The Kyocera Jax for Virgin Mobile is the opposite of the carrier's Kyocera X-tc. While the X-tc offers a midrange feature set and a full keyboard for texting, the Jax is just a simple handset for making calls. The basic candy bar design holds no surprises and the feature set offers little beyond the standard personal organizer. Call quality is variable, so we'd only recommend it for very occasional use. On the upside, you can get it for as cheap as $9.99.
The Kyocera Jax couldn't have a simpler design. The candy bar handset is basically a black rectangle with little to distract from its straight lines and sharp corners. The plastic skin doesn't feel sturdy, so the danger-prone should be careful. We also noticed that the battery cover wobbled just a bit. At 4.29 inches by 1.73 inches by 0.51 inch and 2.5 ounces, the Jax is portable and lightweight.
The 1.8-inch display supports just 65,000 colors (160x128 pixels). Its low resolution means that graphics aren't very sharp and colors are pretty muted. The menus, available in grid and list styles, are intuitive. You can change the display's brightness, contrast, and backlighting time. The volume rocker on the left spine is too thin for our tastes. It is easy to find when on a call, but it could be bigger. On the right spine you'll find a 2.5mm headset jack and a microUSB charger port.
The navigation array is a mixed bag. While the circular toggle and central OK button are spacious and easy to use, the remaining controls are small. They include two soft keys, a dedicated speakerphone button, a back key, and the Talk and End/power controls. The keypad buttons have their good and bad points as well. While the keys are raised above the surface of the phone, their plastic feel didn't do great for banging out long texts. The keys are backlit for dialing in the dark.
The Jax's phone book holds 250 contacts with room in each entry for six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, two URLs, a street address, and notes. You can save callers to groups, but photo and ringtone caller ID is available only for groups. The Jax comes with nine ringtones and an assortment of graphics. If you want to use your own photos, you'll have to find a way to get them on the phone.
Features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a voice memo recorder, a calendar, an alarm clock, a tip calculator, a world clock, a timer, a stopwatch, a memo pad, and a calculator. Voice dialing is an unexpected bonus, but the feature list ends there.
You can personalize the Jax with a variety of color themes, banners, wallpaper, and screensavers. More options and additional ringtones are available from Virgin's VXL Internet portal over the WAP 2.0 Web browser. The Jax comes with one game (Brick Attack), but you can always buy more titles.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) in San Francisco. As a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), the Jax operates on Sprint's network. Call quality was decent on the whole, though it was not without its problems. On the upside, the signal was strong and free of interference. Also, voices sounded natural most of the time.
On the downside, the volume was rather low. It wasn't a problem when speaking inside, but we had trouble hearing in noisy environments. Even worse, when we turned the volume up to the highest levels, the audio was distorted.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine, though a couple of our friends reported that the Jax picked up a fair amount of wind noise. All could tell that we were using a cell phone, but that's not unusual. Speakerphone calls were just adequate. We could hear well enough, but the sound was rather tinny. The Jax has a rated battery life of 3.3 hours talk time and 8.3 days standby time. Our tests showed a talk time of 2 hours and 56 minutes.