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Not all cell phones have to be packed with features like a megapixel camera or a music player; some are perfectly fine with just the ability to make and receive phone calls. Kyocera is one of the more prolific makers of entry-level handsets, especially for smaller carriers like MetroPCS. The Kyocera Laylo is one such device, and even though it is lacking in the feature department, it has a really smart design, and it does well in the one department that matters most--call quality. The Kyocera Laylo is also quite affordable at only $59 and that's without a contract.
Sometimes we bemoan low-end phones for their lackluster and boring designs, but that is not the case with the Kyocera Laylo. The Laylo has a surprisingly fashion forward look, with smooth curves and rounded corners. It's clad in a matte soft touch plastic that gives it a comfortable feel in the hand. Measuring 3.73 inches long by 1.84 inches wide by 0.67 inch thick, the Laylo is compact and fits easily in the pocket, and at only 3.17 ounces, it won't weigh you down either.
On the front of the phone is a 2.2-inch QVGA display set inside a contoured glossy black frame. The display is bright and boasts 262,000 colors and 320x240-pixel resolution. We wished the menu interface was designed to take advantage of that though; the default MetroPCS menu didn't look as colorful and vibrant as we would like. You can adjust the screen's backlight time, the brightness, the banner text, the menu format, and the appearance of the time and date. Also on the home screen is a scrolling shortcut bar of eight applications--MyMetro, MetroWEB, Metro411, Pocket Express, MetroBACKUP, Mobile IM, MetroNavigator, and mail@metro.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a square toggle with a middle confirmation key, a speakerphone key, a back key, and the Talk and End/Power keys. Though the keys feel fine for the most part, we thought the four keys on the corners of the array felt a little flimsy when pressed.
You slide the phone open vertically to reveal the number keypad. It's large, roomy, and we like the tactile separation of the keys. Each key has a slight upward curve as well, so it's fast and easy to dial and type out a text message. Our only complaint is that the top number keys (1, 2, and 3) feel a little too close to the bottom of the front slider cover.
On the left spine are the 2.5mm headset jack, the volume rocker, and the camera key, while the charger jack is on the right. On the back of the phone is the camera lens. When you slide open the phone, you'll find a self-portrait vanity mirror on the back as well.
The Kyocera Laylo has a 500-entry phone book with room in each contact for six numbers, two e-mail addresses, an instant messenger handle, two Web site URLs, two street addresses, and a note. You can add a contact to a caller group, and assign a photo for caller ID, plus one of nine sound files for either ringtones or message alert tones.
Basic features of the phone include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a world clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, a scheduler, a timer, a stopwatch, and a memo pad. You also get voice command support, a voice memo recorder, a wireless web browser, Bluetooth, an instant messenger, Web-based e-mail, an online backup service, and GPS.
Because the Laylo is a low-end device, we don't begrudge the VGA camera. You can take photos in three resolutions (1,280x1,024, 640x480, and 320x240) and three quality settings. Other camera settings include a self-timer, a multishot mode, white balance, color tone, brightness, fun frames, and one of eight shutter sounds plus a silent mode. For a VGA camera, the picture quality is not bad. It's not quite as crisp and sharp as ones from a megapixel camera, but the colors look decent and it's bright enough for us. The Laylo does not shoot video.
Personalization options for the Laylo are limited to wallpaper, screensavers, and a variety of ring tones. You only get one game--Brick Attack--but you can get more if you want from the MetroPCS Web browser.
We tested the Kyocera Laylo in San Francisco using the MetroPCS service. Call quality was quite impressive. We had no problems hearing our callers--the voice quality was natural, and the volume was at a decent level. There was hardly any static, either, and we enjoyed good, solid signal strength.
Callers also said we sounded good. In fact, they said it was almost that of landline quality. They could hardly hear any background noise at all. They did say there was harshness to the voice quality but it wasn't that bad. Speakerphone calls did not fare as well though--they said there was a lot more echo and environmental sound. On our end we could hear them just fine but they did sound tinnier and softer.
The Laylo has a rated battery life of 3.3 hours talk time and 8.3 days standby time. It has a talk time of 3 hours and 34 minutes in our tests. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 1.31 watts per kilogram.