Kyocera Rise hands-on (video)

Kyocera is looking to regain a foothold in the US smartphone market, and curiously enough, it's doing so by catering to niche audiences. First we saw the Hydro, a waterproof handset, and alongside it is the Rise, which features a sliding QWERTY keyboard. Both phones are built for CDMA networks, although Kyocera has yet to announce carrier availability for either. We wouldn't be surprised in the least to see it going to Sprint or any of its prepaid brands, but this is just speculation for now.

Spec-wise, the Rise is very similar to the Hydro, and this extends to the OS. In our brief time with the phone, we were treated to a largely vanilla interpretation of Ice Cream Sandwich, which makes the Rise a bit of a rare breed in the QWERTY world -- hopefully its future carrier doesn't dictate huge alterations. The phone features a Qualcomm MSM8655 SoC with a 1GHz CPU, a 3.5-inch, 480 x 320 IPS LCD display, a 3.2-megapixel camera with LED flash and a 1,500 mAh battery. When compared to other QWERTY sliders, the handset itself is rather compact and fit nicely in our hand. We were similarly quite fond of the sliding mechanism on the Rise, which felt natural and provided just enough resistance. The four-row keyboard is altogether forgettable, but it should serve those who insist upon physical keys just fine. Our biggest gripe about the Rise, however, is its low-res display, which seems like quite a misstep -- even for a budget device.

In terms of storage, you'll find 512MB of RAM, 2GB built-in and a 2GB microSD card. The Rise also features 802.11n (WiFi), Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and EV-DO Rev. A. It's safe to say that Kyocera is targeting budget audiences with the Rise, but the strategy may work to its advantage if other carriers fail to keep their QWERTY sliders up-to-date with the latest version of Android. No pricing was announced at the show, but we imagine it will be strongly tied to whichever carriers choose to sell it. You'll find our hands-on video after the break.

Terrence O'Brien contributed to this report.