Virgin Mobile gets a little quirky when it comes to naming its phone models. After introducing the Switch Back, the Oystr and the Slice in the past year, the company now brings you the Cyclops. Made by Kyocera and also called the K325, the Cyclops gets its name from the prominent camera lens on its front face. Though it doesn't resemble Odysseus' legendary monster, it does have an, ahem, eye-catching design that should appeal to Virgin Mobile's youth audience. Aside from offering the carrier's first 1.3-megapixel camera, the features are pretty standard and satisfactory, with the exception of the speakerphone's performance. The Cyclops is available for $99 with Virgin Mobile's prepaid service.
Measuring 3.54 by 1.81 by 0.92 inches and weighing 3.4 ounces, the Cyclops is small and light and felt comfortable to hold in the hand. And though the Cyclops' overall form is unremarkable, it certainly has some touches that make it stand out among the flip-phone crowd. For starters, its red and off-white color scheme reminds you that it's a Virgin Mobile phone, while the vertical orientation of its rectangular display is a unique touch that we wish to see more often. The display is monochrome, but it alternates between showing the date and time or the battery life and signal strength. The display's backlighting time can't be altered, but pressing any one of the external controls will activate again.
Above the display is a small flash and the large camera lens. A small speaker sits under the display, while a volume rocker, a covered headset jack, and a dedicated camera button rest on the left spine. The charger port sits at the bottom end of the Cyclops.
The Cyclops' internal screen shows just 65,000 colors--we were hoping for 262,000 hues on a megapixel camera handset--but it manages to be sufficiently bright and readable. Graphics and photos weren't as vivid as they could be, but we can live with it overall. The menus come in two styles, list and graphics, and we found the latter a bit peculiar. Although it's not a huge deal, some of the animated icons didn't make a whole lot of sense. Messaging is represented by a fire-breathing dragon, while the My Stuff folder icon is a donkey (maybe the designers are Democrats). Meanwhile, My Account is a piggy bank flying away--how appropriate. You can change the internal screen's backlighting time, the contrast, the brightness and the time and date format.
Just below the screen are the well-designed navigation controls. A four-way toggle surrounds the central OK button and a lighted ring. For shortcuts, the toggle gives one-touch access to the calls list, Virgin Mobile's XL Internet service, messaging, and your account tracker menu. There are also two soft keys, the Talk and End power buttons, a back control and a dedicated speakerphone key--nice. All controls are relatively spacious and tactile. Our only complaint was that in standby mode, the OK button starts the camera rather than opening the main menu.
The keypad buttons on the Cyclops are a decent size and are spaced adequately far apart. We liked that they're raised above the surface of the phone and that the middle column is black. The red backlighting is bright and we had no trouble with misdials or with dialing by feel.
The Cyclops has a 500-contact phone book, with room in each entry for six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, an Instant message handle, two Web site addresses, two street addresses, and notes. You can assign callers to groups but only groups can be paired with a photo and one of eight polyphonic ring tones. And in any case, the photos won't show up on the external display. Other basic offerings include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, voice dialing, instant messaging, e-mail access, a scheduler, an alarm clock, a tip calculator, a timer, a stop watch and a calculator. There's also a speakerphone, which is activated using the aforementioned control, but there's no Bluetooth, a feature that Virgin Mobile is overdue to offer.
The Cyclops' 1.3-megapixel camera takes pictures in four resolutions (1280x1024, 640x480, 320x240 and 160x120) and three quality settings. Other editing features include three color tones, a white balance, a multi-shot mode, a self-timer, a night mode, eight fun frames and a brightness control. There's also a zoom but it's not usable at the highest resolution. The Cyclops camera doesn't support video recording. Photo quality showed distinct objects with good color resolution albeit with a washed-out effect.
You can personalize the Cyclops with a variety of color themes, screen savers, and wallpapers. You can always buy more options and more sounds from Virgin Mobile via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser if you're bored with those. Gamers get a choice of two Java (J2ME) titles (Bikini Beach Party and Midnight Bowling) and two demos (New York Nights and Lumines Mobile). More options are available from the carrier.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Cyclops in San Francisco using Virgin Mobile's service. Call quality was admirable, with clear voice quality and loud volume. At times the sound could be harsh, and there was a minor amount of static but we were pleased with what we heard. Callers didn't report any problems and but they could tell we were using a cell phone. Speakerphone quality was fine but sounded warbled quite a bit and callers could hear us only if we were in quiet surroundings.
The Kyocera K325 Cyclops has a rated talk time battery life of 3.5 hours and a promised standby time of 6.6 days. Our tests revealed a talk time of 4 hours. According to FCC radiation tests the Cyclops has a digital SAR rating of 1.23 watts per kilogram.