In addition to basic apps -- a Web browser, a calculator, a calendar, a clock with alarm features, a native e-mail client, a news and weather app, and a voice dialer -- a few other goodies have been thrown in, including Wi-Fi hot-spot capabilities; SprintZone, which keeps you updated with Sprint news and your account information; and an app called ICE in which you can log pertinent medical information and an emergency contact list.
The handset also comes with an EcoMode feature and a battery status app. The former allows you to customize settings like sleep, Bluetooth, syncing, and display brightness in order to conserve battery at a set battery percentage. The latter tells you your remaining battery power and what percentage of power each of your apps is using.
Lastly, Sprint ID allows you to customize your phone with preselected apps, widgets, and other items depending on which ID profile you install. There are 47 available packs so far, and they cater to a number of interests including music (CMT and MTV have a Sprint ID pack), sports (ESPN, Fantasy Football), and even colleges like University of Nortre Dame and UC Davis (go Aggies!). Note that deleting a Mobile ID package won't uninstall the apps that you downloaded; you'll have to remove those apps manually.
Camera and video
In addition to a flash and a zoom meter, the 3.2 megapixel camera has six scene modes (auto, portrait, scenery, night portrait, night scenery, and action), five white-balance options, geotagging, five photo sizes, three picture qualities, five colors effects (aqua, negative, sepia, mono, and none), and three exposure options.
As for the camcorder, you're first prompted to choose between two video lengths, MMS (30 seconds) and long video (which depends on how much memory is available). With the exception of the scene modes and photo qualities, all features in the camera mode are retained.
Photo quality was perfectly adequate. In outdoor shots with ample lighting, colors were true to life and bright and edges were well-defined, though more intricate shapes, like blades of grass, appeared slightly blurrier. Due to a lack of touch focus, bright whites were washed out and it was hard to differentiate dark hues, but objects for the most part were in focus. Indoor shots with less lighting understandably fared a little worse, with more digital noise showing up in the photos. Colors were muted, light hues were especially grainy, and objects were noticeably blurrier.
Video quality was satisfactory; audio picked up nicely (even something as soft as passing wind), with no extraneous buzzing, and there was no lag between my moving of the camera and feedback from the viewfinder. Colors were richly saturated (though, again, it was hard to distinguish dark hues), and objects like moving cars remained in focus and clear.
I tested the quad-band (CDMA 800, 1700, 2100, 1900) Kyocera Rise in San Francisco using Sprint's services. Call and signal quality were both very strong. In calls taken outdoors and indoors, my friends sounded clear and loud, and were easy to understand. There were no extra noises or humming, calls didn't drop, and audio didn't clip and out. Speakerphone was also excellent, and was extremely loud. However, on maximum volume, sounds became a little bit more harsh to the ear, and tinny. Likewise, my friend said that I sounded perfectly fine, and that my voice came off crisp and clear
Kyocera Rise call quality sample
Sprint's 3G network (1xEV-DO rA) isn't the fastest on the market. For example, loading the CNET mobile site took an average of 19 seconds, while loading our full site took 52 seconds. The New York Times desktop site took less time on average, clocking in at 36 seconds, and its mobile site took 11 seconds to load. ESPN's mobile site took 20 seconds, and its full site loaded in 40 seconds. On average, the game Temple Run, which is 22MB, took 5 minutes and 49 seconds to download. And the Ookla speed test app showed me an average of 0.41Mbps down and 0.68Mbps up.
The phone's reported talk time is 8.62 hours. Although I haven't finished our battery drain tests, anecdotally, the handset has solid battery life. I spent most of the day browsing the Web, talking on the phone, and watching videos, without making a huge dent in the battery's reserves. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 1.14W/kg.
Though it's always refreshing to see Android 4.0 run on a midlevel handset, not every Ice Cream Sandwich flavor is irresistible. While I did appreciate the Kyocera Rise's call quality and low price, outside of the relatively new OS, this device doesn't have much to offer. Unlike its wet and wild counterpart, the Kyocera Rise doesn't have the novelty of being waterproof going for it. Instead, it has a keyboard that, while attractively designed, doesn't give it enough of an edge to make its midrange specs and hefty design exciting.