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

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MSRP: $99.99

The Good The Kyocera Rise 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.

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6.7 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

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.

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.

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.

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.