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Kyocera Rise (Sprint) review: Kyocera Rise (Sprint)

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Three months ago at CTIA in New Orleans, Kyocera unveiled two Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich devices. One was the Kyocera Hydro, and the other was the Kyocera Rise.

Kyocera Rise
6.7

Kyocera Rise (Sprint)

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The <b>Kyocera Rise</b> runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, has a sliding keyboard, and has great call quality.

The Bad

The Rise has a laggy processor and a bulky, heavy design.

The Bottom Line

The competitively priced Kyocera Rise is fitting for texting enthusiasts looking for a starter smartphone with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Like the Hydro, the Rise is a midlevel handset with a 3.2-megapixel camera and 3.5-inch touch screen. But the latter trades in the Hydro's waterproof design for a keyboard instead -- good news for messaging enthusiasts who are eager to type.

Under Sprint's network, the Rise is available for $20 after a two-year contract and a mail-in rebate. If you're a commitment-phobe, don't fret: you can still snag this device without any service agreement once it comes to Virgin Mobile on August 31 for $99.99.

Editors' note: Due to their similarities, sections of the Kyocera Rise review are taken from our review of the Kyocera Hydro.

Design
The most striking physical feature of the Rise is that it's heavy. Like, really heavy. It weighs 5.54 ounces, or slightly more than a third of a pound. In addition to being 4.44 inches tall and 2.38 inches wide, it's a husky 0.56 inch thick. Though these measurements don't hinder it from fitting into my front or back jean pockets, I could feel its bulkiness while walking around with it tucked away.

On the left are a Micro-USB port and volume rocker. Up top are a sleep/power button and a 3.5mm headset jack. To the right is a shortcut key for the camera.

Kyocera Rise
The Kyocera Rise is more than half an inch thick. Josh Miller/CNET

On the back is a 3.2-megapixel camera with accompanying flash and small vanity mirror. Above it are five small grid lines for the audio speaker. To the left is a small indentation you can use to pry the back plate off. Once removed, you can access a 1,500mAh battery and microSD card slot.

The Rise's 3.5-inch HVGA touch screen has a 480x320-pixel resolution. Though text appeared clear and menu icons crisp, high-resolution images like wallpapers were grainy and color gradients appeared streaky instead of transitioning smoothly. Colors on HQ YouTube videos looked a tad muted; however, intricate objects like confetti or fireworks displayed sharply despite the small screen.

The display is also responsive. Pinch zooming, entering messages with Swype (which the handset is preloaded with), and playing the swipe-heavy game Temple Run, all were a breeze. Above the display are an LED indicator light and an in-ear speaker. Below are four hot keys that light up when in use, for back, home, recent apps, and menu.

Underneath is a four-row QWERTY sliding keyboard. The snapping mechanism is sturdy, and the keys sport a unique and modern typeface that I really dig. The buttons are generously sized and spaced, but because they aren't very bulbous, someone with bigger hands may find it difficult to type. I, however, had no trouble typing out messages, and I found the four navigational keys on the right to be useful.

Text it up with the Kyocera Rise (pictures)

See all photos

Features
A 1GHz Qualcomm processor powers the Kyocera Rise. Though simple tasks like navigating through five home screen pages and scrolling through the app drawer were swift, more complicated actions like opening the camera and transitioning back to the home screen after opening a game took a few seconds. One time when I pressed the home button after playing Temple Run, the game's background image remained on the screen, as if it were my wallpaper. Only after I pressed the home button a few more times and waited a few seconds did the image finally disappear. There was also noticeable lag when it came to switching between portrait and landscape mode, which happens automatically when you slide the keyboard in and out.

Kyocera Rise
There's a noticeable screen lag when switching from portrait to landscape/keyboard mode. Josh Miller/CNET

The device runs the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. So in addition to the more chic-looking UI, users will also get home screen folders, the option to reject calls with a text, camera access from the lock menu, and much more. And of course the Google staples of Gmail, Google+, Latitude, Maps with Navigation, Messenger, Search, Talk, Places, Play Books, Movies, Music, and Store, and YouTube are included.

In addition to basic apps -- a Web browser, a calculator, a calendar, a clock with alarm features, a native e-mail client, a news and weather app, and a voice dialer -- a few other goodies have been thrown in, including Wi-Fi hot-spot capabilities; SprintZone, which keeps you updated with Sprint news and your account information; and an app called ICE in which you can log pertinent medical information and an emergency contact list.

The handset also comes with an EcoMode feature and a battery status app. The former allows you to customize settings like sleep, Bluetooth, syncing, and display brightness in order to conserve battery at a set battery percentage. The latter tells you your remaining battery power and what percentage of power each of your apps is using.

Lastly, Sprint ID allows you to customize your phone with preselected apps, widgets, and other items depending on which ID profile you install. There are 47 available packs so far, and they cater to a number of interests including music (CMT and MTV have a Sprint ID pack), sports (ESPN, Fantasy Football), and even colleges like University of Nortre Dame and UC Davis (go Aggies!). Note that deleting a Mobile ID package won't uninstall the apps that you downloaded; you'll have to remove those apps manually.

Camera and video
In addition to a flash and a zoom meter, the 3.2 megapixel camera has six scene modes (auto, portrait, scenery, night portrait, night scenery, and action), five white-balance options, geotagging, five photo sizes, three picture qualities, five colors effects (aqua, negative, sepia, mono, and none), and three exposure options.

As for the camcorder, you're first prompted to choose between two video lengths, MMS (30 seconds) and long video (which depends on how much memory is available). With the exception of the scene modes and photo qualities, all features in the camera mode are retained.

Photo quality was perfectly adequate. In outdoor shots with ample lighting, colors were true to life and bright and edges were well-defined, though more intricate shapes, like blades of grass, appeared slightly blurrier. Due to a lack of touch focus, bright whites were washed out and it was hard to differentiate dark hues, but objects for the most part were in focus. Indoor shots with less lighting understandably fared a little worse, with more digital noise showing up in the photos. Colors were muted, light hues were especially grainy, and objects were noticeably blurrier.

Kyocera Rise outdoor shot
Existential seagull wonders what his life means, and how sharp this grass will look in the photo. Lynn La/CNET

Kyocera Rise indoor shot
In this indoor shot, bright whites are washed out. Lynn La/CNET

Kyocera Rise SSI
In our standard studio shot, a bluish hue is apparent over the white background. Josh Miller/CNET

Video quality was satisfactory; audio picked up nicely (even something as soft as passing wind), with no extraneous buzzing, and there was no lag between my moving of the camera and feedback from the viewfinder. Colors were richly saturated (though, again, it was hard to distinguish dark hues), and objects like moving cars remained in focus and clear.

Performance
I tested the quad-band (CDMA 800, 1700, 2100, 1900) Kyocera Rise in San Francisco using Sprint's services. Call and signal quality were both very strong. In calls taken outdoors and indoors, my friends sounded clear and loud, and were easy to understand. There were no extra noises or humming, calls didn't drop, and audio didn't clip and out. Speakerphone was also excellent, and was extremely loud. However, on maximum volume, sounds became a little bit more harsh to the ear, and tinny. Likewise, my friend said that I sounded perfectly fine, and that my voice came off crisp and clear

Kyocera Rise call quality sample Listen now:

Sprint's 3G network (1xEV-DO rA) isn't the fastest on the market. For example, loading the CNET mobile site took an average of 19 seconds, while loading our full site took 52 seconds. The New York Times desktop site took less time on average, clocking in at 36 seconds, and its mobile site took 11 seconds to load. ESPN's mobile site took 20 seconds, and its full site loaded in 40 seconds. On average, the game Temple Run, which is 22MB, took 5 minutes and 49 seconds to download. And the Ookla speed test app showed me an average of 0.41Mbps down and 0.68Mbps up.

The phone's reported talk time is 8.62 hours. Although I haven't finished our battery drain tests, anecdotally, the handset has solid battery life. I spent most of the day browsing the Web, talking on the phone, and watching videos, without making a huge dent in the battery's reserves. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 1.14W/kg.

Conclusion
Though it's always refreshing to see Android 4.0 run on a midlevel handset, not every Ice Cream Sandwich flavor is irresistible. While I did appreciate the Kyocera Rise's call quality and low price, outside of the relatively new OS, this device doesn't have much to offer. Unlike its wet and wild counterpart, the Kyocera Rise doesn't have the novelty of being waterproof going for it. Instead, it has a keyboard that, while attractively designed, doesn't give it enough of an edge to make its midrange specs and hefty design exciting.

Kyocera Rise
6.7

Kyocera Rise (Sprint)

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 7