Review: Helio Kickflip
The first time you pick up the Kickflip you're not quite sure what to do with it. The front is a smooth symmetric surface. There is no left or right or top or bottom. The screen is perfectly centered with speaker slots above and below it. There are no logos, buttons or anything else to mar the smooth white surface. This certainly makes the Kickflip beautiful, it clearly was designed as a work of art. Unfortunately if the screen is off, the symmetry makes it very difficult to figure out which way is up.
No matter whether you hold it right side up or upside down, the Kickflip sits comfortably in your hand thanks to smooth, very rounded edges and side buttons that barely bulge out. The side buttons, though small, are your best indicator which way to hold the Kickflip. Most of the buttons sit at the top of the phone when you are holding it right side up. Only the camera button is under your fingers when you hold the Kickflip correctly.
Once it is oriented properly, a flick of the thumb is all it takes to spin the phone open. Since there are no keys on the front of the phone, you do not need to spin the phone around to use it once it is open. The screen flips orientation and you are ready to use the phone. There are limited versions of the camera and media player that work when the phone is closed, but for the bulk of uses, the phone must be swung open. Opening and closing the phone also serves to answer and end calls.
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Each of the side buttons has a function when the phone is opened or when closed, but they are not always the same. On the left are volume keys, but when the phone is closed, holding the up key temporarily wakes the phone from sleep for a time check, and the down key turns on the flash for use as a flashlight. The keys on the right serve the same purpose whether the phone is opened or closed, but the applications respond differently. The camera button starts a simple camera application for taking a quick snapshot you can't afford to miss, and the play/pause button starts a simplified version of the media player. If you start the camera while the phone is closed, flipping the phone open returns you to the home screen. If you start the media player in the closed position, it stays on as you open the phone so you can pick a new track or change other options.
The keypad has the only Helio branding on the front of the phone: a flame logo on the D-pad select key. The D-pad is a ring around the select key, which is a somewhat standard configuration. The select key is sunk slightly below the surface of the rest of the keypad and is a smoother texture. This makes it easy to find without looking, which also makes the surrounding D-pad easy to maneuver around as well.
The soft keys and call keys are large and well-placed. Included in this group of keys is a back button, which is used in navigation. The group also includes a button with a microphone icon on it, which is the only real oddity on the Kickflip. We assumed it was a pop-culture take on speakerphone, or maybe a karaoke feature (which is becoming huge on South Korean phones), but alas, all this button does is start the the voice recorder.
The keypad is too flat for our insensitive fingers to feel the tiny crevices between number keys or the microscopic bumps on the 5 key. But the keys are large enough that even without tactile cues, we were able to orient our thumbs to it after about five days. Once properly accustomed to the keypad, there are no additional factors that hamper texting speed.