Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. In the world of cell phone fashion, customers have been limited for the most part to candy bar mobiles and flip phones. However, in the past couple of years, new designs have begun to emerge that break this pattern. Kyocera first jumped on this trend earlier this year with its SE47 slider phone, and the company now rolls out its KX2 Koi swivel phone. While the 4-ounce handset is somewhat bulky (3.9 by 1.9 by 0.9 inches) even when closed, we had no problem fitting the attractive blue-and-silver mobile in our pocket. Covering most of the front face is a vivid 2.25-inch-diagonal display. With support for a vibrant 262,000 colors, it was easy to see in most lighting conditions (both the brightness and the contrast are adjustable). The screen is constantly exposed, however, so be careful of scratches. Also, be aware that the text font size cannot be changed.
With a gentle nudge of your thumb, the front flap rotates a full 180 degrees to reveal the keypad. We couldn't help noticing that, because the cover swivels to the right, you must hold it in your left hand to open it with one hand. Though southpaws will be pleased, righties should take note. On the plus side, the swivel mechanism has a solid construction and was a welcome break from the more mundane flip design. On the back side of the handset, you'll find an especially nice touch. A small sliding door glides up to reveal the camera and the flash, while a self-portrait mirror sits on the door itself (sliding it open also turns on the camera). Though we appreciated being able to protect the lens, its placement near the top of the phone made it tricky to take photos, as we had to make sure our fingers were out of the way. You should also take care to keep the extendable antenna collapsed when not in use since it's rather flimsy.
We're big fans of the Koi's cool menu interface. Styled like the Wheel of Fortune, the different options are arranged in a colorful circle that is manipulated via the useful left-hand scrollwheel. Pressing down on the wheel selects the animated icons, but we wish it were a little bigger. Still, we really like that you can use the wheel to open the menus, to activate voice dialing, and to view the Recent Calls list when the swivel is closed--all useful touches. The secondary menus also were easy to master, though some actions, such as changing the text-entry mode, took more clicks than necessary.
You can also navigate the menus with the five-way toggle and soft keys, which are well spaced and tactile. Though it's not labeled, the toggle gives one-touch access to messaging, the Web browser, and a menu of user-defined shorcuts. Also useful are a dedicated speakerphone key and a button that activates the camera (the lens door must be opened first). And if that's not enough, you also get a camera button that, when open, sits on the right side of the swivel cover. We found the keypad buttons disappointing. As they are set flush with the surface of the phone and have dim backlighting, it was difficult to dial either by feel or in the dark. As a result, we had a few misdials. The Kyocera KX2 Koi comes with a solid arsenal of the features you'd expect in a cell phone. You get a 200-name phone book with room in each contact for six entries (phone numbers and e-mail addresses) plus notes. Though 200 contacts will be fine for most people, we would have liked to have more. Contacts also can be assigned to caller groups, paired with a picture for photo caller ID, and assigned to any of the 15 polyphonic ring tones. Speaking of which, our friends north of the border get a special nod--"Oh, Canada" is one of the included ring tones. Other goodies include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, voice dialing, a scheduler, a tip calculator, a timer, a calculator, a stopwatch, voice memos, and an alarm clock. We are glad to see a speakerphone with a dedicated button and are even more pleased to see that it can be used when the phone is closed. Limited support for POP3 e-mail is included, but IMAP4 e-mail support, an infrared port, and Bluetooth are missing--all of which are hallmarks of a truly business-friendly mobile.
Besides the aforementioned lens cover, the integrated 1.2-megapixel camera (with a CMOS lens) has other useful features. You can take pictures in any of six resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 352x288, 320x240, 176x144, and 160x120) and select from three quality settings and four white-balance tones. There's also a low-light mode, a flash, a choice of nine Fun Frames, and a brightness adjuster. A self-timer (3, 5, or 10 seconds) lets you jump into shots with your friends, while a multishot feature lets you take three photos in rapid succession. The 5X zoom is available at all but the highest resolution, and you get a choice of six shutter sounds (plus a silent option).
A bonus is that both the camera and the video recorder can be used when the phone is closed. The MPEG-4 video recorder shoots 15-second clips with sound and has adjustable settings for brightness, white balance, and quality. Once you're finished with your work, both photos and video clips can be sent via multimedia message or saved to the phone's 16MB of integrated memory. Though we would have liked to have an expansion slot, 16MB should suit most people's needs. Photo and video quality are good though not print-worthy, but both are suitable for posting on the Internet.
The Koi can be personalized with a variety of wallpaper, sounds, and color schemes. You can download more options and ring tones via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. The Koi doesn't come with any games, but it includes support for BREW 2.1, so you can get titles if you want them. There's also a simple doodler application. It's not for creating works of art, but it's fun nonetheless. We tested the triband (CDMA 900/1900; AMPS 800) Kyocera KX2 Koi in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Audio quality was quite good, with clear conversations and adequate volume. On their side, callers said they rarely could tell we were using a cell phone. The speakerphone quality was a bit diminished--at times, it had an echoed quality--but was fine overall.
Battery life didn't quite hit the mark. We fell a half-hour short of the rated talk time of 3.5 hours. Standby time also trailed, albeit by a smaller margin. In our tests we managed 4 days, compared with the promised time of 4.2 days. According to the FCC, the Koi has a digital SAR rating of 0.85 watts per kilogram and an analog SAR rating of 1.32 watts per kilogram.