Update: mr100percent informs me that, as of 1/4/04, this phone is no longer available in stores due to the recall of the latest rev of the battery, part number CV90-K2002-05. Hopefully this will get sorted out soon.

The Kyocera 7135 is the latest version of the Kyocera Smartphone series - a line of Palm OS-enabled phones that began with the infamous pdQ or Q-phone and continued with the Kyocera QCP-6035. The 7135 is available, for the moment, only on Verizon (of the major U.S. carriers) which is a pleasant first; Verizon is usually the last carrier to get new tech rather than the first. Let's start with some basic information.

The phone is a 'flip phone' form factor. It has a hard-button keypad on the bottom half, along with five hard Palm function buttons (Address book, Calendar, Phone functions, Messaging and Web browser by default, but they're mappable) and the Graffiti area for the PDA functions. The top half has a 65K color Palm touchscreen.

Some nice design features are noticeable. The phone itself is hinged in the middle, and yet when open it fits nicely against the ear. The flip hinge is backstopped, to resist pressure on the phone - say, when you're holding it between your head and shoulder. There is an LCD panel on the top edge of the phone, so that you don't need to open it to get caller ID information. There is voice dialing capability onboard - you don't need to use the network to voice dial, so it can work anywhere.

On a more practical note, the phone is a tri-mode phone, meaning it will work with CDMA Digital PCS, CDMA Digital Cellular and Analog networks. It is also able to use CDMA2000 1xRTT, which Verizon calls the Express Network. This claims speeds of up to 144k/sec across a packet-switched network.

It's even got some goofy features for the geeks in us all. The designers wanted to make the ring tones customizable, so they just decided to make all the ring tones mp3 files - meaning you can, of course, substitute your own sounds (or even entire songs) for rings. The phone can be set to play a sound when it flips open, and another when it flips closed - and there's even a sound (called dolphin for reasons unknown) which sounds exactly like a Star Trek:TOS Communicator, just waiting to be picked.

It can be used as a serviceable mp3 player; it has a stereo-out capable jack, and it will accept Secure Digital memory cards. A 256-megabyte card, at the time of this writing, costs approximately $65 US...including a USB card drive (the Cruzer) to read/write to it, although you can of course just use the phone to do so. The built-in media player supports mp3, jpeg, .bmp, .tif, .png, .mov, .avi, .aud and .wmf formats - not bad.

One weak point is the software that's included. That isn't really Kyocera's fault; it's just that I own a Macintosh. While it does include an OS X-native version of Palm Desktop (and while OS X can use iSync to talk to it) Wintel users get a whole host of neat accessories that let them do things like directly download music, and a desktop app suite that can not only keep Microsoft Office documents synchronized - it can keep changes to those documents synchronized, so you can simply modify the document in either place and it will copy over or merge the changes at sync time.

The battery life appears good. I've used it for up to two and a half days, including constant fiddlin' with it and about 2 hours of talk, and I've still got 1/4 of the (thin) battery left.

It can do AGPS, which means it can tell 911 emergency (and, optionally, your service provider) your approximate location using triangulation from the cell towers and GPS information. Hopefully, Verizon will soon enable the system to return the location information to the phone so that it can serve as a 'virtual' GPS receiver.

This is the first 'convergence device' I've really owned. I waited for a true Palm OS device with a telephone form factor, and I'm glad. I don't use my Palm as a pocket computer, I use it more as an organizer - and this does that along with basic email (IMAP and POP to my own servers) as well as SMS and basic web browsing. You don't need to pay the extra for 1xRTT to use browsing; you can use the regular 14.4k dialup mode, which just uses airtime minutes (or not, if you have unlimited minutes on your plan).

The only thing I regret is that because its design was frozen around a year ago, it doesn't have an Xscale or StrongARM processor. Rather, it uses the pretty anemic 33MHz Motorola Dragonball processor, and has 16 MB of internal RAM. That's not all bad, however - the small CPU means that it uses less power, and the only times I've noticed it lagging are when it tries to do SSL transactions such as secure IMAP.

So far, I'm a happy happy camper. I've synced all my Macs using iSync, now to the phone as well; I've trained voicedial on ten of my most-used numbers, I've loaded a bunch of Palm games (DopeWars, Space Trader, and most importantly of all Frotz!) and verified that I can use the IR port as a remote control for my TiVo and stereo.

All hail the toys!

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