Kyocera Dreno S2400
Virgin Mobile's cell phones tend to stick to the basics. Even when they offer cameras, like the UTStarcom Arc and the Samsung Slash, the handsets concentrate on doing what a cell phone should do. The prepaid carrier's latest model, the Kyocera TNT, certainly follows this format. Like the recent LG Flare, the TNT concentrates on making calls and sending messages. And, on that front, it functions relatively well, even if the voice quality is slightly tinny. You can get it for a bargain-basement $19.99, which is quite reasonable for a carrier that doesn't make you sign a contract.
Though Virgin Mobile calls the TNT a "dynamite little flip" phone, we wouldn't go that far. Designwise it's about as basic as a cell phone can be. Straight lines dominate, and the tiny (96x16 pixels) monochrome display is decidedly retro. The screen shows the date, time, battery life, and signal strength, but users with visual impairments may find that the text is too small. On the upside, we liked the TNT's blue color, and the soft-touch skin gives it a comfortable feel in the hand. We also appreciated the phone's solid build and sturdy hinge. At 3.53 inches long by 1.78 inches tall by 0.62 inch wide, it slips easily into a pocket, and at 2.78 ounces it won't weigh you down.
There's not much else on the exterior of the phone besides a small speaker below the external display and a volume rocker on the left spine. You also can use the volume rocker to reactivate the backlighting on the external display. The 2.5mm headset jack sits above the rocker, while the micro USB charger port rests on the right spine.
The TNT's internal display measures 1.8 inches (160x128 pixels) and supports 65,000 colors. That's pretty low-res as far as phone displays go these days, but on a basic handset like the TNT it is more than appropriate. Graphics won't look great, but the text is readable and the simple icon-based menus are intuitive. You can change the contrast, brightness, and backlighting time.
Though the TNT is a variant of the Kyocera Adreno S2400, its navigation array and keypad buttons have been slightly redesigned. On the TNT you have a silver toggle that surrounds a central OK button. The toggle doubles as a shortcut to the calls list, messaging menu, Web browser, and your account balance. Surrounding the toggle are two soft keys, a dedicated speakerphone key (nice!), a back button, and the Talk and End/Power keys. Though the controls are flush and a tad slippery, the arrangement is spacious. The keypad buttons have a similar design--flat and slippery, but also spacious. We didn't have any misdials when texting or calling. The numbers on the keys are large and the backlighting is bright.
The TNT has a 250-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two Web addresses, two street address, and notes. You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with one of nine polyphonic ringtones. Alternatively, the TNT also supports MP3 tones.
Other features on the TNT include a vibrate mode, text (but not multimedia) messaging, a calendar, a calculator, an alarm clock, a world clock, an airplane mode, a timer, a tip calculator, a voice memo, a stopwatch, and a notepad. You'll also find a two-way speakerphone and voice dialing. All things considered, that's a decent selection for such a simple phone.
You can personalize the TNT with a variety of color themes, message tones, wallpaper and screensavers. You also can write a personalized greeting. Plenty of other options, and additional tones, are available from Virgin Mobile's VXL Internet service. The TNT comes with one game--Brick Attack--but you always can get more. For storage, the handset offers 29MB of shared memory.
We tested the dualband (CDMA 800/1900) Virgin Mobile TNT in San Francisco. As an MVNO, Virgin mobile doesn't operate its own network; instead it leases space on Sprint's network. Call quality was generally good; the signal was clear and the volume is satisfactory. Voices sounded natural, for the most part, but the audio had a slight tinny quality. It wasn't a distraction, but it was noticeable just the same.
On their end, callers didn't have many complaints. Most could tell we were using a cell phone, but that's hardly unusual. Some callers reported a background hum, which we didn't hear on our end, but it wasn't a universal assessment. Also, both real people and automated calling systems had a bit of trouble understanding us when we were speaking in noisy environments. Speakerphone calls were decent. The small speaker has acceptable output, but the tinny voice quality is exaggerated.
The TNT has a rated battery life of 3.33 hours talk time and 5 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 2 hours and 50 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the TNT has a digital SAR rating of 0.92 watt per kilogram.