When Sprint acquired Nextel, the company inherited a long line of rugged devices. Just recently, however, Sprint partnered with Sanyo and decided to release their own rugged device, the Sanyo Taho. It does not feature the Direct Connect: Push-to-Talk feature that became so popular with Nextel's phones, nor does it include handy tools for "outdoorsmen" that Casio has outfitted their rugged phones with. Still, it meets military standards and should be able to hold up through thick and thin, or whatever trials you put it through, but is that simply enough to make it worth the nearly $100 price tag?
Design & Features
The Taho is basically a standard flip phone, but with a little more armor covering it. It's not extremely heavy, but it is a thick device, nearly one full inch in thickness, to be exact. As expected, it's a solid device, but I noticed that the texture seemed to be more rubbery than the usual hard plastic that rugged phones are designed with. This led me to believe that it wouldn't be quite as durable as other rugged phones that I've tested, and I was soon proved right, as we'll see later in the review.
The design is simple, with a small display on the front of the device and a larger 2-inch QVGA display that is visible when you flip the device open. The display is clear and bright, and I had no problems with it. Below the display are two soft keys, a circular D-pad, a camera key, Back key, Talk key, Speaker key, and an End/Power key. The numeric buttons are large and domed, making them easy to press if you're wearing gloves or have larger fingers.
The right spine of the device contains only the 2.5mm headphone jack, while the left spine contains the Voice Command button, the volume rocker buttons, and the microUSB charging port. The 2 megapixel camera and LED flash are on the back of the device. Underneath the battery cover and battery is a microSD card slot that supports up to 32 GB of external memory. Surprisingly, the phone ships with a 1 GB card.
Usability & Performance
As I mentioned in the Overview, the Taho was not as durable as I would expect from a phone of this nature. After dropping it twice from the hight of my ear, the hinge started to feel loose. After dropping it a couple of times from a second floor balcony, the hinge felt like it was about to break. The hinge has since popped back into place, but there were some initial build quality concerns for sure. The molding on the sides of the device also popped out of place, which would have caused problems had it gotten wet or it if had been dropped in water. Overall, I'd say it's probably durable enough, but I wouldn't be willing to trust it as much when in rugged situations.
Functionality and navigation through the phones features is pretty standard. There is a Main Menu that takes you to all of your options and tools. The Taho does have GPS navigation and is Email capable, but make sure you have a data plan before you start using them. GPS navigation may also be hard to use with such a small screen, so I wouldn't recommend it for when driving.
The Taho's 2 megapixel camera delivered standard-quality pictures. It's nice that the camera is equipped with a flash; this will come in handy for those who are outside a lot. I found that picture quality was high enough for basic snapshots, and photos taken at night came out well too, thanks to the flash and Night Mode.
Battery life on the Taho was slightly disappointing. The phone ships with a 1050 mAh battery; this, coupled with the fact that the device is a basic flip phone, should have meant that the battery would last about five or six days on standby; however, I was shocked when the battery went dead after barely making it past three days. I would definitely expect better battery life from a basic device like the Taho, but at least it will be enough to get you through a full day of work, if not two days, so you can charge it again at night.
The Voice Command button can be used while the phone is flipped open to make calls or when the phone is closed to dial the last number you called. Once the number is dialed, you can have a conversation without having to even flip open the phone. Speaker quality was superb and the microphone picked up my voice very well, even though the phone was closed and I didn't have it close to my mouth.
After testing out the Sanyo Taho, I'm somewhat disappointed by the features and performance. It wasn't quite as durable as I would have expected and I wish it had more features for those who are outdoors than what it ships with, perhaps a compass or pedometer. Battery performance was also disappointing. If you aren't planning on being too terribly rough with your phone, then the Taho should be fine. Verizon has better options with their Casio G'zOne devices, but the Taho's current $99 price tag is much more economical that what Casio offers.
The Good: Rugged device; 2 megapixel camera with flash; large buttons for easy pressing.
The Bad: Not as durable as expected; poor battery performance; no Direct Connect feature that is available on most Sprint/Nextel rugged phones.
The Verdict: The Taho is rugged and will probably be durable enough for whatever you may put it through, but we've tested rugged phones that held up better under rough testing.