Review: Kyocera Event for Virgin Mobile USA
Bargain hunters take note: the Kyocera Event costs just $80 and offers a stock Android 4.0 experience. See if the Event is the phone for you in Phone Scoop's full report.
Is It Your Type
Not everyone wants or needs the latest and greatest device along with that expensive monthly service plan. If prepaid is more your speed, and you're looking for a deal on a device, the Kyocera Event offers a cheaper Android alternative.
The Kyocera Event is a small and simple smartphone for Virgin Mobile USA. It's no flagship, and doesn't pretend to be. It's also a clear-cut case of "you get what you pay for."
The Event is a black slab that has several different materials and textures defining its shape. The front has glossy glass surrounded by glossy plastics that also cover portions of the left and right edges. The back surface has a matte, textured pattern that is also made of plastic. The overall look is plain. There are no fancy lines, nor any high-class materials to belie the base aspirations of the Event.
The small footprint makes the event comfortable to grip. I was easily able to get my hand all the way around it. The smaller display means the width is quite manageable, and Kyocera kept the other dimensions in check. The weight is minimal; it is a really light cell phone. The dimensions and weight together make the Event easy to carry. It practically disappears into pockets. You'll hardly remember it’s there. Materials and build quality are OK, but definitely not great. The battery cover, for instance, is thin, pliable, and cheap feeling. The seams all line up, though.
The front has a 3.5-inch display that's swimming in far too much bezel. The black framing above, below, and to either side of the Event's screen makes it look a little unappealing. There are three capacitive buttons below the display, which all worked without problem.
Other controls are kept to a minimum. The volume toggle is placed on the left edge. It protrudes nicely from the side, but it is too loose. It can be mushed all over the place, and the "clack" sound it makes when pressed is not satisfying at all. Most of these attributes can also be applied to the screen lock button on the right edge of the phone, though it doesn't protrude nearly enough to be found easily.
Both the microUSB port and headphone jack are found on the top edge of the Event. I don't care to have the microUSB port on top, because it makes the device awkward to use while it is charging. The port and headphone jack do their jobs, though.
The flimsy battery covery peels off with minimal effort. The battery can be removed if you wish, and in fact must be taken out if you want to install or remove a microSD memory card. The slot for memory cards is tucked underneath the power supply.
The Event's 3.5-inch display is perhaps the most disappointing feature. It includes just 320 x 480 pixels, which makes individual pixels easy to spot and gives everything a screen-door look. This LCD panel's brightness is OK, but the color is not. It has a distinct yellow hue, which means whites aren't white. The viewing angles are decent, but outdoor viewing is impossible unless the brightness is cranked all the way up.
Virgin Mobile USA operates on Sprint's EVDO 3G network and the Event performed on par with similar Sprint devices. It found Sprint's network with no problem, and never lost it entirely. The Event did not drop or miss calls, but data speeds were excruciatingly slow. This is Sprint's fault, though, and not the Event's. The Event does not support LTE 4G.
Call quality was much better than I expected it to be. Calls in the earpiece were clear and free of most noises or interference. Call volume was good, but short of excellent. When in a restaurant, you'll need to either step outside or find a quiet spot to adequately hear calls. If you're in your own home, though, you won't have any problems. The speakerphone offered very good call quality and very good volume. The Event's speaker could easily fill a mid-sized meeting room with enough sound for all to hear. Ringers and alerts were loud enough for me to hear from any room in my house. The vibrate alert was also strong.
One of the benefits of the Event's crummy screen is that it sips power rather than slurps it. Toss in the under-powered 1GHz processor, and you've got the makings of a battery life champ. I found the Event to easily last through an entire working day with enough power to get me to lunch the following day. Keep in mind, the Event is a 3G-only phone, so there's no need to worry about LTE 4G draining your battery. It rates well, in my opinion.
Additionally, the Event offers something called Eco Mode. Eco Mode is a separate app that serves two purposes. It helps users fine-tune their settings in order to save battery life. For example, it can be used to control features when the battery reaches a predetermined level. It also, through using it, teaches the owner about what apps/services of the Event draw the most power and how best to conserve energy. Honestly, given the Event's amazing battery life, it is a bit redundant.
The Event runs as close to a stock version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich as I've seen on a Virgin Mobile device. Because Sprint is reducing the presence of user interface skins and bloatware from its Android devices, Virgin Mobile USA customers benefit, too. Only one app betrays the Event as a Virgin/Sprint device at all, and that is Mobile iD.
Mobile iD is Virgin's version of Sprint iD. It can be used to browse, download, and install iD packs. Each iD pack is based on a theme and includes wallpapers, apps, widgets, and so on. Think of it as a way to customize the device with some help from Virgin Mobile.
The more iD packs you download and install, the more bloatware you'll add to the Event.
That said, the device has only one shortcut on the lock screen, to the camera. It cannot be customized. The Event has five home screen panels installed out of the box, but that can be changed. The main app tray is a grid of icons, which cannot be customized. Aside from access to the main settings menu, the pull-down notification shade doesn't offer any unique features.
As happy as I am to see stock Android available out of the box, I am saddened by the performance of the Event. It has a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor under the hood. This is an older chip, and you can tell. Granted, Kyocera had to trim somewhere to keep the price down, and the processor is one of those curtailed features. The Event was often stuttery, slow to open apps, and really struggled with network-intensive applications, such as the Play Store and browser.
The phone and contact apps work on the Event just about the same as every other Android 4.0 smartphone thanks to the stock software. In-call options run the norm, and include speakerphone, mute, send to Bluetooth, and add a line. There are the usual home screen widgets for direct contacts, as well as the a nice widget for a collection of your favorites. The bigger widget lets you access your top nine contacts and gives you a cool UI for interacting with them on the home screen.
The Event includes a dedicated "ICE" application. ICE, or In Case of Emergency, makes it easier for people who find your unconscious body to connect with the few most important people in your contact list. It also lets the user populate the app with their own data (home address, etc.) Of course, this app can only be reached when the device is unlocked. If you're the type to use a password or code to lock your phone, then the ICE app is pretty much useless.
As far as messaging goes, the Event has the stock Android tools on board and nothing else. The SMS app offers nice, threaded conversations; the Gmail/email apps are great ways to manage your inbox; the Google+ and Google+ Messenger apps are good for keeping up with your G+ activity; and the Google Talk app is as powerful as ever for IM and video chats.
Neither Facebook nor Twitter is pre-installed, so you'll have to download them from the Play Store yourself.
Virgin Mobile Live
The Event's stand-out media feature is Virgin Mobile Live, Virgin's streaming content application and service. Virgin Mobile Live offers streamed music, broadcasts, concert footage, blogs, and movies. It’s an all-encompassing media service that offers bits and bytes of everything, though it’s curated by Virgin Mobile. Speaking of bytes, be careful. Streamed content eats up data allotments quickly, and Virgin Mobile throttles users who exceed their data allotments. Also, given the app's dependence on the 3G network, I found it slow to react.
With respect to music, the Event has the basic Android MP3 player app, Google Play Music, and the Google Play Store if you want to purchase tracks directly from the handset. These apps function just as well on the Event as they do on other Android 4.0 handsets.
On the video front, the Event includes the stock YouTube app, the Google Play Video apps, and the Google Play Store.
The Event uses the stock Android 4.0 camera. It can be opened from the lock screen thanks to the shortcut. It opens fairly fast, but I've definitely seen faster.
All of the controls are bunched up on the right side of the viewfinder. By default, the viewfinder offers a slider for zooming in and out, but no other tool shortcuts. You have to press the settings button to get at the camera's more in-depth controls.
The camera controls allow you to adjust the color effects, and exposure; switch between several different scenes (portrait, scenery, etc.); set white balance; and toggle the flash.
The Event doesn't have autofocus nor touch-to-focus, so it takes pictures fairly fast.
The Event's camera takes crummy photos. Pictures max out at 3.2 megapixels. The lack of autofocus really hurts the results, as many of the images I took were soft and lacking clarity. Toss in an unhealthy amount of grain and the bulk of images are simply unusable. Some turned out well, those taken under a bright-and-sunny sky, for instance, but winning shots were few and far between.
The video camera is limited to capturing 800 x 480 WVGA video. Videos I shot were as poor as the still images I captured. It's fine for snagging the kids soccer practice during the day, but anything that requires delicate light sensitivity will result in a grainy, awful mess. The Event might come through in a pinch, but I'd rely on something else if you're looking to record something important.
Again, the Event uses the stock Android 4.0 tools when it comes to the gallery software. The central image library ties together all the photos associated with your Google accounts, including Google+, and you can sync them to the device for offline access if you want.
When you dive into individual libraries, the images are arranged in vertical columns. Poke the image you want to manipulate, and it will load after several seconds.
Editing features include the ability to add effects, such as highlights, shadows, and so on; add filters such as fisheye effects; adjust colors and tones with sepia, B&W, etc. The last tool lets you crop the image, fix red-eye, adjust for face glow, straighten images, rotate or flip them, and sharpen them.
As previously noted, the Event has barely any bloatware. In fact, aside from stock Google apps, all you'll find is Virgin's MyAccount app and Mobile iD. If you choose to install the Mobile iD packs, be sure you know you're begging for bloatware.
Bluetooth worked perfectly on the Event. The device connected to mono headphones, stereo headsets, other smartphones, and PCs without issue. Phone calls sent to my car's stereo system sounded very good, and music passed through stereo Bluetooth speakers sounded excellent.
The stock Android 4.0 browser and Google Chrome, both of which are on board, are quite good. I find they each work well and render both full HTML and mobile-optimized sites nicely. They can both be a little but pokey, though, thanks to the limits of Sprint's 3G network.
When you press the screen lock key, the time is displayed in a pencil-thin font close to the top of the display. It's way too small, in my opinion. You also can't do anything to adjust its appearance. The home screen clock widget selection is pretty anemic, as well.
Google Maps and its associated navigation features are the only apps on board for helping you get from A to B. Google Maps continues to be an excellent piece of software. Using it with the Event's GPS radio worked out well for the most part. The GPS locked down my location within about 10 seconds, and was accurate to within about 50 feet. It could have been a little faster and a little more accurate, but it was good enough for most driving directions.
The Kyocera Event earns ts $80 price tag. You get a small, usable phone that has good battery life, naked Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and access to Virgin's apps and services. Call quality was very good, and the Event performed on par with other devices on Sprint's network.
It order to reach that $80 price, however, Kyocera gave the Event a crummy screen and a low-speed processor. These two components drag down the overall experience significantly. Beyond the so-so screen, the Event is not great at shooting pictures/video.
For the budget smartphone shopper, the Event's low cost is likely its most appealing feature.