Now that Sprint has absorbed Nextel, the carrier's Ready Link phones seem to be suffering from an identity crisis. Before the merger, the handsets were sort of Nextel-lite. You could get push-to-talk service and a rugged handset, but you didn't have to lug around a brick, totally devoid of style, and you didn't have to be chained to Nextel's businesscentric services. But now that Nextel and Sprint have joined forces, and Nextel is putting out smaller, more attractive phones, Sprint's Ready Link handsets just look a little ridiculous. Take the new Sanyo RL4930: Although it is on the bulky side, as well as sports rubber edges and PTT capability, we'd rather go with the real thing and just get a Nextel phone, such as the i355. The RL4930 is $189, but it's cheaper with a service plan.
To be perfectly frank, the Sanyo RL4930 is not a looker. A dull candy bar shape, along with a basic-gray color scheme and a protruding antenna, makes it more like a cordless phone than a mobile device. Also, considering it measures 4.5 by 2 by 1 inches and weighs 4.4 ounces, it's not compact by any means. On the upside, a rubber coating on either spine adds a touch of durability, but the extendable antenna is rather flimsy.
The Sanyo RL4930's 65,000-color display measures 1.6 inches (128x112 pixels) and is the best thing about the handset's design. Although its overall resolution is a bit washed out, it's nonetheless fine for viewing the user-friendly menus. You can adjust the contrast, the font size, and the backlighting time, but you can't alter the brightness.
Below the Sanyo RL4930's display are the main navigation controls with a standard Sanyo design. There's a five-way toggle that acts as a shortcut to messaging, and the phone book has a menu where you can program more shortcuts, as well as a My Content folder for storing games and other downloaded files. The toggle is large enough, but the other navigation controls may trouble users with larger fingers. Two soft keys, dedicated Web and Back buttons, and the Talk and End/power keys are all much too small. However, we liked the fact that the Back buttons double as a key lock if held down and that there's a dedicated speakerphone button below the keypad. Speaking of the keypad, the buttons are raised just above the surface of the phone, which made it easy to dial by feel. They're also decently sized and lit by a green backlighting. The only controls on the outside of the phone are the Ready Link button and a wide volume rocker on the left spine.
The Sanyo RL4930 has an average feature set that is useful without being remarkable. The phone book holds 500 contacts, with room in each entry for six phone numbers, Web and e-mail addresses, and notes. Be advised, though, that the phone book can hold only 700 numbers total. You can pair contacts with a picture and one of 17 polyphonic (32-chord) ring tones, but there are no caller groups. On the other hand, you can use caller groups in the separate Ready Link phone book, which holds 400 contacts total.
Other features include a vibrate mode, a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, a stopwatch, a world clock, PC syncing, text messaging, and a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. You can activate the speakerphone before you make a call, which is a nice touch, and the voice recorder's ability to hold up to 130 minutes impressed us. Total memory for downloads is 2MB.
We tested the triband Sanyo RL4930 (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) in San Francisco using Sprint's service. Call quality was satisfactory with good volume, but voices sounded hollow on our end. Callers had trouble hearing us from time to time, and they could tell we were using a cell phone. Speakerphone calls were relatively clear, and through the speaker faces of the phone, they were loud enough. Ready Link calls were on a par with normal calls: fine but not exceptional.
Sanyo rates the talk time at 5.5 hours, and we got 5 in our tests. Standby time was fantastic; the phone lasted an impressive 20 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the Sanyo RL4930 has a digital SAR rating of 0.37 watt per kilogram and an analog SAR rating of 1.13 watts per kilogram.