Review of the Kyocera 3245


The Kyocera 3245 is a discontinued phone from Bell Mobility, with a monochrome display and a candy bar body. That isnít to say that either design element is necessarily a bad thing, so long as the overall execution is done well. The 3245 is an okay phone as far as design is concerned, but it doesnít stand out in any way. This review is mostly for those considering it as a used phone.

Last Updated: 12-Jul-2004

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

General

The shape of the phone is a bit odd, in that it tapers to from a wide top to a skinner bottom. The change in width isnít that severe, nor is having a fat top section necessarily an odd departure for candy bar phones. However, the rounded contours and the bulging keypad give you the distinct impression that it was inflated too much. Looks aside, but the skinnier bottom end of the 3245 makes it a bit difficult to and manipulate with one hand. You always feel like youíre going to drop it.

The keypad, which bulges in some places, and ďsucks inĒ at others, is among the worst designs Iíve tried in quite some time. The keys are tiny and closely spaced, they press too hard, and they seem to be less responsive than they actually are. This isnít to say that I havenít experienced worse keypads, because I certainly have, but there are just too many excellent examples out there to accept this one as anything but mediocre. Like all such handicaps however, Iím sure youíd get used to it given time.

I wasnít too pleased with the screen either. Manufacturers have been making monochrome displays for ages, and so thereís no excuse why this one couldnít have been excellent. Instead the font is skinny and tough to see at a glance, and the contrast is very poor, even with the darkness turned up full. The blue backlight only makes matters worse. The only good thing about it, compared to many color screens, is that you can easily see it in direct and indirect sunlight.

The 3245 includes a speakerphone feature, and while it isnít up to the level of any of the Motorola iDEN models, it is actually quite useable compared to many other lame speakerphone implementations Iíve tried on other phones. The volume of the speaker isnít all that loud, but itís actually loud enough to hear in moderately noisy environments, such as a reasonably quiet car. The quality of the speaker is also surprisingly good. The microphone sensitivity is boosted, thus it picks up voices well up to about 3 or 4 feet from the phone. However, outgoing sound quality is no better than with the standard microphone, and that isnít very good to begin with (more on that later).

The same speaker is used to produce the ringtones, of which only 3 are non-musical. Even those 3 ringtones are rather faint, and it is difficult to hear the phone ring in noisy environments such as the food court at your local mall, or while walking down a busy street. The phone does include a vibrate feature, but like virtually all phones these days it is rather anemic. You can feel it if the phone makes contact with your body, but if the phone is floating in a pocket, or insulated from you by thick clothing, you canít feel it.

The phonebook is excellent, as has been the case with all of the Kyocera models Iíve thus far tested. Not only does each phonebook entry include multiple phones numbers, but you can REUSE icons. This means that if you contact has 3 or 4 home numbers, or 3 or 4 cell phone numbers, you arenít forced to use non-applicable icons when you run out of the limited number that other phones force you to use. The phone also includes space for a street address, email address, URL, and a text note.

Phonebook searching capabilities are also top-notch, as has been the case with other Kyocera models. As you press numeric keys, the phone displays the closest match in the phonebook as though you were using T9 to enter a name. You can also type in just part of a phone number (ANY PART) and have the phone quickly find all listings that include that numeric string. Finding entries is therefore fast and easy, and Iíve often said that these features should be on ALL PHONES.

The voice recorder is, like in most CDMA phones, a complete waste of time. You canít do the one thing that voice recorders are great at, which is recording what your caller has to say. The 3245, like many CDMA phones Iíve tested, allows only the recording of your own voice, and in fact the voice recorder is OFF LIMITS during a call, even to record just yourself. Clearly this isnít a legal requirement, since virtually all GSM and iDEN phones can record your caller, as can other CDMA phones (such as the recently-tested LG 4600). Those misgivings aside however, the sound quality of the voice recorder is excellent, and you can play back the recordings on the speaker.

The rest of the phoneís features are fairly run-of-the-mill. It includes a few interesting games, but itís becoming increasingly difficult to refer to games as such on a monochrome phone. Fortunately the display does support multiple gray levels, and so the images displayed during the games are at least more detailed than would be possible on a strictly black-and-white display.

RF Performance and Audio Quality

RF performance is excellent, as weíve come to expect from Kyocera. The phone completely blows away my old ST-7868W, which canít even begin to match the prowess of the 3245 in weak signal areas. This applies to connecting the call, and to providing error-free audio during a call. Over-the-road performance is also excellent, as the phone keeps the audio disruptions to a minimum.

Incoming audio quality is quite nice, but itís just a bit too bassy. This gives the phone a rather boomy quality that can be annoying under some circumstances, and with some types of voices. Audio volume is acceptably loud, and the phone includes Kyoceraís excellent Smart Sound feature that automatically boosts the level of quiet callers so that they sound similar in volume to loud callers.

Outgoing sound quality was a huge disappointment after the excellent showing I got from the Kyocera Slider. However, Kyocera doesnít appear to be consistent in this aspect, as the Blade has terrible outgoing sound quality too. Even in quiet environments the 3245 couldnít even come close to touching the great outgoing quality of the LG 4600. When the background gets noisy, the 3245 gets worse. This has been a common complaint of most CDMA phones, but if the LG 4600 teaches us anything, itís that no one can JUSTIFY the horrible sound quality by blaming it on CDMA or the EVRC CODEC.

While this phone exhibits some of the great features Iíve come to expect from Kyocera, it suffers from horrible outgoing audio quality, a mediocre monochrome screen, a crippled voice recorder, and a nasty little keypad. Because it has such terrific RF and reasonably good incoming sound quality however, I would hesitate to say that this phone is a bust. Outgoing sound isnít something that YOU have to put up with, and the screen isnít especially important if you use the phone mostly to take calls. So long as the faint ringers donít present a problem for you, and you can justify the other shortcomings, the 3245 is a fairly solid little phone that looks quite durable. I personally would give is a miss, simply because it annoys me in far too many ways.

Someone recently asked me if I would choose the Kyocera Slider over the 3245. It didnít take long for me to say that the Slider is by far a better phone, despite some of its user interface weaknesses. The slider was one phone that actually got me excited about the possibility of using CDMA as my main network. While that never happened, I canít say I experienced anything near that kind of reaction to the 3245.

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