Review: Kyocera Kona – A mobile phone for senior citizens from Sprint

Kyocera Kona Opened

Sprint’s latest option for customers seeking an easy-to-use, compact feature phone has arrived. Meet the Kyocera Kona, a mobile phone that is affordable and was designed with senior citizens and the visually impaired in mind. Sprint was kind enough to send over a Kyocera Kona, and I’ve used it over the last few weeks. Read on to learn more about this little feature phone.

Kyocera Kona Unboxing

Kyocera Kona un-boxing

The Kyocera Kona from Sprint ships in environmentally friendly packaging that includes a standard wall charger and manuals to help users set up and begin using the device.

Kyocera Kona unboxing  Kyocera Kona Screen Protector Kyocera Kona Box

There isn’t much to cover here, but it is nice to see Eco-friendly packaging used for a mobile phone box. I’ve unboxed an awful lot of consumer electronics in my time, and far too few of those boxes were eco-responsible.

Kyocera Kona Design & Hardware

Kyocera Kona Keyboard

The Kyocera Kona is a compact, clamshell mobile phone with a simple design. It features dual screens (one on both sides of the lid), a alphanumerical keypad with dedicated in case of emergency and 911 keys, and a 2 megapixel camera. The Kyocera Kona measures 3.9 inches tall, 2 inches wide and 0.69 inches thick, making it a great size for slipping into a jean pocket or a small purse. Weighing in at just 3.7 ounces, it also very light. Though light, the phone doesn’t feel cheap or like it will fall apart. It actually feels rather sturdy, especially the hinge that allows the lid to open and close.

Kyocera Kona Right Side  Kyocera Kona Rear  Kyocera Kona Left Side

Going around the Kyocera Kona’s outer edges, you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack and holes for attaching a lanyard on the right side and a Micro-USB port as well as a volume rocker on the device’s left side. A 2.0 megapixel camera with 2x zoom and the main speaker is on the Kona’s rear, which features a textured surface to provide a better grip.

Kyocera Kona front display

A 1.44 inch color display with a screen resolution of 128×128 pixels is on the Kyocera Kona’s front. This smaller display is used for displaying useful information such as notifications, the date, time, and battery and reception levels. Above the outer display is a small, multi-color LED which helps to notify you of a new notification without needing to leave the outer display on at all times.

Kyocera Kona Menu

Flipping open the Kona’s lid exposes the device’s main display, which measures 2.4 inches and has a screen resolution of 320×320 pixels. The Kona is a basic phone, so it should be no surprise that its display isn’t all that great. It does the job well enough, but there are noticeably jagged edges surrounding fonts and pictures don’t look their best while displayed on this screen. But again, that should be expected on a phone like this. Directly above the Kona’s display is a surprisingly good sounding earpiece speaker.

Kyocera Kona Menu Buttons

Below the display, you’ll find the Kyocera Kona’s alphanumerical keypad and navigation buttons. If there is one thing I do not miss about using a traditional flip phone, it’s the typing. After years of using Smartphones, I was totally lost when it came to typing out even short messages on the Kyocera Kona. It seriously took around 10 minutes to type out my first SMS on the Kona. My thumbs have simply grown accustomed to using a full QWERTY, so my typing experience on this device was probably much worse than it would be for someone that is used to this type of keyboard.

The keypad itself is well designed, all of the buttons are a good size and well spaced, and they each feel satisfyingly clicky. Two buttons on either side of the circular navigation button are used for selecting on screen menu options, off to one side of that is the “Back” button, which will take you back a screen and the central “OK” button is used for selecting highlighted icons and options. Navigating the Kyocera Kona’s software was quick and easy to understand and get used to.

Kyocera Kona ICE and 911 keys

Along with the navigation and alphanumerical keys, the Kona’s keypad includes dedicated buttons for important functions. One key will launch the camera when pressed, another will place the phone into speaker mode and of course, there are dedicated keys for beginning and ending a call. The two remaining dedicated keys are great to have for safety. The key labeled as “ICE” will automatically dial your predetermined In Case of Emergency contact and the “911” key dials 911. Both of these keys require users to press and hold and then confirm the call before any dialing begins, which is a good thing as it prevents accidentally calling those numbers. The inclusion of these two keys makes the Kyocera Kona a great mobile phone for senior citizens.

Kyocera Kona Software

This software review will be a bit different than what I typically do. I’m used to being able to take captures of what’s happening on the screen, but it isn’t possible to take screenshots on the Kyocera Kona. So this software review won’t include any pictures, just words.

Feature phone software hasn’t changed all that much over the years and the Kona’s software includes all of the things you’d expect with a couple of really nice accessibility features added in. There is a web browser included here, it does allow users to surf the internet, but the experience is slow and complicated web sites typically won’t load correctly if at all. The My Stuff app houses your Games, Ringtones, Screen Savers, Applications and Ringback Tones and will allow you to add new items in those categories. A shopping application will allow users to purchase new Ringtones and Ringback Tones. And Tools has things like your Alarm, Calendar, World Clock, Stopwatch, Calculator, and Countdown timer. Tools is also used for setting up certain functions such as pairing the Kona with a Bluetooth device, checking for and installing firmware updates or turning on the Knoa’s voice assist features.

Other software goodies found on the Kyocera Kona include accessibility features that make this one of the easiest mobile phones for senior citizens to use. They also make the Kyocera Kona a great phone for the visually impaired. The Kyocera Kona is the first feature phone to offer a user interface with verbal descriptions for navigation, with which the device describes what is highlighted on the screen. It is possible to hear verbal descriptions of contacts, menu items, messaging, notifications such as missed calls, and other functions.

The Kona also includes high-contrast user interface and large font options to better accommodate a variety of vision ranges, as well as a variable speed text to speech service, that will read text messages to users. This little feature phone can even read web content aloud, making it possible for the visually impaired to browse the internet using the Kona’s 3G data connection.

Kyocera Kona Battery Life & Call Quality

Kyocera Kona Battery

It is a little odd that the phone with the smallest battery I’ve ever reviewed also has the best standby battery life. The Kyocera Kona is powered by a tiny 870 mAh battery pack, I have had it for 3 weeks now and have charged it once. Sadly, this device doesn’t come with battery monitoring software, so I wasn’t able to pinpoint the exact amount of hours worth of usage I got per charge, but I can confidently say that it lasts a long time. Kyocera states that the battery in the Kona is good for up to 4.2 hours of talk time and up to 300 hours (12.5 days) of standby time.

As for call quality, I am completely satisfied with how the Kona performed. Calls sounded good whether I was using the ear piece or the speakerphone and people on the other end said I sounded as good as I ever do while talking on the phone. Sprint’s network performed well everywhere I went with the Kyocera Kona and I didn’t encounter any reception problems or a single dropped call while testing it.

One of the things that I truly miss about having a flip phone is that satisfying feeling of ending a call by simply slapping the lid closed. It is much more elegant and fun than hunting down an on-screen end call button. If you’d prefer for the call not to end while the Kona’s lid is closed, just hit the speaker button to enable speakerphone mode before closing the lid.

Kyocera Kona Pricing & Final Thoughts

Kyocera Kona Front Display

The Kyocera Kona is available for free from Sprint’s website and retail locations. You will need to enter a new 2 year service agreement with Sprint to get the phone at that price and if purchased from a store, you’ll have to wait for a $50 rebate card. Sprint gives you the $50 credit instantly if you buy the Kona from their website though.

So, what do I think of the Kyocera Kona? Well, I made the move to smartphones almost ten years ago. I was actually one of the first people I knew that owned a smartphone. I am long past the days where I would consider switching back to a feature phone for my personal use. With that being said, nearly half of American mobile phone users are still using a feature phone. So obviously there is a market for devices like the Kyocera Kona.

When reviewing a product, I feel it is very important to consider who the product was designed and meant for. The Kyocera Kona wasn’t designed to excite smartphone users like me. Instead, it was designed to be an affordable, easy-to-use cell phone for senior citizens and individuals with visual impairments.

The Kyocera Kona has good battery life and great call quality, it is constructed well and feels like it will last a long time, and its accessibility features are not only very useful, but are also easy-to-use and work well. With all of that in mind, the Kona is an excellent choice for anyone who is looking for this type of mobile phone.

Vist Sprint’s website to learn more about the Kyocera Kona