September 01, 2012, 8:54 AM — There's nothing to "oooh" and "ahhh" about with the Kyocera Rise ($20 with a two-year contract from Sprint after a mail-in rebate; price as of August 29, 2012). This budget smartphone, which runs Android 4.0, has a simple design and basic hardware, and it doesn't excel in any particular category despite its wide range of functionality. However, you can't beat the price point, and the Rise is a solid option if you're looking to dip your toes into the world of smartphones. Also, it has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, which makes typing messages more convenient and also frees up space on the Rise's compact screen.
The Rise tips the scale at 5.54 ounces, which is a little heavy for a phone with a mostly plastic body. But at 4.44 inches tall by 2.38 inches wide, and with a thickness of 0.56 inch, the Rise still feels compact despite its weight. The phone is pretty short, and may be too small for those with larger hands.
A 3.5-inch touchscreen display takes up most of the Rise's face, save for the four navigation buttons along the bottom--Back, Home, Recent Apps, and Menu. With a display resolution of 320 by 480 pixels, the screen won't dazzle you. Text isn't as crisp as I'd like, though it's still readable. On the plus side, the display is very responsive and doesn't lag when you navigate throughout the phone's interface. When you select icons or a letter key, the Rise vibrates in the spot where you touched.
The left and right edges of the device are straight, while the top and bottom edges have a slight curve. The phone's construction isn't fantastic, but it should hold up over time. Unfortunately, the Rise's plastic body and low-res display cheapen the overall aesthetic of the phone (which I guess is offset by the phone's reasonable price).
A microUSB port can be found on the left-edge of the phone, just below the Rise's volume controls. The top edge is home to the power button and a headphone jack.
Most notable is the QWERTY keyboard that slides out to the right of the display if you're holding the Rise in portrait orientation, or the bottom if the display is in landscape orientation. Sliding the keyboard out automatically signals the display to switch to landscape view, as that's how the keyboard is designed to be used.
I usually like using QWERTY keyboards, but this one is cramped: The keys are a little small, and the top row is positioned too close to the top section of the phone, which makes typing uncomfortable. I have small hands and fingers, so I was still able to manage typing despite the challenging layout, but I'd definitely recommend trying the keyboard before buying the phone, as it won't be a good fit for everyone.