The last time Kyocera released a smartphone in the U.S., it bet big on the unusual dual-screen Kyocera Echo, with a design so wacky that the phone fizzled out due to lack of interest. The Japan-based manufacturer is ready to try again with Android, but this time it's starting out on the lower end of things with the Kyocera Milano. This adorable little messaging handset features Android 2.3 Gingerbread, Wi-Fi, and the usual smartphone goodies, but is hampered by a small and drab display and poor multimedia quality. Yet, the $29.99 price might make its negatives a lot more palatable for budget-minded consumers
You would be forgiven if you thought the Kyocera Milano was just another messaging feature phone. At 4.1 inches long by 2.4 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Milano is a decidedly dull and bulky affair albeit with a few attractive touches. The front display is bordered by a shiny plastic bezel, while the back is clad in a soft-touch material curved slightly inward so the phone fits naturally in the hand. It may have a cute and compact form factor at first glance, but it's actually quite heavy at 5.6 ounces.
The real disappointment lies with the screen. Not only is the 3-inch touch-screen display a bit small for our tastes, it's also pretty low-res at only QVGA or 320-by-240-pixel resolution. Graphics look fuzzy around the edges and text looks quite choppy. Most Android apps therefore look quite unattractive with the display. We do appreciate that the display is capacitive, and it felt quite responsive when tapping and swiping.
The user interface is pretty close to vanilla Android, but it does have a few unique touches like a flick-to-unlock lock screen and Sprint ID. Sprint ID is a Sprint service that lets Android users swap between different thematic profiles or ID Packs. Each pack has a variety of different wallpapers, widgets, and shortcuts depending on the theme. The Eco theme will have environmentally-friendly apps, for example, while a minimalist one won't show any widgets at all. We don't really think ID Packs are that useful, especially since you can sometimes unwittingly install bloatware, but it's only as complicated as the user wants it to be.
Beneath the display are four physical shortcut keys for the Home, Menu, Back, and Search functions. Though the buttons are small, we like that the Milano opted for physical keys as an alternative to the usual touch sensor buttons. The volume rocker and Micro-USB port are on the left spine while a dedicated camera button sits on the right. On top of the phone is a 3.5mm headset jack, while the back is home to a camera lens.
The Milano slides open to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. When it's revealed, the display switches orientation from portrait to landscape. The four-row keyboard is certainly one of the highlights of the phone. Even though it is compact, the individual keys are quite large. They're also raised and well-spaced, so it was quite easy to type out a quick message.
As we mentioned, the Kyocera Milano does ship with Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread, which is a great operating system for an entry-level smartphone. The user interface is a touch more refined than its FroYo predecessor, and the virtual keyboard is more intuitive as well. As you might expect, the Milano supports the whole range of Google's apps and services like Gmail, Google Search with Voice, Google Maps with Navigation, Google Talk, Places, Latitude, YouTube, and more.
The Milano has the usual smartphone connectivity features like Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi. It even has a mobile hot-spot feature that'll work with five Wi-Fi-enabled devices. It also ships with Android's default Webkit browser, which handles full HTML Web pages with aplomb. Aside from Gmail, you can configure the Milano to use your own POP or IMAP e-mail as well. Other pre-installed apps courtesy of Sprint include Sprint Hotspot, Sprint ID, Sprint Mobile Wallet, and Sprint Zone.