Sanyo started making the Katana series phones back in the summer of 2006 for Sprint to offer their customers a thin flip phone that’s flashy looking with decent phone specs. The Katana II came out as Sprint’s entry-level feature phone and the Katana DLX as higher tier feature phone last year. Sanyo and Sprint announced the Katana LX this spring at CTIA as their new entry-level feature phone, although Sprint continues to sell both the Katana II and the Katana DLX at the moment. The Katana LX is essentially an aesthetic update to the Katana II with mostly the same technical specs: it’s a digital dual band PCS phone with Sprint Vision 1xRTT (not EVDO) support, a VGA camera, Bluetooth and aGPS. The Katana LX comes in three colors: Liquid Graphite, Elegant Pink and Pacific Blue.
Design and Ergonomics
The mirror-like finish on the Katana LX gives the Katana line a classy update. The front facing speaker and the camera integrate with the phone fluidly, and the OLED external display adds a cool factor. Standby info and caller ID are displayed on the flip and when you are not using it, the display disappears into the mirror. The only drawback of the front cover is that fingerprints mess up the look completely. With the exception of the front cover, not much else has changed in design. The flip phone has a 2” main display that supports 65K colors (same as the Katana II). The plastic number keys are large enough to dial easily and have faint backlight. The call send, call end and dedicated speaker key remain above the number keys. The biggest change comes from the menu keys: they are now surrounding the five-way d-pad in a dome-like shape. The d-pad is easy to use but the thin menu keys require some attention to operate. The side buttons and ports include a dedicated camera launch key, volume keys along with charging port and 2.5mm headset jack.
Phone Features and Reception
The Sanyo Katana LX is a digital dual band CDMA phone that operates on Sprint’s 800/1900MHz network, and it has support for Sprint’s Vision for data. The phone has good reception and has never dropped a call in both well-covered areas and spotty coverage areas. The voice quality is actually very good and volume is loud through the earpiece and through the speakerphone. The speaker sounds a little blown when the volume is turned to max, but you likely won’t need the volume to be that high in most environments. The Katana LX supports common call management features including call waiting, three-way calling, call forwarding, airplane mode and has a contacts database. You can also store up to 98 speed dial numbers and 300 entries in contacts. Each contact can have 6 phone numbers, email address, URL, home address, memo and unique ringtone and caller ID. Additional tools include calendar, voice memo (up to 3 minutes and 100 entries), alarm clock, world clock, stopwatch, countdown timer and calculator. For voice dialing, the Katana LX bundles VoiceSignal’s excellent Voice Command software. Voice Command doesn’t require pre-recorded voice tags and works over Bluetooth too.
It’s hard for EV-DO users to get used to the slower 1X data speed on the Katana LX, though if this is your first time web browsing on a phone, the Katana LX doesn’t feel too bad. The phone comes with a WAP 2.0 Access browser which covers the basic WAP sites and news portals, web-based email (AOL, Windows Live, etc.) and web-based IM services. And as long as you access only WAP sites, the page download speed is actually quite acceptable. For those who like to customize their phones, the Katana LX can download ringtones and screensavers over the air. In addition, you can also download applications (such as TeleNav maps) and games over the air. Applications download smoothly.
Navigation and Games
Unlike the Katana DLX, the Katana LX isn’t a music phone. For downtime fun, the Sanyo offers gaming. You can run the games as soon as you have downloaded them, and pay either a $3.49/month subscription fee or $6.99-7.99 to purchase a game. We tested various games including Resident Evil Genesis (Capcom), Speed Racer (Glu), The Sims 2 (EA), Platinum Solitaire by Gameloft and more, and all games ran smoothly. The low-resolution screen makes some games look worse than on phones with higher resolution, but the d-pad feels good a game control in most games.
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One thing Katana users have always enjoyed is navigation services, and the Katana LX is no exception. The phone comes with aGPS and supports Sprint Navigation powered by TeleNav. Make sure you turn on the location-based services on the phone and you can download the TeleNav navigation and map software. Sprint charges $9.99 / month for the Sprint Navigation services and you get an 8-day free trial on the Katana. While Sprint Navigation generally has very good performance on EVDO-enabled phones, it loads slowly on the Katana LX. The GPS data download speed was so slow that it couldn’t keep up with our travel in real time or accurately pinpoint our locations. The navigation options such as routing options, map view and driving directions are all there and the speakerphone is very handy for using the navigation while driving though the volume in voice guidance isn’t the loudest we’ve heard on a phone. In addition to Sprint Navigation, the phone also supports other location-based services such as the Sprint Family Locator and Safety Checks.
Like the Katana II, the Katana LX has a VGA camera with digital zoom and can take photos but not videos. VGA camera phones are really outdated in a market that’s crowded with 1.3 megapixel and 2 megapixel feature phones. Even though the photo quality on the Katana LX is better than that of VGA camera phones from 2-3 years ago, the images lack in detail and color. Indoor shots look hazy and outdoor shots look murky. Colors don’t look bright or saturated and the overall colors look a little too cool. The Katana LX offers brightness and color tone settings, a self-timer, multi-shot mode and fun frames. Since there is no expansion card slot, you can send the photos to other phones via Sprint Picture Mail or email them.
The Katana LX has Bluetooth v2.0 and supports Headset, Hands-Free, Phone book access, Object push for vCard, GAP/SPP/GOEP and DUN (Dial-up Networking) profiles. We tested the Katana LX with several Bluetooth headsets including the Jabra BT8040 and the Plantronics Explorer 330, the phone paired with all easily. The Katana LX could certainly hold conversations but don’t expect crystal clear voice on either incoming or outgoing end. Voice quality was average in our tests: voice wasn’t very clear and had some digital distortions and the DSP wasn’t hugely effective. Volume was loud through headsets and voice command worked flawlessly with all the headsets. Range between the phone and the headsets was good, reaching 20 feet. Other Bluetooth features you can take advantage of include object push for contacts and business cards (but not photos) and dial-up networking for using the phone as modem for laptops, although the slower data speed isn’t very desirable for most users.
The Katana LX comes with a standard rechargeable battery that’s 840 mAh in capacity, a small bump from the 820 mAh on the Katana II. The battery is user replaceable and you can charge it using the included charger (120V). Battery life is very good since most applications on the Katana LX aren’t power hungry and the phone doesn’t support EV-DO. The claimed talk time is 4.8 hours and that seems to be on target. An extended battery can provide 7.4 hours of talk time, but neither Sprint nor Sanyo has it for sale yet.
The Katana LX brings good looks to Sprint’s entry-level phone line. The mirrored, modern design in available in three colors and offers a basic feature phone package that includes voice dialing, a VGA camera, gaming, Bluetooth and aGPS. While the Katana LX is still a voice-centric phone, it does give you games, ringer and applications download over the air. But if you're feature more than fashion consious, the Samsung M520 and LG Rumor on Sprint offer more for the same price.
Pro: Better looking than the last gen Katana phones. Good reception. Bluetooth works with all headsets and the phone has great battery life.
Con: VGA camera is dated. GPS has slow performance on Vision. Can’t send photos over Bluetooth, no microSD card slot.
Price: $49.99 with 2-year contract after rebate. $249.99 without contract.
Battery: Sanyo standard Lithium Ion rechargeable battery (SCP-30LBPS). 840 mAh, 3.7V. Battery is user replaceable. Claimed talk time for standard battery: up to 4.8 hours. Claimed talk time for optional extended battery: up to 7.4 hours.
Performance:Phone book can store 300 entries.
Size:3.7 x 1.9 x 0.7 inches. Weight: 3.4 ounces.
Phone:CDMA digital dual band 800/1900MHz. 1xRTT for data.
Camera:VGA camera with 1-16 steps of digital zoom.
Audio:Built-in mic and 2.5mm standard headset jack. Supports 72-Chord Polyphonic ringtones. Comes with Voice memo and Voice dialing. Supports vibrating alert.
Networking: Bluetooth v2.0. Support Profiles: GAP, SPP, GOEP (General), HSP (Headsets), HFP (Hands-free car kits), OPP (vCard transfer), DUN (Dial-up networking), PBAP (Phone book Access profile).
Software:Icon/text-based UI. Contacts, calendar, voice memo, alarm clock, world clock, stopwatch, countdown timer and calculator. WAP browser, SMS, Picture Mail and Voice Command.
In the Box:The Sanyo Katana LX phone with standard battery, AC charger and printed user manual and quick start guide.