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Kyocera Contact (Virgin Mobile) review: Basic QWERTY handset that can't nail down the basics

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The Good Virgin Mobile's Kyocera Contact is competitively priced off-contract, has a capable camera, and can transfer media files via a USB connection.

The Bad The Contact's keypads have minor design flaws, call quality is poor, and glacial data speeds make Web surfing a drag.

The Bottom Line Though the Kyocera Contact is inexpensive and easy to use, there are better, more reliable prepaid phones on this network and others.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5

Editors' note: Due to their similarities, sections of this review have been taken from our review of the Kyocera Verve .

Available without a contract for $39.99, the Kyocera Contact is Virgin Mobile's version of Sprint and Boost Mobile's colorful Kyocera Verve . Though it's dressed in a much more formal black coat, the Contact has all the same benefits as the Verve: a decent camera, straightforward media transferring, and a low price.

Unfortunately, the device also has the same problems, like the fact that some of its keys are uncomfortable to press. What's more, the Contact performed worse than the Verve (which wasn't so stellar to begin with) in the areas of call quality and data speed. At the end of the day, other prepaid feature handsets are more reliable for around the same price. This is one Contact that needs a little distance.


Unlike Sprint's bright-pink and Boost Mobile's deep-blue variants, the Kyocera Contact for Virgin comes in stark black. It's still ultra-pocketable, however, measuring 4.53 inches tall, 2.13 inches wide, and 0.59 inch thick (115mm by 54mm by 14.9 mm). With its compact frame and reasonable weight (it weighs 4.7 ounces or 132.5 grams), it's very comfortable to hold. You can slide the keyboard in and out with one hand, and when closed, it's still easy to navigate with one hand.

Located on the left edge are a volume rocker and Micro-USB port, and up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack. The right edge houses a shortcut camera button and a small indentation. Using the latter, you can pry off the subtly textured back plate to reveal the 1,100mAh battery. The rear houses the only camera on the device as well, and two slits for the audio speaker.

The Contact has a low-res 2.4-inch QVGA display and an alphanumeric keypad. Josh Miller/CNET

On the front sits a 2.4-inch QVGA display with a 320x240-pixel resolution. Obviously, with these specs, graphics and texts on the screen will look pixelated and jagged. Images such as default wallpapers showed noticeable color banding as well. The display also has a narrow viewing angle. A slight tilt from any angle can wash out the screen entirely. All that said, however, it's still viewable, and I didn't have any trouble looking, reading, or navigating my way through menus.

To the left of the screen are two black softkeys that can be utilized when the QWERTY keyboard is slid out and in use. Because they blend with the rest of the handset, they are unobtrusive and don't add any clutter to the device's overall look. Below the screen are an alphanumeric keypad, complete with its own set of two softkeys, and a silver rectangular navigation control with a menu/OK button in the middle. This silver ring of buttons feels a bit sharp to the touch, but it's not a deal breaker. After using it a few times, I got used to the way it felt and hardly noticed it after a while.

At the bottom of the two shortcut keys are buttons for the speaker and back button. Altogether, these four keys are quite small and cramped around one another. The fact that they angle inwardly helps a little bit, but often, I still found myself pushing a couple of them at the same time, so you'll need to be precise when you press.

Next to those sit the talk, speaker, and end/power keys. Both of these keys are conveniently raised and bulge out a little from the surface of the phone, making them easier to feel for and to press. And finally, below that is the alphanumeric keypad. Like the talk and end buttons, the keypad sits above the surface of the Contact, so you can easily dial numbers without looking directly at the buttons. The keys arc slightly downward and are generously sized. In addition, if you long-press the star and pound keys, you can launch your In Case of Emergency information and contacts, and dial 911, respectively. This is especially useful for seniors who may want quick access to either of these services.

The QWERTY keyboard features directional arrows and an Alt-function key. Josh Miller/CNET

The key feature of the device however, is its sliding four-row keyboard underneath. The sliding mechanism to open and close the keyboard operates smoothly, and feels snappy and secure. And of course, there's nothing like definitively collapsing a handset shut after every use.

As for the keyboard, it includes four direction buttons for easy navigation, plus a function key for secondary entry input. You can also long-press the spacebar to insert a period mark. The buttons are responsive, and personally, I found them to be reasonably sized and spaced. I had no problems typing quickly and accurately while looking at the keyboard. If you have small or medium-size hands like me, this keyboard will feel comfortable. Someone with slightly bigger hands, however, might need to look elsewhere.

In general, the buttons lie flat against the surface of the phone, making it a little difficult to feel for specific buttons on touch alone. In addition, even though the spacebar is wider than the other keys, you'll have to press it in the right place: I found it had some dead spots on either end, plus a thin dead section in the center. When I tapped on these areas, nothing registered. This slowed down my typing and caused me to miss spaces in my messages.

Software features

As the Contact is a "feature phone," you won't find sophisticated software apps of any kind included. But you will get the bare-bones necessities of any useful handset. The Contact's address book can hold up to 600 entries. With each entry, you can input several more pieces of information, such as a person's work number, email, job title, and birthday.

There's also T9 texting (and e-mailing), 256MB of RAM, and 512MB of internal storage space.

The phone has a handful of basic task-management tools as well, like a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, and a calculator. There's also a world clock feature, a voice memo tool, and a countdown timer. A few other goodies include the option to transfer media files through a USB connection, Bluetooth 2.1, Spanish-language mode, and airplane mode.

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