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review: kyocera tnt (virgin mobile)



introduction

As a guy sitting within 10 feet of 6 fully-functioning albeit not-currently-in-use, you might be wondering why on earth I happen to have picked up a Kyocera "TNT!" of all devices. Why not something with a more techy edge yet still simple, such as the Motofone F3? Why the Kyocera (also known as the Adreno S2400 in its non-branded state)? Simple. $10 for a phone I could pick up within a five minute drive from my house was simply irresistible. In fact, I didn't so much desire this phone for myself as what it would enable me to do. (I'll just hint that it had something to do with a Valentine's Day present with a twist.)

Mid-unwrapping I suddenly realized that my blog has a strong focus on all things mobile (and phones in general), so I'd better not miss this opportunity to snap a few pictures along the way. So while this isn't exactly a review in the usual sense, the pictures are sufficiently pretty and able to capture how this phone looks in real-life since most pictures I found online failed at this.



design

I'm not sure if there's a good way to say this, but I actually like the styling of the Kyocera! It has a very minimalist take on everything, reminding me a bit of the Motorola PEBL here, a RAZR over there, and a few other phones I've had the luxury of testing at various points. While not my favorite form-factor by any means (candybar is THE form-factor in my opinion), this is a phone I wouldn't be unhappy to be stuck with. (But not forever, mind you, this phone is a bit boring.)

The entire exterior is covered in soft-touch blue plastic with the exception of a glossy plastic section on the top and a hard-plastic on the hinge. This glossy section rather annoys me- if they're going to make such a big faux-screen (from a faraway glance it appears as such), at least build in an OLED display opposed to a rather bland and boring LCD. (I'm thinking NEC L1 here.) That said, for such a cheap phone I don't even consider this to be a con of this phone- if you were able to purchase an iPhone 3GS unlocked for $100 that had a small smudge on the Apple logo on the back, would you really care?

Inside, the phone is a pretty bland affair. Small screen, usable but very flat keys, nothing of surprise. A nice, even and quite bright illumination behind both the LCD and keys is a bit of a surprise, as is the general build quality of this phone- it never once felt cheap in my hand! (I apologize for the lack of interior pictures- I figured these weren't very necessary, and the UI felt exceptionally cheesy especially after being spoiled by Symbian S60 for so long.)



usage

So, how does it all come together? Well, in terms of a prepaid phone this one is about as straight forward as can be. Rip open the box (stupid blister-pack), take out the phone, remove the battery cover (this is the only part that feels cheap- it seems as if it'll break but then suddenly it pops off, it's very disconcerting), and fire up your computer's web browser. Open up the Virgin Mobile activation site, enter in the numbers found where the battery normally sits in the phone, then sit back and click a few more buttons. Unwrap the battery, pop it into place in the phone, and replace the battery cover. Open the phone, power-on, and go through a quick on-phone registration menu, then wait a few minutes while the network authenticates, and you should be good to go. This all took me less than ten minutes, and much to my delight I found out I had 20 free minutes to use! (I elected not to purchase any phone credit since this phone was destined to receive only one real phone call ever.)

Everything UI on this phone is, well, simple. The graphics employed on the phone are nice, although I almost wish they'd kept to a simple text-based menu. Given the target audience for this phone, though, I can understand their implementation. The keypad has quite a bit of tactile feedback, surprising given its relatively flat face. Once the lights go out, the clean backlighting is a very welcome sight as well. Where things start to go awry is texting, as it becomes a lot harder to determine where finger-meets-button with the flat pad.

Battery life seems... well, to be honest, I've no clue. But the one time I did charge it (NOTE: Non-cycled battery, would probably gain life after a few charges) it remained on standby for about a week with occasional use and texting.

Thanks to the device's small dimensions, it also served its purpose well, and is very easy to attach to larger objects or slide into other people's pockets. In addition, it was often mistaken for having cost more than it really did due to its solid feel and fun-to-touch plastic.

conclusion

Would I buy a(nother) Kyocera "TNT!"? You betcha. Will I? Most likely. First, though, I think I'll stick with my Boost account a bit longer- I tend to like the interface and features better, even if the phones are significantly more bulky. (I actually like the ruggedness of 'em.) I easily persuaded my brother to purchase one to use when his contract-issued cell phone was giving him trouble. In fact, as soon as I mentioned the price he simply asked, "Where?" He then went and purchased one within an hour. This phone has a strange appeal that I can't quite put into words, but that's okay. Whoever buys one of these phones will be pleasantly surprised, and I'll leave it at that.

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