The Android 2.1-based Sprint Zio, released at CTIA on Oct. 6, is set to widen the adoption of smartphones by lowering the price to under $100 with a two-year contract. The phone's features-including Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support and low price-signal that IT managers will likely see a new class of employees coming to work and wanting access to the corporate network.
The Zio, made by Kyocera for Sanyo, provides good call quality over the handset and headset and is Sprint ID ready. It takes decent pictures and video with the 3.2-MP auto-focus camera and, weighing in at 3.7 ounces, offers a sleek, easy-to-pocket form.
Although I encountered a few problems with the phone, the overall test experience proved that the Zio is more than capable of handling voice and messaging communication tasks, as well as providing generally good feature experience. Initial email use via the widget that's included was choppy when connecting to my premium Yahoo email account. Integration with my Google Gmail account worked fine, as did my integration with our Microsoft Exchange 2007 infrastructure. The weather widget provided continually insisted that San Francisco (where I tested the device) was engulfed in thunderstorms.
I tested the Zio running Android 2.1. This is among the first Android handsets to be Sprint ID-ready. Sprint ID is similar to Motorola's Motoblur; it is an interface overlay that provides a group of pre-defined applications, widgets, ringtones and wallpapers. Zio users can have up to five Sprint IDs, which are downloaded from Sprint and then installed on the phone. I used the business productivity Sprint ID pack, which includes one of my "must have" applications: Documents to Go for viewing and working with Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF files. The Sprint ID business pack is free for Sprint users.
The Zio is roughly the size of an Apple iPhone, measuring 4.6 x 2.3 x 0.5-inches with a 3.5-inch TFT WVGA (480 x 800 pixels) touchscreen. The device is light in the hand. While the sleek finish allows the Zio to easily slip into your pocket, that same quality meant that I had to keep a sure grip on the device to avoid dropping it. Part of the Zio's slim profile comes from the noticeably rounded front panel. The rounding made it rather difficult to accurately touch the keys at both sides. I was unable to easily perform single-handed texting in portrait mode. In landscape mode, the virtual keyboard is unremarkable, in that it provides for a reasonable thumb-typing experience accompanied by a haptic tactile feedback.
I used Zio through most of the workday on a single charge while performing a moderately heavy workload with applications that were stored on the 2GB microSD storage card. The Zio supports up to 32GB microSDHC, and uses an 1130 mAh lithium ion battery. Sprint rates the battery at 4.6 hours of continuous talk time. When I used my Plantronic Savor M1100 Bluetooth headset, it was necessary to keep the phone charger near to avoid power anxiety.