Sprint Sept. 9 launched two such devices, the Android 2.3 "Gingerbread"-based Kyocera Milano smartphone, which costs $49.99 on contract and the Kyocera Brio, which is free with a two-year data deal.
Sprint is offering a decidedly different approach to its low-cost phones. The Milano, which Sprint envisions as a handset that bridges the gap from feature phone to Android, pairs a slide-out QWERTY keypad with a 3-inch QVGA thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD (240 x 320 pixel) display.
Thanks to the QWERTY keyboard and touch-screen, Milano does weigh a chunky 5.6 ounces, but slides into a pocket easily enough. While the QWERTY keyboard makes it easy for users to text, the touch-screen is also equipped with Swype gesture-input software.
"It's ideal for those making the leap to Android but not wanting to give up their QWERTY keyboards," said Eric Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of sales and marketing at Kyocera.
The Milano comes with a modest 3.2-megapixel camera and supports Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, as well as Google Mobile applications.
Promising 7.7 hours of talk time, the handset also has a 1,490mAh battery. This can be stretched a bit, thanks to Eco Mode, Kyocera's proprietary power management application for extending battery life. Users just preset a point at which their phones will go into low-power-consumption mode by adjusting various phone functions like screen timeout and brightness.
The device also possesses 512MB/512MB of memory, with a 2GB microSD card included, expandable to 32GB.
While the phone is heavily subsidized (from $200 to $50), the Milano requires a Sprint Everything Data plan, which starts at $69.99 a month, plus a $10 smartphone data charge. The Mobile Hotspot option is available for $29.99 per month and supports up to five WiFi devices.
Also fitted with a QWERTY keyboard, the Kyocera Brio is a feature phone with a 2.2-inch QVGA TFT (320 x 240 pixel) display, limited Web browsing capabilities and a 1.3MP camera.
Its main functions include voice calls, email and text messaging, supported by an 870mAh battery (4.7 hours of talk time). The phone, which weighs only 3.7 ounces, has a MicroSD card slot that supports memory cards up to 32GB. With this modicum of functionality and features, the Brio is targeted at children.
"With school just starting, teens and tweens will enjoy staying in touch with friends while mom and dad get peace of mind with Kyocera Brio's low-cost, parental controls and Sprint Family Locator," Sprint said in a statement.
Normally priced at $220, the Brio is free but requires a voice plan starting at $39.99 a month, or a voice and messaging bundle that starts at $49.99 a month.
Sprint's new devices come one day after AT&T unveiled its Huawei Impulse 4G Android 2.2 "Froyo" smartphone. The phone, which will go on sale Sept. 18 for $29.99 with a two-year contract, is powered by an 800MHz chip and has a 3.8-inch WVGA touch-screen, a 5-megapixel shutter and high-definition video recording.