It's not often we get to review a Kyocera phone, and that's too bad considering Kyocera has a nice group of folks working there and the company has a history of making reliable handsets. But last week we got in a fresh batch of MetroPCS phones, including the Kyocera K312P. Similar in form and function to Virgin Mobile's Kyocera Cyclops, the K312P is a satisfying handset for what it offers. True to its MetroPCS nature, it eschews fancy features in favor of basic functionality. It does have a VGA camera, but it's mainly about making calls and sending messages. You can get it for $129; MetroPCS does not require service contracts.
The K312P looks a lot like the Kyocera Cyclops. Both phones feature a vertical external display that sits just below the camera lens and a small flash. They also sport identical dimensions (3.54 inches by 1.81 inches by 0.92 inch), though at 3.54 ounces the K312P is slightly heavier. The extra weight comes from a black soft touch skin, which gives the K312P an attractive, understated look and provides a comfortable feel when holding phone. It's also small enough to take on the go.
The external display is monochrome so it won't show photo caller ID ,but it manages to cram in all the information you'll need (the date, time, battery life, and signal strength) into a relatively small space. You can use the mirrored ring around the camera lens to take vanity shots and the flash will provide a moderate amount of light. A tiny speaker completes the K312P's front face. The charger port sits on the bottom end of the phone, while a 2.5mm headset jack, a volume rocker, and a camera shutter sit on the left spine.
The internal display is a bit small for the phone's size and the resolution is fairly basic (160x128 pixels) but it's more than adequate for a phone of this caliber. With support for 65,000 colors, it shows most things well from texts to photographs. We particularly like the pinwheel design menu interface, which we first saw on the Kyocera Koi. It's attractive and a lot more interesting that a simple grid. Among other settings, the menu gives you access to change the display's brightness, contrast, and backlighting time.
The K312P has a spacious and easy-to-use navigation array. There's a four-way toggle, two soft keys, a handy dedicated speakerphone key, Talk and End/power controls, and a back button. Though the controls are flush with the surface of the phone, we had no issues with navigation or dialing. Only the OK button in the middle of the toggle is too small. The keypad buttons are spacious and separated from each other. We also like the large numbers on the keys.
The K312P has a 500-contact phone book that has room in each contact for six numbers, two e-mail addresses, two URLS, a street address, and notes. You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with a photo and one of 25 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a voice memo, a scheduler, an alarm clock, a tip calculator, a timer, a stopwatch, and a tip calculator. Voice dialing was a nice surprise and MetroPCS manages to throw in a few other goodies as well. You'll find support for the carrier's ChatLink push-to-talk service, mobile instant messaging, e-mail, and the carrier's 411-information service.