Pocket-friendly: While not Sprint's most compact mobile, the RL2500 fits nicely in your pocket.
Open the RL2500 and you'll find a bright, 11-line display. Unfortunately, it is readable only when it is lit. When the backlight shuts down, the screen goes completely blank, and you could easily think that the phone is off. Oddly though, the screen remains illuminated whenever you're on a call, which helps explain the relatively limited battery life (see the Performance section) compared with this phone's more rugged sibling, the RL2000.
A four-way navigation key with a Menu/OK button in its center gives one-touch access to contacts, downloads, messaging, and a user-set shortcut. A button activating the wireless Web browser is off to one side, and a designated speakerphone key sits below. Dial-pad keys are generously spaced but sit flush with the surface, making it difficult to punch in numbers by feel. A cool, blue backlight, however, should help guide your fingers in less well-lit situations. The spine-mounted Ready Link button, which activates the Push To Talk function (see Features for more information), is easy to locate by feel, and you won't have to apply much pressure to keep it depressed while you're talking. Below that is another dedicated speakerphone control, which can be used to swap calls between the earpiece and the speaker when the flap is open. The Sanyo RL2500's standard phone book can store 300 contacts with seven numbers each, as well as up to 300 e-mail and Web addresses. Other features include a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser that uses Sprint's 1xRTT network, voice dialing, a memo recorder, photo caller ID (with the image appearing on the external screen), an event calendar, a to-do list, text messaging, and bilingual (English and Spanish) voice and text prompts. The phone also comes with seven preloaded polyphonic ring tones and a vibrate mode, but if you don't like them, don't worry. With Sprint's PCS Vision, it's easy to personalize your handset by downloading ring tones, screensavers, and Java (J2ME) games and applications.
Along with the RL2000, this Sanyo model marks the introduction of Ready Link, Sprint's version of Push To Talk, a walkie-talkie/two-way-radio-like service using VoIP technology. (PTT is also offered by Nextel's Direct Connect, Verizon, and Alltel's Touch2Talk.) A network connection is required for Ready Link, which can be used with only other Sprint customers who have the same feature. A separate phone book holds Ready Link information for another 200 personal and 200 business contacts, and you can set up calling groups of up to five people on the phone or on the Sprint PCS Web site. As with Verizon's PTT service but unlike Nextel's, you need only one phone number for both standard and Ready Link calls.
A fun extra on the RL2500 is the customizable light show; alternating purple, green, blue, yellow, and red LEDs appear when you use Ready Link with the flap up. You can even adjust the sequence and the colors in the menu. We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) Sanyo RL2500 with Sprint service in Manhattan and found that we prefer the speakerphone over the earpiece for making calls; it completely blocked ambient noise, including loud street sounds. However, the phone's sweet spot had to sit perfectly on the lobes if you wanted to hear anything at all. The speakerphone works whether the phone is open or closed, and when we used the integrated speaker with the flap up (and the speaker facing away from us), sound quality diminished only slightly.
Connections via Ready Link were immediate and crystal clear, even in calls between New York and Virginia. You get helpful onscreen "Floor is open" (when you can talk) or "(Name) has the floor" (when others are talking) prompts along with aural cues.
Battery life was disappointing. We got a little less than the 3.25 hours of talk time and 3.75 days of standby. Not only is this well short of the company's rating of 5.35 hours and 7 days, respectively, it pales in comparison to the 5 hours we managed on the sports-styled RL2000. One contributing factor to the shortened talk time on the RL2500 is the screen, which remains on throughout all calls.