Review: Kyocera Kona for Sprint, Boost, Virgin
The Kona runs Sprint's age-old and under-developed Java feature phone platform. This user interface has been around for at least five years. It is basic and straight-forward. First-time phone owners will find it easy to master, though anyone used to a smartphone will likely want to tear their hair out.
What bugs me the most is the yellow-on-black appearance of the main menu and the inability to change it. There are no themes, no profiles, and no options to change the background and menu colors.
The home screen provides access to the messaging and contacts apps via the soft keys. The d-pad offers customizable shortcuts to four apps - one for each direction - if you so wish. These can be handy if you want to jump to the browser or other apps quickly. Pressing the button in the center of the d-pad takes you to the main menu. The main menu is a 12-icon grid that can also be viewed in list form, or with large fonts. Rather than make you jump through hoops to change the way the main menu looks, the right soft key does the trick.
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The 12 icons don't offer any surprises and are composed of the requisite mixture of phone tools and Sprint service offerings. Similar to other Sprint phones, it uses the My Stuff folder to centralize all your media and apps and games. The "Shopping" icon doesn't take you to an on-board app store. Instead, it fires up the browser and loads Sprint's painfully bad content portal. Once you move deeper into the menu system, the default view of the menus switches to an endless array of lists.
In terms of customization, the Kona covers the basics with wallpapers, ringtones, and alert sounds. It's a shame that adjusting the font size doesn't affect all screens. It only improves visibility on the top-level menus, the dialing font, and the messages font.
As far as performance goes, it's a flip phone. The processor is more than capable of running the Java operating system. I didn't notice any trouble with the apps and/or services on board.
The Kona is a simple device with which to make calls. There is no support for Sprint's Direct Connect (PTT / walkie-talkie) service, so you're limited to regular old phone calls. Press the green send key to summon a list of your recent calls. The in-call options range from the typical phone book access to 3-way calls. You can also set up to 98 speed dials if you wish. There is something rewarding about pressing real keys to call someone, but that's probably just nostalgia talking.
The contacts applications is simple, straight-forward, and opens with a press of the right soft key when on the home screen. Once in the contact list, the left soft key automatically initiates a text message to whatever number is highlighted. The phone holds up to 600 contacts, and each can carry several phone numbers, email addresses, and other data.
The Kona is capable of send/receiving text messages, but anything beyond that is asking a lot. The Kona lets you enter text via the tried-and-true triple-tapping method, with T9, and several other options. T9 is the best, as it helps figure out words as you go. In fact, it not only predicts the word you want, but offers a handful of suggestions when it cannot. There are 20 pre-loaded messages, as well as an easy way to insert web shortcuts, which are standard Internet letter groupings, such as "http://", "www", or ".com". It's easy to stick an image or voice note into a text message, but there is no video messaging. Thankfully the Kona offers threaded text conversations.
There are no email nor IM clients pre-loaded on the Kona. I could not find any in Sprint's online content store, either. That means no email for you. Social networking of any sort is limited to the mobile web sites. "Clunky" doesn't even come close to describing the experience.
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