Kyocera Kona review: Bare-bones, but a dependable performer

Kyocera Kona - outdoors
Though you can make out objects in this outdoor photo, colors are muted and the right side is blurry. Lynn La/CNET
Kyocera Kona - indoors
In this indoor shot, you can see noticeable digital noise in the carpet and back shadows. Lynn La/CNET

Kyocera Kona - SSI
In our standard studio shot, objects are not in focus and colors appear washed out. Josh Miller/CNET

I tested the tri-band (800/1900/AWS) Kyocera Kona in our San Francisco office and call quality was good. Though voices did sound a bit static-y and maximum volume could stand to be a bit louder, overall, my calls did not drop, audio didn't clip in and out, and during times of absolute silence, I didn't hear any extraneous noises or buzzing. Likewise, my friend told me I sounded clear and easy to understand. Speaker quality for calls was tinny, however, and harsh. On max volume, you can hear the audio reverberating on the back of the battery door, but conversations were understandable and the voice's sharpness wasn't very distracting.

During a test call on Sprint's network in San Francisco, my testing partner said my voice sounded muffled, but still understandable. Likewise, her voice didn't sound clear to me, but I didn't experience any dropped words, which is a plus. On speakerphone there was occasional static on my end and when I turned the volume all the way up, my tester's voice sounded distorted.

Kyocera Kona (Cricket Wireless) call quality sample

Listen now:

Kyocera Kona (Sprint) call quality sample

Listen now:

When it comes to both data speed times and its processor, both are very slow. The device runs on Cricket's 2G network. On average, it took 20.84 seconds to even open the browser and land on Cricket's home page, and 25.04 seconds for it to load the CNET mobile site. It also took about 1 minute and 6 seconds to send a 209KB photo. It only took a few seconds for the handset to load up a Web site, but these sites were stripped of much of their coding and you're left with simplified, skeletal versions of these pages.

Using the Kona on Sprint's 3G network in San Francisco, it took on average 21 seconds to launch the browser and 23 seconds to load CNET's mobile site.

And as I mentioned before, the phone itself is slow. When I took photos, I could see a noticeable lag between my moving of the camera and the feedback I saw on the screen. It also took a few seconds for it to capture a photo after I pressed the shutter, and a few more for it to ready itself to take another picture. On average, it took 34.93 seconds for it to restart itself and 2.53 seconds to launch the camera.

During our battery drain test the device lasted 5.58 hours. Anecdotally, the Kona had very respectable battery life. With minimal usage, it could go a handful of days without a charge. Its 870mAh battery has a reported talk time of 4.2 hours and a standby time of 300 hours. According to FCC radiation standards, it has an SAR rating of 1.15W/kg on Cricket Wireless and 1.45W/kg on Sprint.

Despite not packing as much heat as other, more high-tech handsets, the Kyocera Kona remains a good choice if you're a Cricket or Sprint customer in the market for a simple feature phone. You may not be the next Annie Leibovitz with that camera or browse the Internet with lightning speed, but you'll be able to get online and snap photos when you need to.

Most importantly, the Kona is competitively priced compared with the carrier's other offerings. The Samsung Chrono, for example, is the same price, yet it has a smaller battery and only a VGA camera, thus making the Kona a better choice.