It's good to see Kyocera getting its name out there again. The recent kickoff of the Kyocera Echo dual-screen smartphone turned some heads, but the same can't be said for the decidedly run-of-the-mill Kyocera Rio for Cricket Wireless. There's nothing wrong with the feature phone per se, but there's very little to set it apart from the pack of touch-screen messaging phones. That said, it's not a bad option for Cricket's more limited lineup, and the combination of a resistive touch-screen phone with a fairly finger-friendly interface and e-mail capabilities will certainly appeal those in search of a perfectly functional handset.
Music fans perusing Cricket's wares would do better to try the Samsung Suede with Muve Music. We saw it at CES, but are still awaiting a review unit, which we hope to get in our hands soon.
The contract-free Rio costs $129 in stores or $109 if you buy it online. Since there's no two-year service agreement, you can pay for service month to month.
We hate to say it, but the Kyocera Rio looks and feels like a cheap phone. It isn't the black body or rounded corners--those furnishings are standard by today's mobile design aesthetics. Rather, it's the glossy plastic ridging of the back cover combined with overly shiny silver accents, and a weight that feels a tad lighter than it should (3.2 ounces). The dimensions are pleasing and pocket-friendly at 4.1 inches tall by 2.2 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick. The phone feels fine when flat on the hand, and it gave us no trouble on the ear. However, there's something about those back cover ridges that gives us the shivers when picking up and handling the handset--though we realize this won't be everyone's reaction.
The Rio sports a 2.8-inch resistive touch screen that's fairly bright and clear. The QVGA resolution supports 240x320 pixels and 262,000 colors. Although the display is resistive rather than capacitive, we could mostly get the phone to register normal-pressure finger presses. In some views, we needed to press harder to scroll up or down. We'd also say that the virtual QWERTY keyboard you sometimes see (like when adding a new contact) is a little small--it'll be best suited for those with more slender fingertips. At other times when the screen won't switch to landscape view, you'll be able to turn on predictive text or a half QWERTY keyboard (two or three letters per key). We'd prefer the QWERTY mode on demand, but the half QWERTY is better than nothing.
As with many touch-screen phones these days, you can drag and drop widgets and application icons around each of the three home screens, or delete them. To add application shortcuts, you open the app launcher and hold down on the app before dragging it to one of the screens. You likewise hold and drag to delete or move a shortcut.
There are four stationary onscreen controls that shortcut to your message inbox, pull up the phone menu, launch apps, and open your address book.
Below the display are four hardware buttons that surround a central select key. The buttons open the apps tray, go back, and start and end phone calls. The power button sits on the right spine; it also locks and unlocks the screen. The camera shutter and volume rocker are on the left spines. On the top of the phone you'll find the Micro-USB charging port and the 3.5-millimeter headset jack. There's a 1.3-megapixel camera lens on the back, and beneath the back cover, there's a microSD card slot that accepts up to 16GB expandable memory.
The Rio is your typical feature phone. Its address book holds 500 entries, with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, a street address and e-mail address, an IM handle, a URL address, and a note. You can pair a contact with a photo and a calling group. You also can customize message tones and choose from one of five default ringtones.