Sanyo’s M1 (available from Sprint for $199.99 USD with the usual rebates and contract restrictions) is a superior cell phone. It’s light, it’s relatively compact, it delivers plenty of volume for voice and ring tones, and it gets great reception. Its 2 MP camera takes surprisingly blur-free pictures, and it has a bright LCD screen that displays the numbers you’re calling in such a large font that even the thickest Coke-bottle glasses wearer will be able to see. There’s just one problem: Sanyo has ballyhooed the M1 as “The Music Phone with More.” Unfortunately, the “more” in this case is more bad, as in a bad music software application. It’s sort of like a cheese shop that only sells green cheddar.
Features and Design
Considering its compact but somewhat thick around the middle 3.6″ x 1.9″ x 0.9″ dimensions (a little less than twice as thick as the RAZR or Samsung A900m), the M1 is a bit like a middle-aged man trying to look and act young. On the front flap of the black-and-silver handset is a bright 1.3-inch LCD, sandwiched between twin 1.5mm speakers above and a music control array underneath. On the rear is the 2 MP camera lens and the video light, both of which are placed right where your index finger wants to support the phone when taking a picture.
The M1’s primary claim to fame is its 1 GB of internal memory. On the surface, the elimination of the often hard-to-manipulate pinky nail-sized external memory card seems like a dream, especially since Sanyo has figured out a way to squeeze 16 hours of music in that 1 GB; nearly twice the number of tracks than the Apple iPod Shuffle can hold. But not having a memory card eliminates the easiest way to get music and pictures in and out of this phone.
However, the M1’s external ports and controls present a series of interlocking pros and cons. On the left spine are the 2.5mm headphone jack, volume up/down toggle, ReadyLink push-to-talk switch, and DC power jack; on the right is the speakerphone/voice command button and the dedicated camera activation key. On the bottom is the proprietary data connection port.
Separate AC/DC and data jacks let you keep the phone fully charged, even through the half hour-plus that it takes to transfer a full 1 GB of tunes to the phone.
While there are plenty of controls to use, unfortunately they are not well thought out . For instance, the camera button activates the camera. But neither it nor the “stop” button on the navigation array deactivates the camera. You have to open the flap to end the camera program. Conversely, the “list” button on the control array does not list your music tracks, nor does hitting the “play/pause” button activate the music player. You have to open up the flap to perform both these functions.
Equally awkward is the camera lens position on the rear flap, placed low enough that your index finger naturally falls right across the lens when you use the camera with the flap up.
Numbers on the otherwise generously spaced keypad are a bit too baby blue backlit, which almost overwhelms the large sans serif font. Dialing isn’t a problem, but you’ll end up squinting when trying to identify the smaller alpha characters during text messaging.
Among its other handier attributes, the M1 can store up to 12 hours of voice recordings such as meetings or memos in the internal memory, depending on how much music you’ve managed to stuff in. And like all Sprint PowerVision phones, the M1 allows you to manage your phonebook contacts through a Sprint web page. The phone can also be used as a modem via the included USB cable.
Image Courtesy of Sanyo
As noted, the M1 is a superior cell phone. Reception on the dual Band (1.9 GHz, 800MHz) phone via Sprint’s EV-DO network is strong and clear, and the M1 delivers plenty of earpiece volume, even at medium settings, with plenty of headroom to compensate for noisy environments. Thanks to the twin 15mm speakers, ringtones were equally loud and the vibrate alert equally violent. We faintly heard and definitely felt the phone ringing through jeans pockets while walking down a reasonably noisy city street.
M1’s 2 MP camera is also a surprise. Its shutter snaps quickly and loudly and produces crisp and clean sunlight-bathed images. Indoor shots in normal light are still unblurred, but are bleached, even with the flash on. However, that’s par for the course with cell cams. Batch transferring pictures to a PC via Bluetooth was relatively easy and painless.
Web access via Sprint’s EV-DO network was speedy and efficient, with access in less than 10 seconds and nearly instantaneous WAP web page filling.
This phone is Exhibit A for why there’s been a hue and cry for Apple to create an iPod cell phone, and why beauties and geeks are drooling for the iPhone. M1’s bungled music application (sometimes we wonder if the designers actually ever use these phones before they send them out to an unsuspecting world) will try your patience and fortitute.
Without a swappable external memory card, you are forced to use the endlessly frustrating Windows Media Player software and the included USB connecting cable to load music on the phone. Once you manage to survive this track transfer trauma (the trials and tribulations of which are too lengthy and painful to relate here), nothing works the way it should.
As noted, you can’t boot the music app using the external controls on the front flap. You have to open the flip and locate the main menu “music” icon to start the app (for some reason, the “Media Player,” which is the Sprint PowerVision TV app, doesn’t work as a music player), which initiates the Sprint online music store. That’s correct — the music player is tied directly to the music store. Subtle. It takes 10-15 seconds for the system to establish the EV-DO connection; if you’re in a tunnel or don’t have access to Sprint’s network, the phone continues to try to connect to the store until you tell it to stop, or it gives up before you can get to the player itself. Then, the phone takes around 30 seconds to load the player app to load all the tracks. It takes more than a minute total before you’ll actually hear any music.
Once you get the music playing, Sanyo says the music can play in the background while checking e-mail or messages or browsing the web. We could not figure out how to do this. The center “menu” button becomes the play/pause button, and there isn’t a dedicated web access key. Pressing the “1” key with the familiar envelope messaging icon did nothing. There are nine EQ settings, but these are behind the separate “Media Player” menu icon, which you can’t get at unless you quit out of the music player.
Once music is playing, you can close the lid and track title, artist, song progress bar, shuffle status (you get random play and repeat options) and the time are displayed in the bright 1.3-inch external LCD above the control array on the phone’s front flap. When a call comes in, the ringer halts the music. After you hang up, the phone takes the same minute-plus to start playing again, but starting with the next track in the queue rather than whatever song you happened to be listening to.
Like many music phones, the M1 plays MP3 and non-protected AAC files, but not WMA or PlaysForSure tracks bought online. You get the convenient belt-and-suspenders combination of stereo Bluetooth and a 2.5mm stereo headphone jack, except the M1 segregates the Bluetooth app. Turning Bluetooth on and off is in the “Settings” menu, but the Bluetooth discovery and device operations are in the “Tools” menu.
Battery life for music is excellent: 18 hours if you use a wired headset. Obviously, you’ll get much less music using power-draining Bluetooth stereo headphones. Surprisingly, talk time is a miserly 3.8 hours, far below average.
Great phone section, nice camera, quick web access, bright screen, loud ringing — almost everything you’d want in a cell phone. If only Sanyo had paid just a bit more attention to the user experience for music, this would have been a top-notch multimedia cell phone. But they didn’t.
• Quick broadband network access
• Built-in 1 GB memory
• Pocket-sized and lightweight
• MP3/AAC music player
• Long music play time
• Loud and clear conversations
• Decent 2 MP pictures
• Loud ring/violent vibrate
• Bad music player application
• No external music slot
• Short talk time