Sprint's latest Sanyo multimedia handset bundles all of the features and amenities that multimedia mavens drool over: a fast 3G connection, over-the-air downloads from the Sprint Music Store, on-the-go programming via Sprint TV, and very good voice quality. Priced at $99.99 (after a two-year contract and a $50 rebate), the Sanyo Katana Eclipse is a solid budget entertainment phone.
Measuring 3.6 x 1.9 x 0.7 inches and weighing 3.4 ounces, the Eclipse slides easily into a shirt or jacket pocket without adding extraneous bulk. Its mirror-like reflective lid sports a futuristic-chic design that resembles a communication device from a sci-fi flick; two strips along each edge pulsate with a soft yellow-green glow when you power it on and with a soft red glow when the handset is charging. The phone also contains 40 lighting effects that you can assign to messages, alerts, and particular callers.
The face of the Eclipse features a 1.3-megapixel camera, powerful speaker, a 1-inch (120 x 60-pixel resolution) outer display that shows the date and time that's reminiscent of the Sanyo Katana DLX. In fact, if it weren't for the illuminated strips or multimedia keys, the two would be nearly identical. Unfortunately, the Eclipse utilizes a 2.5mm headphone jack, which prevented us from using our personal set of cans.
The interior doesn't quite jibe with the sexy exterior; it's a by-the-book design. The Eclipse's keypad is large and offers decent tactile feedback, but the 2-inch (220 x 176-pixel resolution) display isn't very sharp. Plus, it looks smaller than it is because of how much wasted space there is between the screen and the hinge. The menu system is straightforward but bland.
The Eclipse has just 10MB of onboard memory for storing data but comes with a 256MB microSD Card and a microSD Card adapter for side-loading additional content. The microSDHC slot can support up to 8GB of photos (JPEG, GIF, PNG, WBMP), video (MP4, 3GPP, 3GPP2), and music (MP3, AAC, AAC+, MIDI, QCELP). When we loaded The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" via memory card, we were surprised just how loud the track sounded through Eclipse's speaker, and with minimal distortion. When we listened to the same song using a Kyocera stereo Bluetooth headset, the audio was crisp but the bass was weak.
You can also acquire music via the Sprint Music Store, where users can download songs over the air for 99 cents a pop. It took us 39 seconds to download Rihanna's "Disturbia," and with the purchase we received a free PC download that's laced with Windows DRM. Unfortunately, you can't multitask, so don't expect to check text messages or surf the Web while rocking out. If buying tunes isn't your bag, Sprint Radio (free for 10 channels, $5.95 per month for 50 additional channels) offers clear but tinny audio.
Sprint TV ($9.99 per month) offers an extensive selection of streaming and on-demand programming. Tuning into ESPN's coverage of the Olympics resulted in solid if unspectacular video (we would have liked to see a smoother frame rate) and audio that was a hair out of sync with the visuals. These services are also included with the Sprint Everything plan (starting at $69.99), Simply Everything plan ($99.99), and Talk/Message/Data Share plan (starting at $129).
Sprint Mobile Mail let us check our Gmail account (AIM Mail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail are also supported) simply by logging in with our username and password; you can also use Outlook Web Access if your company's Microsoft Exchange server allows it. The convenient tabbed interface let us jump around account setup, inbox, and inbox search fields, but the e-mail client's bland color scheme and low-res graphics are crude and ugly. The phone took a rather lengthy 1 minute to log into our business e-mail account and download the first 25 messages, lagging slightly behind the Motorola RAZR VE20, which took 50 seconds to perform the same task. The Eclipse is also IMAP compatible.
Web browsing was a mixed bag. Thanks to the Eclipse's speedy 3G connection, CNN.com loaded in just 7 seconds; NYTimes.com loaded in 8 seconds. Visiting the photo-heavy Cracked.com proved more troublesome as some of the words on the main page spilled off-screen with no way to scroll over. However, clicking links to individual stories returned text that was properly formatted.
GPS Functionality, Restrict and Lock, Wireless Backup
Users can access Sprint Navigation ($2.99 per day, or as part of the Sprint Everything Plan), which provides audible turn-by-turn driving directions. The integrated GPS picked up a signal immediately and accurately marked our location on the map. After inputting our home address, the Eclipse plotted out a familiar route.
Restrict and Lock lets you set limits on when and how the phone is used--a handy tool for parents who want to monitor their children's whereabouts. You can block the use of data, lock the camera, or disable voice so that calls can't be placed. The Eclipse also lets users wirelessly back up their phones' contacts in case the handset is lost, stolen, or damaged. The data then can be automatically restored on their next unit.
The Katana Eclipse took fairly sharp snaps with its 1.3-megapixel camera, but the colors were muted. The grainy camcorder didn't fare much better--with a maximum resolution of just 176 x 144 pixels.
Voice Quality and Talk Time
We didn't experience any issues with call quality while inside our office or walking around the streets of midtown Manhattan. Audio was clear--we didn't encounter pops or hisses--but we heard the occasional echo. As with other Sanyo phones, the front-facing speaker on the lid was nice and loud during calls. The Eclipse is rated for 4.6 hours of talk time; during 2 days' worth of mild chatting, Web surfing, and music playing, we saw the battery dip to 50 percent.
If you were disappointed in the lack of features in theSanyo Katana LXand are willing to pay the $70 premium, the Katana Eclipse is a solid phone for multimedia mavens looking for a little extra flash. It doesn't let you multitask when rocking out, and the Web browser is ancient, but the call quality, loudspeaker, reliable GPS performance, and external media controls make it a compelling choice for Sprint subscribers on a budget.