Being a basic free phone, you've got all the essential tools like an alarm clock, a calendar, a calculator, a countdown tool, a stop watch, and a world clock. The Brio supports Bluetooth, and text and multimedia messaging. There's also support for e-mail services through the Messaging folder, and that includes G-mail, Yahoo, AOL, Windows Live Hotmail, and corporate mail. You can also sync your calendar and e-mail contacts to the phone, which are pleasant surprises. In addition, when composing e-mail, you can access your online contacts. If you have a microSD card, there's no problem saving certain files, or attaching files (like photos) to an e-mail.
In addition, the Brio supports Nuance voice commands--the easiest way to summon it is to press and hold the keyboard button shaped like a phone speaker. There's also the browser, which isn't very pleasant to use in the phone's wider-than-tall landscape mode. There is Google search and various browser options, the ability to set your home page, and privacy settings. When you consider the slower browsing speeds combined with the squashed interface, I'd really only use the browser in a pinch.
Sprint also adds a few shortcuts to online services of its own, like the Sprint Family Locator (you get a free, 15-day trial. Otherwise it'll cost $5 per month to track up to four phones). There are also online stores to buy and download more games, ringtones, screensavers, and apps.
Now for the camera. The best thing I can say about the 1.3-megapixel shooter is that it's already set up to take landscape shots. The flashless camera does best in broad daylight with even lighting. There's no apparent antishake setting, so steady hands will produce the best shots. The best-lit photo had muted colors, with a lot of aliasing and noise. Of course, the smaller you view a shot, the better it will look. Without an expansion card, you're only looking at about 25 photos. With a 4GB card installed, the Brio's photo allotment increased to over 1,000 stills. The card slot holds up to 32GB. One thing I will say is that it's easy to copy and move pictures over from the phone memory to the external card.
I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; 1xRTT) Kyocera Brio using Sprint's network in San Francisco, mostly in quiet indoor locations in order to concentrate on the call quality. Call quality was pretty decent overall. On my end, I heard white noise whenever my caller spoke, but no other background noise when we were both silent. Voices were natural and fine on medium volume. At times, the voices sounded a little digitized for a snippet at a time. Our friends said we sounded nice and loud, without background noise, but we didn't always sound entirely natural. "Muffled" was the word they used. At any rate, we were able to have long conversations without asking each other to repeat words, and without wanting to hang up and call back from another line.
I tested speaker phone at waist level. Volume was very low on my end and I had to increase the volume to its maximum setting to hear. Other than that, volume sounded OK and the background hiss disappeared. Voices sounded slightly hollow (but not tinny) and characteristic of the typical speakerphone experience, but again, I had no problem spending a long time gabbing. On their end, callers said I sounded good overall, but were speaking at a lower volume. Although I still didn't sound crystal clear, they didn't complain of loud muffling, crackling, or distortion. In fact, they said that the Brio had better a speakerphone than other handsets we've tested together.
Kyocera Brio call quality sample
For data hogs, the Brio's lack of 3G could be a sticking point. It took about a minute to load CNET's mobile-optimized site over the 2.5G network, although it rendered somewhat incorrectly, and about 24 seconds to complete loading the mobile ESPN site.
The Kyocera Brio isn't a great phone, but it's not bad for a free cell phone, either, thanks to its good call quality and its e-mail access, which has more features than you might first expect. Still, if you want a more advanced phone, Sprint is still offering the Samsung Replenish for free--it has a similar build and runs Android 2.2 Froyo, but you will need to buy into the monthly data commitment. If you don't care two licks about a smartphone, then the Brio isn't a bad place to start for keyboard-loving bargain-hunters.