Sprint and RadioShack have had a pretty healthy distribution relationship for the past few years, so it made sense they're making certain phones available exclusively via the nationwide retailer. The Sanyo S1 is one such phone, and no, you can't even get it through Sprint's own online store. The S1 is a pretty basic candy-bar phone, though it does come with instant messaging and Bluetooth. Though we weren't too pleased with the keypad and the call quality, the S1 is still an affordable basic phone for those who want Bluetooth and not much else. It's currently available for $95 with a one-year contract or free with a two-year contract.
The Sanyo S1 looks and feels like a generic candy-bar handset. Wrapped in black, the S1 measures 4.4 inches by 2.0 inches by 0.4 inch and is quite lightweight at 2.5 ounces. It does have a nice matte finish on the back, which allows for a better grip. On the front is a 1.7-inch 65,000-color display, with a decent resolution of 128x160 pixels. The screen quality won't blow anyone away, but images looked fine, and colors didn't seem too washed out. You can adjust the backlight time, the font size, plus the screen's contrast.
Below the screen is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a five-way toggle that doubles as shortcuts to the messaging menu, the calendar, the My Content folder, plus the wireless Web browser. The Talk, Back, and End/Power keys are below that. We're not too thrilled with the keypad overall--the keys felt slippery, and the Back key seemed a little too small for us. That said, the number keypad did have small ridges that make it easy to dial by feel.
Rounding out the phone's exterior are the headset and charger jack on the right spine, and the voice recorder, volume rocker, and voice command key on the left (the voice command key doubles as the speakerphone key). The volume and voice controls felt flush against the surface of the phone and were a little tricky to press.
As we mentioned, the Sanyo S1 is pretty light on features, so let's get right to it. The Sanyo S1 comes with a dinky 200-entry phonebook with room in each entry for six numbers, e-mail and Web addresses, a home address, and a memo. You can also assign the number to groups, plus one of 16 polyphonic ringtones. Other features include text and multimedia messaging, instant messaging, a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, voice command, a voice recorder, a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, a stopwatch, and a world clock. On the higher end, there's e-mail, a wireless Web browser with access to Sprint Vision, plus Bluetooth. You can use the Bluetooth to connect to headsets, of course, but the S1 also supports modem connect via Bluetooth. This means that using Bluetooth, you can tether your laptop to the S1 for on-the-go surfing. The S1 also has a lock code for parental control.
Personalization options are fairly standard with the Sanyo S1. You can customize it with wallpapers, screensavers, different clock styles and greetings, and alert tones. Since the S1 comes with a browser, you can download more from the Sprint Vision network. There's only one game included--NFL Mobile--but you can always download more.
We tested the Sanyo S1 in San Francisco using the Sprint network. Call quality was mediocre, with callers reporting quite a bit of noise and echo in the background, and not hearing us very well at times. On our end, we heard them just fine, though we did get a few static problems, as well. Speakerphone didn't do much better. Volume was loud enough, but callers had to keep on asking us to speak up. Using a Bluetooth headset improved the call quality a little bit, but not by much. We paired the Sanyo S1 with the Plantronics Voyager 520 without a problem.
The Sanyo S1 has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours. Our tests revealed a talk time of 3 hours, 45 minutes. According to the FCC radiation tests, the SAR rating of the Sanyo S1 is 1.48 watts per kilogram.