The Kyocera K323 has made its way to Verizon's lineup of entry-level camera phones, but the handset doesn't quite pass the mark. Though it's easy to use both in design and function and includes some nice extras, such as integrated Bluetooth, if it's a good camera phone you seek, look beyond the K323. Disappointingly, it produced some really blurry and dark images, and we think Kyocera could have included a better internal screen. As such, we recommend the LG VX5300 for a better VGA camera phone option. The K323 is reasonably priced at $29 with service.
One look at the Kyocera K323 and you might just see a face staring back at you. A curved silver bar that somewhat resembles a mouth sits smack dab in the top middle of the phone, while just above it is the rectangular external display. We don't mean to say the K323 is a bad-looking phone but it definitely is unique. The 96x16-pixel resolution monochrome screen shows the vitals, including the date, time, network strength, battery life, and caller ID (where available; no photo ID).
On the upside, the K323 is compact and lightweight (3.5x1.8x0.9 inches; 3.4 ounces) and though it's a tad slippery, it had a comfortable and solid feel in the hand. The charcoal gray color is a nice touch as well. Rounding out the design features is a 2.5mm headset jack, a volume rocker, and a camera activation button on the left spine, and a power connector port along the bottom edge. A small speaker grille sits on the bottom left of the front flap, while a camera lens sits just above the display. There is a flash set into the aforementioned silver bar, and the reflective ring around the camera lens is meant to act as a self-portrait mirror.
Open up the phone and you're presented with a 1.75-inch diagonal color screen. It displays 65,000 colors at a low 128x160 pixel resolution, so it's definitely not the sharpest or brightest screen we've seen. We think Kyocera could have bumped up the resolution just a bit, especially when you consider the comparable LG VX5300 camera phone has a 262,000-color screen. Below the display, you'll find a set of standard navigation keys and a spacious keypad. You get two soft keys, talk and end buttons, a programmable, four-way toggle with a center OK button, a clear button, and a speakerphone activation key, which we absolutely love. Not only does this save us from having to dig through the phone's menus to turn it on, but you also can activate it before making a call--nice. All controls are well spaced, as is the numerical keypad so we didn't have any problems with misdials. They're also adequately backlit for dialing in darker environments.
The Kyocera K323 is a basic camera phone, so you won't get all the bells and whistles, but it does include some nice extras, such as integrated Bluetooth. First, the handset has a 500-name phone book with room in each entry for 5 numbers and 2 e-mail addresses. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a contact a photo, a group ID, or 1 of 5 polyphonic ring tones. Other features include a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, a vibrate mode, MP3 ring tones support, a Web browser, text and multimedia messaging, and a set of PIM tools, such as a calendar, a to-do list, a calculator, an alarm clock, and a voice recorder.
As we mentioned earlier, the K323 does have integrated Bluetooth 1.2, which was a pleasant surprise. The handset supports hands-free headsets and kits, object push, and dial-up networking capabilities, though we suspect Verizon will kill this last feature. The K323 also supports Verizon's VZ Navigator service so you can get color maps and driving directions right on your phone. In addition, you can access other Verizon Get It Now services, such as Fox Sports Mobile Pro and AccuWeather.com. The K323 supports BREW games, but you'll have to purchase them on your own as the phone doesn't come with any preinstalled titles--boo. Of course, other ring tones and wallpaper are also available through Verizon.