Inside, the PM-8200 has a bright and clear 1.8-inch (diagonal) LCD screen. Supporting 65,536 colors, the display goes completely dark when the backlight turns off, yet surprisingly, it stays lit when you're making a call. We enjoyed the clever screensaver animation, with a polar bear in various poses and actions, though you can turn it off. Likewise, the user-friendly menus were easy on the eyes.
The main mode of navigation is a circular toggle, which puts you one click away from the PM-8200's most commonly used features: messages, a phone book, downloads, and settings. The button in the center of the toggle opens the menu, while soft keys around its edge give one-touch access to the Web, the camera, and the Ready Link network. Our only complaint was that the navigation keys are a bit small for larger fingers, so we misdialed a few times. We liked the dedicated speakerphone button and the change in texture between the green-backlit dial pad and the navigation keys, which make one-hand dialing in dim conditions a breeze. The PM-8200 can store as many as 300 phone-book entries, with 7 numbers for each, plus e-mail and Web addresses. Contacts can be organized into caller groups, assigned a picture, and given one of the nine 32-chord polyphonic or eight monophonic ring tones (there's also a vibrate mode). For Ready Link contacts, you can store another 200 personal and 200 business numbers in a separate phone book. You can use the two-way speakerphone when the handset is closed. Other features include an alarm clock, a calendar, a to-do list, a world clock, a voice memo function, text and multimedia messaging, and Java (J2ME) support.
The PM-8200's VGA camera comes well configured with a self-timer, 8X zoom, and a multishot option that can take eight pictures in succession. Photos can be shot in one of three resolutions (640x480, 320x240, and 160x120) or five color tones (normal, sepia, black and white, negative, emboss), and you can control the brightness setting and the white balance. You also get a choice of three shutter sounds (plus a silent option) and five fun frames, though the frames can be attached only when taking the picture. You can snap photos with the phone closed, using the external display as a viewfinder--great for self-portraits. The PM-8200 comes with a built-in flash that doubles as a flashlight. It won't light up a dark street, but it does add some light on head shots in close quarters. You can upload photos to your Sprint PCS account and e-mail them directly from the handset or store them in the phone's memory (100 images at the lowest setting and 20 at the highest). You also can add 10-second voice messages to each photo.
As with all Sprint PCS phones, you can download a host of ring tones, screensavers, games, and applications to the PM-8200 via Sprint's 1xRTT network. The handset's WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser allows you to surf for news, weather, sports, and other information. We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) Sanyo PM-8200 with Sprint service in Manhattan, and the reception was consistently good even indoors. The headset does have a small sweet spot in the earpiece, however, requiring us to move the receiver around to hear callers clearly. You'll find this problem on the Sanyo RL2500 too, but it is a small matter.
The speakerphone gets high marks, too. Although not quite full duplex, we were able to carry on conversations with a minimum of cross talk. Connections via Ready Link were good. The phone gives you helpful onscreen prompts--"Floor is open" when you can talk or "Dan has the floor" when others are talking--along with aural cues.
Battery life was good, but it was inconsistent with the company's claims. We managed to exceed the three hours of talk time by 15 minutes. On the flip side, we only got half of the rated standby time of 12 days. Still, that's good enough for a week of light phone use without needing to recharge.