When Sanyo introduced the SCP-5300 camera phone a few months ago, we were clearly impressed with the company's efforts. The only aspect that might keep that impressive mobile from having mass-market appeal is its prohibitive price point. Enter the SCP-8100, an arguably affordable phone/camera that has many of the sought-after features of its sibling without the high cost. The Sanyo SCP-8100 is more compact (3.3 by 1.8 by 1.1 inches; 3.9 ounces) than the SCP-5300 and fits better in a small purse or a pocket. However, you'll find the same overall design: a built-in camera and a small, 65,000-color external LCD that not only displays network strength, battery life, time, and caller ID info when available but also a picture of those calling (if they have an image associated with their phone-book entries). All that's missing cosmetically from this slimmer model is a built-in flash.
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|Fabulous fun: We liked using the external LCD for picture caller ID.|
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|Incredible shrinking phone: The 8100 is shorter than its sibling, the SCP-5300.|
Open the flip phone, and you'll see that the SCP-8100's internal, 1.8-inch, 65,000-color, eight-line TFT display is the real eye-catcher. We particularly appreciated the animated green alien that sometimes skateboards from side to side. The Sanyo's list-type menu interface is easy to navigate via the phone's four-way navi-button and two dedicated menu-selection keys.
Like the SCP-5300, you can snap pictures using the large internal display as the image finder for the digital camera or flip the phone closed and go to the small, 1-inch external display to frame a self-portrait. The latter also serves as a decent substitute for a mirror in a pinch. On the side of the phone, there's a shutter-release button, a headset jack, and two volume-control buttons, which can be used to scroll through the 5300's menus.
As you might expect, if you're running out of subjects in your own life to decorate your phone, you can always download graphics, pictures, and polyphonic sounds from the Sprint PCS Vision site. In the features department, the 8100 has its fair share. Highlights include a 300-name phone book, voice-activated dialing for up to 30 names, menus, caller ID, text messaging, a vibrating ringer, voicemail, games, a calendar, a world clock, and wireless Web access via Sprint's 1xRTT next-generation network. Although the phone will work with a separate USB cable to upload images directly from phone to computer, it lacks an IR port to easily transfer images to other IR-enabled devices, such as a Palm or Pocket PC. (Note: The Samsung V205 has an IR port, but you can't use it to beam images to other IR products.)
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|Picture this: The image quality of pictures taken with the 8100 isn't the best we've seen to date.|
The 8100 is also GPS ready for e911 services, and as one of Sprint's PCS Vision mobiles, it supports J2ME so that you can download polyphonic ring tones, screensavers, games, and applications for a few dollars more. Some of the games are silly, while others are somewhat addictive. Frequent fliers will also appreciate that you can switch to special "airplane" mode that lets you play games without having the cell radio on.
As noted, one of the 8100's major selling points is the built-in VGA digital camera. You can take pictures at 352x288 pixels and save as many images that will fit in the phone's memory. You'll also find a self-timer, color-tone and brightness controls, Fun Frames (which lets you decorate pictures with frames), and the ability to add 10-second voice notes to images. You can even upload the pictures to the Sprint PCS Web site and send the URL to a friend on the fly.
If you opt to share your photos, be aware that unless you are e-mailing them to another Sprint PCS Vision mobile, the recipient receives only a URL address where the pictures can be viewed. That said, keep in mind that capturing and delivering high-quality images is not the goal of this new breed of phone. In fact, the images are mediocre at best and not suitable for printing. Overall, the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900 AMPS 800) SCP-8100 performed quite respectably. We tested the phone in the San Francisco Bay Area and Lake Tahoe and found call quality to be exceptionally good. Callers said they couldn't tell we were calling from a cell phone, and on our end, they sounded loud and clear. In comparison, this mobile offered better reception than the SPH-A500.
The phone also did well in battery-life testing. Using the included battery, we managed to surpass the 2.8 hours of talk time by 20 minutes but fell a couple days short of the 10-day standby rating. However, keep in mind that taking and uploading a lot of pictures drains battery life considerably.