For owners of Sanyo's SCP-4500 and SCP-4700 who've been holding out for a color version of those popular speakerphone-enabled models, your patience has paid off. In addition to a large, rich color display, the Sanyo SCP-4900 has more customization features than its monochrome forebears, and it works with Sprint's PCS Vision service. At $150 from Sprint PCS, it's also one of the more affordable color phones in the company's lineup. While we can't say it was worth the wait, this new mobile has its merits. But before you buy, we recommend checking out Hitachi's P300. It's slimmer, with a bigger display and more features. At first glance, the 4900 looks and feels larger than its predecessors, the SCP-4500 and the SCP-4700SCP-4700. Take a closer look, and you'll see that the 4900 is actually more compact (4.8 by 1.8 by 0.9 inches) and weighs less (4.6 ounces), but its 7-line, 4,096-color display and the positioning of the Speaker button at the bottom of the handset make the phone appear larger than it really is. Still, it's not petite.
There are two other significant cosmetic changes on this model. First, the backlit keypad is silver instead of black, which gives the phone a more space-age look. Second, there are more buttons for maneuvering through the phone's features, and a Menu/OK key has been placed in the middle of the four-way navigation button.
Like other PCS Vision-enabled phones, the 4900 lets you customize its look with downloadable graphics, pictures, and sounds, available as part of Sprint's next-generation data service. The wireless Web interface also looks jazzier, though it remains largely text oriented. (See the Performance section below for more on the wireless Web features.) As expected, the 4900 is loaded with features, including a 300-name phone book, text messaging, caller ID (when available), a keypad lock, wireless Web access, 23 ring tones, a vibrate mode, a calendar, voice-activated dialing, voice memos, a speakerphone, and the Crab Catcher game.
It's also GPS ready for e911 services, and it supports J2ME so that you can download ring tones, screensavers, and applications for a few dollars more. Some of the downloads are silly, while others are somewhat addictive. Better yet, you can go into a special "airplane" mode that allows you to play the games without having the cell radio on. We tested the dual-mode (CDMA 1900; AMPS 800) mobile in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area using Sprint PCS service. We consistently got a signal but found call quality to be hit or miss. When transmissions were clear, callers said they couldn't tell we were using a cell phone. However, some callers complained that our sentences were getting clipped; on our end, we heard a lot of crackling on the line. That said, the speakerphone performed well, and its above-average quality is on a par with that of the Nextel phones.
One complaint about the wireless Web experience: Though Sprint's 3G network is supposed to make surfing the wireless Web quicker, we didn't notice much of a speed boost. To be clear, the lag time isn't long, but we expected it to disappear with the new 1xRTT data network.
But the phone really shines in the battery-life department. We managed to surpass the 4.5 hours of talk time by half an hour and met the rated standby time of 384 hours. This was one phone that just wouldn't quit. We also appreciated the slim charger, which is identical to the one that comes with the SCP-6200.