Texting is straightforward on the Rio, though typing is less than ideal if you don't have nimble fingers or predictive text turned on. As for e-mail, there's a free app you can download, then add multiple accounts for Gmail, Yahoo, Windows Live Hotmail, AOL, or other Web mail. There's no unified inbox, so you'll need to read and respond to accounts separately. As it happens, that's what we prefer since unified inboxes tend to get overwhelmingly cluttered. However, the e-mail program doesn't appear to open attachments like photos. You should also note that though the app pulls e-mail announcements at intervals, it doesn't push notifications in real time.
Cricket's Web browser comes equipped with a search bar, two screen modes, bookmarking capability, and support for saving images. We weren't able to change the default home page, but a menu button makes it easy enough to navigate to a destination URL. Nor could we test performance with Cricket's 3G service since San Francisco is outside Cricket's territory. The 2.5G roaming network coverage we got took us to CNET's mobile-optimized site in about 39 seconds. Expect faster speeds within Cricket's markets.
Essential apps include a calendar, an alarm, a stop watch, a world clock, a calculator and tip calculator, a memo pad, a voice recorder, and a timer. There are also some preloaded apps and shortcuts waiting for you, including those for weather, news and sports headlines, and games (Uno, Bubble Bash 2.) Cricket has also thrown in a backup app, turn-by-turn navigation, and a shortcut to your account, plus Web links to Facebook, Hotmail, and Google Search.
With a microSD card, you can listen to the Rio's music player. However, it isn't enough to just have MP3s on your card; they also have to be in the right folder for the phone to find them. Kyocera has created a Facebook page spelling out how to create those folders. After a time-consuming hassle working through both methods, we still weren't able to load our songs. Oddly, there's no shortcut to an online music store for filling up your Music Player with full tracks you download, just ringtones and ringback tones.
The 3-megapixel camera took OK shots that were often dull and blurry, especially if the camera or subject wasn't perfectly still. Fiddling with the brightness and white balance presets helped. There are three photos resolutions ranging from 1,280x1,024 to 320x240. You can choose from five white balance settings, four color effects, and three photo quality settings. It can also handle multishot, set a timer for self-portraits, and change the shutter sound. A sliding scale adjusts brightness before a shot, and you can frame the photo in one of 11 mostly goofy designs. To the Rio's credit, you can modify the images after you take them--rotate, flip, crop, adjust the color, or add effects. When you're done, you can assign photos to a contact or group; set as wallpaper; or share in an MMS or via Bluetooth.
We tested the Kyocera Rio (CDMA 850/1900) in San Francisco on Cricket's roaming voice network. Voice quality wasn't perfect. Our callers sounded a tad flat to our ears, though volume was fine. We noticed their words buzzed, and on more than one occasion we heard some off-putting digital feedback of our own call. On their end, callers said we sounded pretty clear, with decent volume.
Speakerphone sounded fairly clear to both parties, though we had to strain to hear our callers, even with the phone held at waist level. Voices also sounded a bit hollow in addition to quiet and distant. Callers agreed we sounded far away, and added that the farther we held the phone from our mouths, the more they could make out a soft background echo.
Kyocera Rio call quality sample
It's worth mentioning again that your carrier experience may differ within Cricket's coverage area. The same goes for Cricket's data network, which only supports 3G roaming for smartphones. As we mentioned before, since the Rio is a feature phone, Web roaming occurred on the 2.5G (1X) network instead and led to a slower experience than 3G users should have.
The Rio has a rated battery life of 5.5 hours talk time and up to 14 days standby time. In our tests, it has a talk time of 6 hours and 1 minute. FCC radiation tests measured a digital SAR of 1.06 watts per kilogram.