What's hot: Attractive and affordable Android smartphone.
What's not: Touch screen lacks sensitivity, phone sometimes lags.
Reviewed October 15, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Sanyo says a budget Android smartphone doesn't have to be clunky and ugly. The attractive and slim Zio weighs just 3.7 ounces and it has a few high end specs too. The phone has a WVGA 800 x 480 pixel capacitive touch screen, touch sensitive buttons and hardware calling buttons, things we don't associate with an inexpensive Android phone. The rest of the specs are decidedly entry to mid-range: a 600MHz CPU, 3.2 megapixel camera, WiFi 802.11b/g (no 802.11n), Bluetooth and a GPS that works with Google Maps and TeleNav. Sprint includes a 2 gig microSD card in the Zio's easily accessible slot on the side, but no wired headset.
Kyocera bought Sanyo in 2008, and some folks refer to the Zio as a Kyocera product, but the branding from box to phone is pure Sanyo. Our first impression of the Zio was positive-- it's extremely light but not cheap and the looks are downright elegant. Boot up the smartphone and you see a very sharp, high resolution 480 x 800 pixel display and Android 2.1. Looking good so far. But things went downhill a bit: the touch screen is numb and at first we thought it might be resistive (it is in fact capacitive). It takes too much force to register finger taps. There's an odd 2 to 3 second delay after you press the power button to wake up the device before it actually wakes up. There's no multi-touch (say goodbye to pinch zooming). And the Sprint ID service, though a useful service for newbies, bogs down this 600MHz smartphone.
All is not lost, and we laud the functional GPS, WiFi and expandable storage. We found the device's speed was fine, though not blazing, when we avoided the Sprint ID packs. That's a shame since it's perhaps a selling point for the device. So far, Sprint ID targets the carrier's mid-range devices, and these aren't quite up to the task of running a bucket of widgets, custom software and services. Part of the problem is that if you download a few Sprint ID packs and switch between them, as it's tempting to do since you can use the business one during the work day and the golf enthusiast at night and weekends, not all apps and widgets from the old pack stop consuming resources. We hope that as Sprint fine tunes this new service, they'll make Sprint ID more memory and processor-frugal.
Note that when you boot the phone for the first time, it asks you to select an ID pack as part of the initial setup. If you select "clean", you won't get any of the Sprint applications like Sprint TV, TeleNav and Nascar Mobile. If you want the standard selection of Sprint apps, but wish to avoid the heavy load of other ID packs, choose the Sprint pack when first setting up your phone.
Wirefly price (no rebate required):
What are Sprint ID packs? Sprint offers approximately 13, and there's a shortcut to Sprint ID on the home screen (the far right button, where it shares real estate with the dialer and applications drawer shortcut). The phone ships with the basic Sprint ID pack and you can download packs that match your interests such as fashion, entertainment, autos, golf and business tools. Each pack you download stays on the phone, so you can switch between them. Note that it takes at least 5 minutes to download a Sprint ID pack over 3G EV-DO Rev. A, but after that, the switch takes a minute or less.
Sprint ID adds widgets, applications and shortcuts related to your area of interest. If you choose autos, you get a mileage manager, shortcuts to a variety of popular car enthusiast and review sites and a few apps. Note you don't get paid software for free-- the ID packs only install apps and widgets that are available free on the Android Market. The EA Games pack doesn't give you cool games for free, but you do get a few trial games. To see Sprint ID in action, watch our video review below.
The Zio's front touch-sensitive buttons work well, and they light up when the display's backlighting is on. Following the Samsung Galaxy S and HTC T-Mobile G2's trend, these buttons are nearly impossible to see when backlighting is off *sigh*. The mechanical call send and end buttons are a welcome and rare treat, and the call end button doubles as the power/wake button.
Every side port is covered by a plastic door, giving the phone clean lines. These include the MicroSD card slot (a 2 gig card is included), the 3.5mm stereo jack and the micro USB port. All are labeled with an icon except the USB port. The rear-firing speaker lives under a large grille on the back and volume is decent and quality acceptable but not wondrous. The 3.2 megapixel camera's lens sits on the back in a wide oval inset that's large enough to accommodate a flash but there is no flash. The smartphone feels good in hand and is well made.
Call Quality and Data
Incoming and outgoing voice quality are quite good, though reception lags behind Sprint's stronger RF phones. The phone works with wired headsets, Bluetooth headsets and car kits. EV-DO Rev. A provides the 3G connection and the phone has WiFi as well. Data speeds were oddly not that impressive despite the Rev. A service, and Sprint TV broke up unless the signal was fairly strong (75% bars/ -80's or better in -db). Ookla's Speedtest.net app averaged a measly 300k for downloads with half signal (-90db) and 850k with a super-strong -66db full strength under-the-cell-tower signal.
Here's our video review of the Sanyo Zio Android smartphone. We take a look at the phone's design, the Sprint ID service and more.
GPS, Multimedia and More
Sprint phones offer plenty of Sprint services including Sprint TV, TeleNav navigation, Nascar Mobile, Sprint Football and more. These services work well on the phone with the exception of Sprint TV which breaks up and looks blocky unless you have an excellent signal. Other 3rd party apps Sprint includes are Handmark News, Handmark Horoscopes, Futuredial's MS Exchange client and Tweetcaster. If you install Sprint ID packs, you'll get bucket loads more (again these ID apps are free apps, not paid).
The GPS worked well with TeleNav and Google Maps, and it provided logical directions and accurate tracking of our car's movements.
The standard suite of Google software is on board: the webkit web browser sans pinch zooming, Gmail, Gtalk, Google search, Google Voice Search, YouTube and email for POP3/IMAP email. Google's standard Gallery, music player and video player are on board and they're basic no frills apps.
Battery life is acceptable and we made it through the day with moderate use. The phone has a 1130 mAh Lithium Ion battery located under the back cover.
We really like the Sanyo Zio's looks, light weight and high resolution, crisp display. Sprint ID drags the phone down unfortunately, and we suggest that you play with the ID packs if you like, then hard reset the phone to erase all the junk those packs leave behind, and settle on just one. The main Sprint ID pack will get you all the Sprint apps without much added bloat.
The Zio has good call quality, though reception and data speeds aren't impressive. The GPS works well, the phone doubles as a good music player and the design reminds us a little bit of the 4th generation iPod nano. The speakerphone's quality isn't very good but audio is good through headphones.
We suggest you test out the Zio if possible before you buy it, so you can try out the touch response for yourself. Some folks who are upgrading from a resistive touch screen phone will likely find it tolerable, but if you're used to the excellent capacitive displays on the market, you'll find it numb.
Display:Capacitive touch screen. Screen size diagonally: 3.5". Resolution:
800 x 480, supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
Performance:600 MHz Qualcomm ARM6 family processor, no 3D hardware graphics acceleration. 256 MB built-in RAM. 128 MB Flash ROM with 2.85 megs
Size:4.6 x 2.3 x 0.5 inches. Weight: 3.7 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital with 1xRTT and EV-DO Rev. A 3G.
Camera:3.2MP camera and camcorder.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 pleasure.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth.
Software:Android OS 2.1 with Sprint ID software. Full Google suite of applications, including Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail, email, web browser and Android Market. Sprint apps and services: Sprint TV, NASCAR Mobile, Sprint Zone, TeleNav and Sprint Football Live. Third party applications vary depending on Sprint ID pack currently active, but Tweetcaster, Daily Deal and Handmark Express are in all.