We take a month-long look at the Katana II. With the market heating up in competition from cheaper RAZRs and thinner mid-range phones, does the Katana II have what it takes to keep up? Read more to find out.
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First Impressions, Basic Functionality
The Katana II is a minor revision to the existing SCP-6600 Katana. Sporting a refined appearance, the phone is not intended to reinvent the original… but be a minor speed bump. From first appearances, there appears to be no significant changes. The front of the phone is now completely flat, making the phone much more elegant… the original Katana appeared boxy and awkward.
And, flipping the phone open, it also has a great build quality. The keypad is a far cry from the days of dimly-lit, hard-to-press Sanyo keys, and the polished, glass-like feel of the keys works very well. In addition
Bluetooth works great on the Katana II, though the lack of full voice recognition software isn’t. This is probably the largest flaw in the phone, and unfortunately, it’s common on all Sanyo phones. At the very least, Sanyo should add VoiceSignal recognition technology. Basic voice tag support simply is too sub-par. Other Bluetooth functionality (phone-as-modem, vCards, etc) work as expected.
As to user interface, it appears the SCP-6650 intended to carry uiOne theme downloads, but it didn’t make the cut. That said, the phone appears to use uiOne elements to spruce-up the Sanyo interface… as the default “theme” certainly is far improved over standard Sanyo look-and-feel standards. Everything in the UI is consistent with low friction (in other words, no lag when going through the menus and entries).
One thing Sanyo says they implemented was IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology on the display. This is designed to improve the viewing angle of the display, as well as give the display better contrast when displayed in direct sunlight. Sanyo did a great job of making these improvements… the Katana II easily outperforms many very high-end phones in their ability to view the display at an angle, and more importantly, in sunlight.
The Katana II does not make significant changes application-wise from the original Katana. Both feature MIDP 2.0 Java.
Sprint Navigation has been updated for the Katana II, and the application certainly has improved in terms of reliability. In fact, with the Katana II, Sprint Navigation comes much closer to being on-par with VZ Navigator on Verizon Wireless. As we’ve noted in previous reviews, Sprint Navigation has suffered from GPS acquisition issues, speakerphone, and UI friction issues. Of note, the speakerphone still doesn’t work… making Sprint Navigation’s audio alerts inaudible with normal car noise. The application needs to be able to activate the speakerphone itself… and TeleNav should network with Sprint on how to get that done (on all Sprint Navigation phones, not just the Katana II).
It is worth noting that the Katana II, unlike most Sprint Navigation phones, does not support live traffic and re-routing.
If you were expecting additional advanced features, sorry. This is a mid-range phone, and with Bluetooth becoming standard on all Sprint devices, Katana II climbs (barely) into the mid-range because of its thin form-factor, not the raw feature count.
No camera photo comparisons this time, but we are impressed by the picture mail consistency in the latest Sanyo phones. Gone is the background sending feature, so you actually can tell if a photo got sent or not.
As usual, we drop our phones from pant-pocket-level to see how they fair during a typical drop onto sidewalk concrete. The Katana II took no visible damage during the drop, and we couldn’t have asked for better.
The Katana II is great at almost everything it does, it is a very well-rounded offering from Sanyo. Great design, great voice quality, and great performance at what it supports. This isn’t meant for the EV-DO, Music Store, multi-tasking smart device user. This is meant for people who want a thin phone, novelty camera, and casual web browsing, with the added benefit of being a GPS navigation system.
The only real regret we have with Katana II is that it lacks voice dialing. Hopefully Sanyo will correct this in future models… nothing is worse than hitting the Bluetooth button, and not being able to do anything because of the lack of a pre-recorded voice tag.
Pros: Fast, reliable, well-rounded offering
Cons: VGA-quality camera, lacks voice command
Final Score: 4/5