Review: Helio Kickflip
Both Helio phones are shipping with QVGA screens. The screen on the Kickflip is sharp and has rich color, although color is kept to a minimum in the Helio interface, so that's not immediately apparent. The screen is bright under most lighting conditions but fades quickly in very bright sunlight. Taking pictures and using the phone in direct sunlight is possible, but difficult. The screen only has three brightness settings - darker, normal, and lighter. In our tests it was impossible to distinguish between normal and lighter indoors, but the lighter setting did seem to help a bit outside.
There is no operator logo on the Helio home screen, just a small signal strength indicator. If you are accustomed to using the presence of the operator logo to indicate you have signal, it's easy to think the Kickflip has an awful antenna, but just the opposite is true. The Kickflip has excellent reception, passing our bank vault test with ease and holding on to calls like a bulldog. Assuming that Helio is currently using Sprint's network in San Francisco, the Kickflip did not fall victim to many of the usual dead zones, only losing signal in the absolute worst of them.
The Helio's speaker is plenty loud for phone calls when held to the ear. Even in noisy environments, we could hold a conversation with the volume set at 5 out of 7. Despite the fact that a second speaker is turned on when the phone is ringing or media is being played back, the volume of these and other loudspeaker functions is unusually soft. Only at maximum volume can the phone be heard ringing outdoors. Listening to audio files or holding a conversation using the speakerphone is difficult. While it can't make up for low volume during media playback, the Kickflip does have a very strong vibrating alert that can at least make up for quiet ringtones.
Helio has said from the beginning that their service was for people who prefer data over voice. Their subscription prices certainly reflect this, and the Kickflip's battery life seems to reflect this too. A long phone call seemed to take more out of the battery then surfing the web or even playing back music (videos take more out of the battery, as expected). With frequent use the battery lasts about two and a half days. For the first day or two, the battery indicator gives the impression that the battery could last longer, it barely moves except after a long phone call. But at the last minute takes a dive from whatever charge it shows remaining (usually at least 1/3 full, but we've seen it drop from as much as 2/3) to the battery extremely low warning. Helio has told us they're working on a fix to improve the accuracy of the battery display as well as improve battery life, but they're not sure when it will be available yet.