Kyocera had one new phone to show off at CES: the Kyocera Strobe KX21. This is Kyocera's first true messaging phone. It's designed to compete with phones like the Samsung D307, LG F9200, Motorola A630, and LG VX-9800. Like the latter two, it looks like a regular bar-style phone at first, but flips open "sideways" to reveal a landscape display and QWERTY keyboard.
Not everyone will like the styling, but Kyocera does plan to offer additional styling variants for different carriers. It's also a little on the large side, but not huge.
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While the inner display is adequate, the outer display is disappointing. It's very small, yet attempts to cram in a full menu interface, meaning text and graphics end up very, very small. It's a good thing this phone is aimed at youth, because older eyes would have a very hard time reading this display. It's also rather dim and has a pronounced blue tint. A simple monochrome display for dialing and caller-ID only (like the Motorola A630) might have been more practical.
The QWERTY keyboard isn't all that great, either. It's not as bad as, say, the Samsung D307, but it's still near the bottom of the heap in terms of ergonomics. It's usable, but the relatively flat keys require extra dexterity that makes typing a slower process than it should be.
Those issues aside, the Strobe may still be a popular phone, simply because it addresses a crucial niche that has thus far been ignored: an affordable CDMA phone with a QWERTY keyboard for IM and SMS addicts.
Because there's nothing quite like it at the moment, and it is a type of product that seems in demand, Kyocera claims a large number of carriers are interested in offering the Strobe. It may be offered by a half-dozen or more carriers this year.
When playing with the Strobe, we noticed Bluetooth listed in the menus, and a quick test confirmed the demo model did in fact have working Bluetooth. That's not a feature Kyocera announced.... When asked, a Kyocera spokesperson admitted there is a Bluetooth version being offered to carriers, although the first carrier expected to offer the Strobe has opted not to offer the Bluetooth version.
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