We don't review many U.S. Cellular phones because the carrier is regional and not nationwide. However, there are several phones for U.S. Cellular that aren't available for other carriers, and the Kyocera Tempo is one of them. The Tempo is one of Kyocera's few music-focused phones released in the U.S. and features external music player controls as well as stereo Bluetooth. However, we wish it provided more storage space and that it came with a microSD card or a USB cable. The Kyocera Tempo is available for $99.99 from U.S. Cellular.
The Kyocera Tempo has a simple yet attractive design, with its rounded corners, mirror-finish front surface, and spun metal back. Measuring 3.5 inches tall by 3 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Tempo has a soft touch rubber bumper around the phone's perimeter, which gives it a good grip and a solid feel. The Tempo is compact and lightweight, weighing only about 3.5 ounces with the battery included.
On the front of the Tempo, from top to bottom, are the camera lens with LED flash, the external display, three music player control buttons, and the external speaker grille. The external display measures 1 inch diagonally and supports 65,536 colors plus 96x96 pixels. Aside from displaying the typical signal and battery strength plus the date and time, the external display can also be used as a self-portrait viewfinder, and it can display the currently playing track if the music player is activated. Speaking of the music player, we found the external music player buttons a little slippery, but still easy to find and press by feel--which is quite useful when you're feeling around for the buttons when the phone is in your bag.
Flip it open and you'll find a nice 2-inch display with support for 262,144 colors and 176x220 pixels. The menu interface looks great on this display, and it really showcases images that pop with color. You can adjust the brightness and turn on "Power Save Mode" with the backlighting. You can't change the font size, however.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a four-way square toggle with middle OK button, Send and End/Power keys, a dedicated speakerphone key, a Back key, and a dedicated camera key. The four-way toggle doubles as shortcuts to a custom menu (for your favorite applications), the contacts list, the media gallery, and U.S. Cellular's Easyedge store. We found the keypad a little flat for our liking, but there is enough delineation between the keys that we could dial easily by feel.
The left spine of the Tempo is home to a volume rocker, a dedicated camera key, and the charger jack. The microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover, which we found inconvenient. When flipped open, the Tempo folds out in an unusual angle, which does not cradle the face very well and lies a little too flat to the cheek.
The Kyocera Tempo comes with a 500-entry address book, with room in each entry for six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, two URLs, two street addresses, and notes. You can organize callers into groups, pair them with a picture for caller ID, plus one of 13 polyphonic ringtones. Other features include text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, a scheduler, a calendar, a calculator, a tip calculator, an alarm clock, a world clock, a memo pad, a voice memo recorder, and a timer. More advanced users will like the stereo Bluetooth, the 1x EV-DO speed, and the wireless Web browser.
Since the phone's name is Tempo, it follows that its star feature is its music player. Indeed, we like the player's simple controls, especially with the external music player keys on the front of the device. You can create and modify playlists, plus set it on repeat or shuffle mode. You can also choose to repeat an individual track. The Tempo supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, and WMA file formats, and you can load the songs to the phone via a microSD card (in fact, a microSD card is required to load the music). Unfortunately, the Tempo does not come with a microSD card or a USB charging cable, and it's only capable of supporting up to 2GB cards at a time. This is quite unfortunate as it burdens the consumer with buying extra items just to load music on to the phone.
The Tempo also comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera that can take photos in four resolutions (1,280x1,024, 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120), three quality settings, four color tones, and four white balance settings. Other camera options include a low light mode, a self-timer, multishot, a time stamp option, five shutter sounds (with a silent option), brightness setting, and flash. You can also choose to turn on the LED light. There's also a video recorder, and its settings include brightness, white balance, quality (which sets the video compression), LED light on or off, and recording light on or off. Photo quality was decent, with good color saturation, though pictures did appear blurry and a little overcast in low light situations. As you might expect, video was choppy and pixelated.
You can personalize the Kyocera Tempo with several different graphics and sounds, and if you want more you can buy them from U.S. Cellular's easyedge store. The Tempo doesn't come with any games.
We tested the Kyocera Tempo with U.S. Cellular's roaming network in San Francisco. Call quality was good--callers said we sounded loud and clear, and we had no problems hearing them, either. Voices sounded a little robotic at times, and there was the occasional static in the background, but it wasn't too bad. Speakerphone quality was quite good as well with plenty of volume. Incoming sound had a rather tinny and hollow quality, but that's typical for most speakerphones.
Music quality was good, too. There wasn't a lot of bass, but audio sounded clear and crisp. We would recommend using a headset over the speaker for the best quality.
The Kyocera Tempo has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time and 8.8 days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 3 hours 23 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Tempo has a digital SAR rating of 1.13 watts per kilogram.