Kyocera Verve review: Quirky QWERTY style for the right price

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Transferring files is simple and easy with its Micro-USB port. Josh Miller/CNET

To keep track of your plan minutes and balance, the device has a My Account feature. Sprint also threw in its Family Locator, which lets you pinpoint your kids or other family members on a map. A shopping portal for ringtones, games, screensavers, and apps has been loaded too; and the My Stuff folder keeps track of all these items you've purchased.

The handset has an elementary WAP 2.0 Web browser. When you use the navigation key to move through Web pages, the browser will first open to the Sprint Web portal, where you can choose to read the day's featured headlines, check the weather, or look for media files to download.

Camera

Given that the camera has a 2-megapixel lens, I didn't expect much of photo quality. But I was pleasantly surprised how decent some of the pictures turned out. True, lighting was washed out, you can see a noticeable amount of digital noise, and images didn't appear very sharp. But in environments with ample lighting, the camera functioned adequately. Center objects of focus were easy to make out, and particularly bright and vivid colors managed to stand out. For more on the Verve's camera quality, check out the photos below. And be sure to click on each picture to see them at their full resolution.

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Though this outdoor photo is blurry, the blue and the green hues manage to pop from the scene. Lynn La/CNET

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In this amply lit indoor photo, faces are still distinguishable despite the overexposed lighting.. Lynn La/CNET

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In our standard studio shot, you can see a notable amount of digital noise and grianiness against the white background. Lynn La/CNET

The camera doesn't have a flash and cannot record video. Though it doesn't have many editing options, there are some, like the five picture modes (such as night/dark and mirror image); a 12x digital zoom; a self-timer; and the ability to manually or auto-adjust the brightness, sharpness, and contrast.

Additional options include five white balances, three "fun tools" that give different color tones, decorative frames, and the ability to take multiple shots at once; four resolution options (from 0.1 to 2 megapixels); three qualities; and three shutter tones.

Performance

At our San Francisco offices, I tested the dual-band (800/1900) device and call quality was passable. None of my calls dropped, I didn't hear any buzzing or extraneous sounds, and voices were continually consistent. However, volume range was particularly low. Even when cranked to its highest level, my calling partner sounded distant and far away. Audio speaker fared similarly, and I had to keep my ear close to the speaker just to hear the conversation.

On the other hand, however, I was told my voice sounded very clear, albeit a bit tinny. My calling partner had no issue with my audio either, and said I could be well understood.

Kyocera Verve (Sprint) call quality sample

When it comes to both data speed times and its processor, both are slow. The handset doesn't have Wi-Fi capabilities, so it runs solely on Sprint's 3G network for data. On average, it took 18 seconds to open the browser and finish loading the carrier's home page. It also took about 1 minute and 6 seconds for it to display the CNET mobile site. Keep in mind that CNET's site and other pages are stripped of much of their coding and you're left with simplified, skeletal version instead.

As previously mentioned, the phone itself is slow. When I took photos, I needed to hold the Verve still a few seconds after pressing the shutter to prevent motion blur. I also needed to wait a beat for the camera to ready itself to take another picture. On average, it took 47 seconds for the device to restart itself and 2.18 seconds to launch the camera.

Anecdotal evidence for the handset's battery life has been underwhelming so far. The 1,1000mAh battery didn't last a weekend on standby, and after a workday of medium usage, the phone displayed only 50 percent left of power. During our lab test for talk time, it lasted 6 hours and 12 minutes, and came close to its reported talk time of 6.3 hours. According to FCC radiation measurements, the Verve has an SAR rating of 1.29W/kg.

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Though call quality was reliable, volume levels could be much louder. Josh Miller/CNET

Conclusion

Sprint users in the market for a straightforward and inexpensive texting phone should consider the $19.99 on-contract, Kyocera Verve. True, it isn't perfect -- its volume levels should be several notches louder, and despite an overall satisfying typing experience, there are some awkward design issues. In addition, if you want a modern Web and media experience, it's best to look elsewhere.

But for less than what you'd pay for a pair of jeans, users can call, text, email, and take photos with little trouble. Plus, the fact that you can transfer your files with a simple USB connection (instead of relying on a spotty Bluetooth connection or waiting forever for the email attachment to send) is a useful goodie to take advantage of.

Its larger battery capacity and adequate camera gives it an edge over the carrier's other feature handsets, like the Kyocera Kona, the Samsung Array, and the LG Rumor Reflex. For Boost users, I prefer it over the cheaper Samsung Factor, given it lacks certain features and has a smaller screen than the Verve, and while the Kyocera Milano runs Android with the same price tag, its dated OS and meager specs won't supply that modern smartphone experience you will want.

In general, even if having a QWERTY keyboard isn't a priority, and you're looking for a simple feature handset, this device is an excellent starter phone that's reliable and easy to use.

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