Sunbeam F1 Review
By Yvonne
2022-11-25
PROS

Thoughtful design

Solid construction

Loud earpiece

Three levels of feature restrictions

CONS

Lacks band 71 for T-Mobile

Long-term support not guaranteed

Operating System Other
CPU MediaTek MT6739
Dimensions 4.3 by 2.2 by 0.8 inches
Screen Size 2.8 inches
Screen Resolution 240 by 320 pixels
Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing) 2MP
Battery Life (As Tested) 5 hours, 45 minutes

Do you feel willing to fork out more to support a young business and work alongside someone you can trust? Sunbeam F1 (195 USD) is a stripped down version of the phone. The flip phone is unlocked, but made for Verizon. It was developed by a Missouri-based startup. Although the F1 is more expensive than other flips it offers, there has been a lot of work put into programming and designing it. This results in a smoother and cleaner experience than those on cheaper phones. The Sunbeam F1 is a joint Editors' Choice winner for Verizon's best voice phone with the Kyocera DuraXV Extreme.

While smartphones are the most popular form of communication, voice phones have still been loved by many Americans. These phones are popular among parents looking to provide basic communication tools to their children, those with motor impairments who like physical buttons and people who seek to simplify their lives through digital disconnectors. Sunbeam F1 works well for those with limited tech usage for religious purposes.

Sunbeam, a Missouri startup that was founded by Mennonites is Sunbeam. Their religion counsels a thoughtful approach to technology—they aren't Amish, but they also don't want to get totally sucked into the internet. Sunbeam founders were unable to find VoLTE phone that was good without web browsers so they created one.

This phone can be compared to kosher phones. These are restricted-feature phones that ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities use to keep in touch and not violate religious edicts. TAG approves the Sunbeam phone, which is a loose alliance of organisations that work with "koshering technology".

Sunbeam recognized that not only do kosher phones cater to their local community but also that many secular users want semi-disconnect. This has resulted in a range of phones that are easy to use and offer three levels of app restriction as well as connectivity.

Sunbeam F1 black flip phone measures 4.3x2.2x0.83 inches (HWD) closed, and weighs in at 4.7 ounces. Although the device was manufactured in China by APS, Sunbeam developed its software.

The outside displays the caller ID and battery status. A 1.8 inch color LCD shows the time. Inside is a 2.8-inch, 320-by-240-pixel touch screen—yes, a touch screen on a flip phone! It has side volume buttons and a dedicated SOS button at the bottom. The keypad is the best I have seen in any voice phone. These keys, which are slightly concave in shape, are made from hard black plastic. These keys are large and clear. They feel clicky and separate well.

Although the removable battery and back are handy, they're not waterproof. The F1 smartphone is plastic, and unlike many others in the class, it's much less likely to be dropped than other glass-slab smartphones.

There are a number of ways that the touch screen on F1 is useful. The screen can be used as a touch keyboard, which is surprisingly easy to use. Although the keys may be small, they are still better than the triple-tap or XT9 options for predictive text.

A touch screen allows the F1 to bypass a problem that I encountered a couple of times while using the Nuu F4L. The F1 and F4L both run Android-based custom operating systems. Sometimes, those OSes can pop up large dialogs which aren't optimized for touch screens. The F1 allows you to tap and drag the items; on phones without touch screens, you won't be able to do that.

Three F1 models are subtly distinct. The names on each model can be distinguished as well as the keys on the keypad. It is a camera key for the models that have cameras and a calculator key for the ones without.

Sunbeam's BasicOS is installed on all three devices. It runs on Mediatek MT6739 processors with 1GB RAM, 8GB storage and a microSD slot. It feels significantly snappier than Android and KaiOS basic phones. This is likely because the MT6739 processor has a higher power level than the Snapdragon 200 or 210 chips used by most.

BasicOS seems to be an heavily modified version of Android 8.1 with a simple, list-style launcher. Numerous features have been removed. Google does not offer any cloud services. The few that are offered by Microsoft and the Weather Company are Sunbeam's private cloud. Sunbeam's FAQ (Opens in new window) explains why it won't allow users to sign up for its free services.

The Dandelion model is the most secure. This phone is a voice only device, and does not support SMS texting. It can reply to any text messages that are sent by someone. Both the touch screen and camera are disabled. The device has an alarm clock and calculator. It also includes a calendar, flashlight, a calculator and a note app. However, nothing syncs. It can be used with either Bluetooth headsets or wired headphones. This is similar to if you take an old landline phone, and connect it to Verizon Wireless.

Sunbeam says the Daisy model is more in demand. The Daisy adds texting and a 2MP camera to the phone. You can also play music from a microSD Card. A green light appears on the front when you receive a message. The F1 handles texts well, including emoji and picture messages, and group texts appear in the right threads and let you reply to the whole group by default—features that some other voice phones, such as the Nokia 225 and the Nokia 6300, struggle with. Although the soft and smeary photos won't win awards, they are standard for this type of phone.

Also, the Daisy model adds speech to-text which can be a huge help for texting. It's not powered by Google, but Microsoft in accordance with Sunbeam’s data privacy policies. When the cursor appears in a text area, hold the SMS key down to dictate. It was fast and precise, I found.

The Orchid comes as close to the smartphone as F1 can get. The app adds the Weather Company's forecast and turns-by-turn directions. You can access maps stored on microSD cards or download them over Wi-Fi to use offline. These directions can only be used for driving; the Nokia 6300 has full Google Maps functionality and a complete voicephone with walking, biking, transit, and other functions.

Sunbeam said that none of the F1 cars will have access to social media or a web browser. No one has games.

It is not a children's phone but a disconnectedor's phone. This phone does not have parental monitoring or location tracking. It is not possible to blacklist or track phone usage. You might, however, be able, depending upon your carrier, to track usage and blacklist phone numbers.

Sunbeam states that the antenna of F1 is designed for Verizon and works well on Verizon's network. It worked with T-Mobile and Verizon SIMs. Sunbeam claims it also works with AT&T SIMs. I do not have any AT&T SIMs at the moment. It can support LTE bands 2/4/5/12/13 which include Verizon's primary band for range and AT&T. T-Mobile's Band 71 is not supported by this phone, as it is used in rural areas. The Nokia 6300 is a more basic phone that has band 71. You can't use Wi-Fi to call.

Sunbeam offers its Verizon MVNO plan but it isn't very economical. They charge $12.85 plus 1.1¢/minute and 0.11¢/text. US Mobile is a better option, with $10 unlimited text and talk or $12 for 1GB data.

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HD Voice calling is available on the phone, but it does not support EVS mode (which Kyocera's DuraXV Extreme supports). Both wired headsets and Bluetooth headphones are supported by all three models.

The F1 speaker is amazing. The speaker is loudest among my recent voice phone collection, with 99.8dB through the earpiece and 99.2dB via the speakerphone. Sunbeam has around 50 options for ringtones, which are really loud.

Unlocked Voice Phone Volume Comparison

Nokia 225
Nokia 6300
Nuu F4L
Punkt MP02
Sunbeam F1
 
 
Earpiece Volume 88.7 Speaker Volume 87.7 Ring Volume 82.8
Earpiece Volume 93.9 Speaker Volume 93.2 Ring Volume 88.5
Earpiece Volume 90.4 Speaker Volume 88.4 Ring Volume 88.6
Earpiece Volume 96 Speaker Volume 84 Ring Volume 82.4
Earpiece Volume 99.8 Speaker Volume 99.2 Ring Volume 88.5

Although the F1 has a good signal reception, it is not as strong as smartphones. The F1 was compared to a OnePlus 9 Pro from Verizon. I found the 9 Pro to have a significantly better reception in my area. This is a comparison of a low-end flip phone with a Snapdragon210 and a high-end Snapdragon 888 with an Antenna Tuner. However, I'd like to be clear about expectations. These voice phone calls will be clear and sound great, but won't automatically receive better reception than more expensive ones.

In our testing, the 1400mAh battery was able to last for five hours and 45 minutes talk time. Nowadays, VoLTE voice phone calls last around six hours. The DuraXV Extreme can go up to 7.

Its $195 price is the Achilles heel of F1. The F1 is more costly than Flip phones such as the Alcatel Go Flip 3 or Nuu F4L and doesn't offer the same hipster appeal as the Light Phone II and Punkt MP02. Because the F1 is a different business, it costs more. You are paying an independent US company with US developers and designers to customize large batches of phones.

Sunbeam charges for online services, rather than Google's privacy-broaching options. It's not possible to scale up and there are no high-profit products like Punkt's alarm clocks or USB chargers. It is not magical VC money that the company is using to its advantage, but their savings. To gain market share, it's not going sell phones at a profit.

Sterling Martin, founder of Sunbeam, said that the startup is a small one and has invested heavily in software, hardware and certifications. "But we’ve also taken steps to safeguard user data in ways that are not readily apparent, such as hosting our own FOTA server. These items all have associated costs which is why the $195 price tag.

Although the Sunbeam team seems to be able to keep their heads up, startups have risks and Sunbeam could disappear behind a cloud. The F1 phone is not for you if you are looking for a smartphone with big brand backing it, and more likely to receive long-term support. This is an excellent opportunity for those who love to support independent entrepreneurs and plucky startups by buying premium products made from handcrafted materials.

Sunbeam F1 protects against digital distractions. This phone is made by a small US-based company that has a purpose. This phone is a great first smartphone for children. However, the F1 does not have any location tracking and remote control blacklists or whitelists. It's primarily targeted at older adults who need less internet.