If you're on a budget, it's hard to find a phone that doesn't make compromises. The iPhone is easy-to-use, you'll bleed money. You can go with a cheap Android device, but the software is often outdated. Kyocera tries to fill that gap, offering great hardware and up-to-date software at an affordable price.
While you have to make a few trade-offs, the Rise is a cut above the rest. The hardware is mediocre, but you get nearly the same Android experience as the Nexus -- a higher-end, and more expensive, device. So if you have a small budget, and small hands, the Rise is the phone for you.
What's the Phone?
The Rise is a squat, little phone. At nearly six ounces, I don't know if there's a hunk of lead inside, because that all-plastic body shouldn't be so heavy. It's fat too, at half an inch thick, making it easy to fit in a pocket, but oddly uncomfortable to lug around. While the design is bland, the soft-touch matte finish feels nice. The hinge between the keyboard and screen is sturdy. It's bulky, but it's well-made.
The 3.5-inch screen isn't that sharp. With a 480-by-320 resolution, and an unimpressive 165-pixels per inch, the pixels are half as dense as on the iPhone. That means you'll get a grainy quality, especially noticeable around the edge of text. It's made of IPS technology, though, so colors are vibrant and viewing angles are wide. But it's a bit hard to see in direct sunlight. The touch is very responsive and swiping and tapping were smooth. I did notice a brief stall while switching from portrait to landscape mode, though.
The four-row QWERTY is designed for nimble fingers. The buttons are well-spaced, but they're nearly flat, making it hard to type without looking. Typing was fast, but it was even faster with Swype. By gliding around on the touch screen, you save time instead of pressing each key.
The 3.2-megapixel camera revels that it's a budget phone. Outdoors, photos are clear and bright, but indoors, and they tend to blur. You can use the LED flash in low light, but it washes out the colors, especially in the face. Since there's no auto-focus, it's hit or miss if it locked in on the subject. When everything is still, it's fairly accurate, but for action shots and it's a toss-up.
You get a few editing tools and filters, like three exposure options and five photo sizes. It also records unexceptional video. While the lens stays in focus, it struggles to pick up colors and lines in dim lighting. It also lacks a second lens, so video chat is out of the question.
The software really shines. It runs on stock ICS, for an unchanged version of Android. It's how Google designed it to be. The menu is elegant and the functions are robust. But best of all? The performance is smooth. It's not bogged down by any annoying overlays.
Since it's a Sprint phone, it still comes with Sprint ID, so you can use one of its themes, but if you hate bloatware, it's kept to a minimum. One app is actually useful: eco-mode cuts the power you waste, and extends battery life, by automatically lowering the brightness and disabling haptic feedback.
It also runs on Sprint's 3G network. With most phones on 4G LTE, it's a bit of a disappointment. If you want faster speeds, take a look at Verizon and AT&T's services.
The 1-gigahertz chip is plenty fast, and for the most part, ran smoothly. The only hiccup was the screen transition. Meanwhile, the 1,500 mAh battery lasts a full day, and with eco-mode, you can squeeze out another one to two hours. You also get a 2-gigabyte microSD card, included, which is plenty for most, but if it's not, you can buy cards up to 32-gigabytes.
You'll Want It If...
You want a budget phone without budget features. The software is great. Stock ICS is speedy and robust. But it's not a great-looking phone. The weight is an issue too. But if you've used a QWERTY, you'll be used to the added heft.
It's Not My Thing -- What Else Ya Got?
If you're not tied to Sprint, take a look at Pantech Marauder or Samsung Intensity 3 -- both on Verizon. They're budget Android phones with better displays and cameras. If you need that keyboard, though, check out the Motorola Photon Q. It costs a little more, but it has a higher-resolution screen and more megapixels, too. ♦
After getting tired of paying $100 a month, I decided to switch to prepaid. I really just wanted a cheaper plan and didn't expect anything special from a phone.
Enter the Rise. It's a very basic device, but it works well. You can watch YouTube videos, listen to MP3s and check up on Facebook. And best of all, it's compatible with Google Voice. Like the others, the slide-out keyboard attracted me to the Rise, and it's comfy. The buttons are rubbery, rather than solid plastic.
The battery is solid too. I can get around eight hours of talk time, so I don't have to recharge mid-day. Garmin adds its own maps program, but I prefer to use Google Maps. It'll show me where I'm located at, as well as show me where I need to go when I need to get somewhere. I use it to listen to streaming Internet radio too, which works well on the speaker.
You won't notice much with the Rise. And that's a good thing. But you will notice the price. If you're looking to save money, you can't go wrong with this phone.
I type by holding the sides, and occasionally my finger will hit the power button and turn off the device mid-sentence. Poor design, but something to be aware of. But not a big deal.Was this review helpful to you?
I've had the Rise for a few weeks now, and it's a good phone. Not great, but good. This is my first smartphone, and I suppose I'm the ideal consumer for this device. After owning feature phones for several years, I decided to take the plunge, but I was a bit hesitant to jump right into Android. My choice really came down between Android and iPhone. In terms of the ecosystems, I'm more familiar with iOS, from my iPod, but I wanted to give Android a shot, but didn't want to fork out a wad of cash. So that led me to the Rise.
I have to say, I'm very happy with the Rise so far. I paid around $100, and there are only a few other devices -- all crappier -- in this price range. You can get cheaper phones out there, but they don't come with a physical keyboard, and that's a must for me. Compared to the low-end rivals, the Rise gives you twice the functions and half the cost. It looks and feels like it should cost more, so I feel like I got a great value.
I look at it as the poor man's iPhone -- in a good way. The 3.5-inch display is the same size as an iPhone's screen -- albeit lower resolution and vibrancy. But other than the pixilation, you'll hardly realize you're using a cheaper device. As I said before, the keyboard is awesome. It's not as good as the Motorolas out there, like the Photon, but it doesn't cost as much either. The buttons have adequate spacing between them, and the domed shape means they're easy to type and click -- something flat keys have a problem with.
The processor is fast, the display is big and the keyboard is comfortable. And Garmin's navigation app is really good. Best of all, it's free. It's not Google Maps, but it works pretty well for driving and finding directions. Really you won't be able to find a better value. My only concern is how this phone will hold up over the months. But at the price I paid, I can afford to replace it when the time comes.Was this review helpful to you?
Kyocera really outdid itself with the Rise. After throwing away my BlackBerry, finally, I wanted to give Android a try -- but with a physical keyboard. I've read reviews about its dull display, but I couldn't disagree more. It's every bit as vibrant and clear as other devices out there -- except for the Galaxy S3 and iPhone -- and great for browsing the Web or watching videos. In addition, the speaker is loud and it doesn't freeze while loading up apps like my old phone did.
For $100, I can't complain. It texts, it runs Android, it has a touch screen. What more do you want?Was this review helpful to you?
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