the capability to Group Connect, which lets you chat with up to 20 other Direct Connect users at the same time. You also have the option to create a customized caller group called Team DC, which allows nationwide group calling with other Direct Connect users. You'll have to go online to Sprint's Web site to set up your own Team DC. Sprint claims that Team DC is especially useful for small companies who want to keep in touch with all members of the group. However, as of this writing, Group Connect and Team DC are only available with Sprint phones, and not Nextel handsets. Sprint hopes to upgrade these features in the future.
You can personalize the Pro-200 with a choice of wallpaper, graphics, screensavers, and alert tones. You can always download more options via the wireless Web browser as well. Games include demo versions of Midnight Pool, Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man, Tetris, Tower Bloxx, and World Series of Poker, and you can download more via the browser as well.
We tested the Sanyo Pro-200 in San Francisco using the Sprint service. We found the call quality to be impressive, with clear voices and loud volume levels. We did hear a bit of static, but it wasn't a big deal. We also tested the Direct Connect service with the Pro-700, and it worked flawlessly. Speakerphone voice quality was nice and loud, and callers could hear us just fine. We do recommend holding the phone close to your mouth even when on speakerphone though, as callers did report the occasional echo.
We really liked surfing the Web, even with the scaled-down WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, simply because of the fast speeds provided by EV-DO Rev. A. Mobile Web pages loaded in mere seconds.
The Pro-200 has a rated battery life of 4.9 hours talk time and a tested talk time of 5 hours and 19 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Pro-200 has a SAR rating of 1.21.