In the cell phone world, Sanyo always has been something of a wallflower. Though its phones have been consistently reliable, it's never produced a flood of models and all of its handsets have landed at Sprint Nextel. The newest model, the Sanyo SCP-3810, is no different. It has a solid design and decent performance, and like many previous Sanyo phones, it comes in two colors. If you need an easy-to-use phone that makes good calls, the SCP-3810 is a good buy. But if you want more multimedia and data features or a better speakerphone, then you should look elsewhere. The SCP-3810 is free with service and after a $50 mail-in rebate. You'll pay $249 for the full price.
Though Kyocera now owns the Sanyo cell phone brand, the SCP-3810 stays close to its roots. With its boxy profile, sharp display, and simple navigation controls, it has all the hallmarks of a Sanyo phone. The SCP-3810 is relatively compact at 3.8 inches tall by 2 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick and weighs 3.9 ounces. You shouldn't have problem taking it on the go. You can get it in regal red or black onyx; we reviewed the former, but the features are the same on both models.
We're not pleased with the SCP-3810's external display. It's monochrome and tiny, and because it's hidden behind the external cover it disappears when the backlighting is off (a flick of the volume rocker will activate it again). The display only shows the time and numeric caller ID; it won't show the date, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID.
On the right spine, you'll find the volume rocker, a camera shutter, and the Micro-USB charger port. The latter also accommodates a USB cable for data transfer. On the right spine is the 2.5mm headset jack. We prefer a 3.5mm jack, but we'll let it slide on a phone without a music player. The camera lens sits on the backside of the phone next to a speaker. It doesn't include a mirror, which will make taking self-portraits tricky.
The main QVGA display measure 2.4 inches and supports 65,536 colors (320x240-pixel resolution). With bright colors and sharp graphics, the vibrant display is easy on the eyes. The menu interface is standard Sanyo, which means it's easy to use. You can change the brightness and the backlight time.
The navigation array has a spacious, easy-to-use design. There's a circular toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a camera shutter, and a Back key. Though the keys are flush, we were able to use them by feel. Below them, you'll find Talk and End/power buttons and a speakerphone control. The keypad buttons are also flush, but they're quite large so we were able to text and dial quickly. The numbers on the keys also are big, and they have a bright backlighting.
The SCP-3810 doesn't offer a ton of features, but it packs in all the basics for communication. The 300-contact phone book has room in each entry for seven phone numbers, three e-mail addresses, a street address, and notes. You also can organize callers into groups and pair them with a photos and one of 37 (72-chord) polyphonic ringtones. Sprint offers a wireless backup service for your contracts in case you lose your phone.
Essential features include multimedia and threaded text messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a calculator, a countdown timer, a speakerphone, a stopwatch, and a world clock. You'll also find Bluetooth, a voice recorder, instant messaging, speaker-independent voice commands and dialing, USB mass storage and PC syncing. The SCP-3810 also supports Sprint Navigation and the carrier's Family Locater service and you even can get some POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail accounts. However, the phone's e-mail experience is clunky given the Web-based interface and alphanumeric keypad.
The 1.3-megapixel camera takes pictures in three resolutions, from 1,280x960 pixels down to 320x240 pixels. You also can adjust the image quality, brightness, sharpness, white balance, contrast, and color tone. For more fun, the SCP-3810's shooter offers a digital zoom, nine fun frames, a multishot mode, a self-timer, three shutter sounds, and a silent mode. The camera does not shoot video and there's no flash.
After shooting photos, you can save your images to the phone's internal memory. You get just 12MB so you may need to watch your space carefully. You can copy photos from phone via a multimedia message, upload them to an online album hosted by Sprint, or transfer them to a printer via Bluetooth or PictBridge service. The carrier also has an arraignment with FujiFilm printing retailers. Its photo quality is acceptable, thought most of our images had a bluish tint.
You can personalize the SCP-3810 with greetings and wallpaper as well as choose from various clock styles and screensavers. You can get more customization options and additional ring tones with the WAP 2.0 browser. The handset doesn't come with any games; however, it has a bar code scanner called ScanLife and it supports two Sprint applications; Sprint NFL Mobile Live and Nascar Cup Mobile.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1,900MHz) in San Francisco using Sprint service. Call quality was quite enjoyable with a strong signal; no static or interference and loud volume. Voices sounded natural overall, except for a very slight metallic tinge form time to time. It wasn't something that worried us, though.
On their end, callers said we sounded great. Some couldn't tell that we were using a cell phone. A few people mentioned some background or wind noise, but it didn't distract from their experience. The SCP-3810 has a loud speakerphone, but the sound quality on our end was rather tinny and we had to be next to the phone to be heard on the other end. Frankly, it's not a feature that we'd use that often. Fortunately, Bluetooth headset calls were somewhat better.
The SCP-3810 has a rated battery life of 5.8 hours talk time. We were quite impressed with the tested talk time of 7 hours and 20 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the SCP-3810 has a