Japanese phone-maker Kyocera has a long way to go before it can really penetrate the U.S. market in the smartphone realm, but its just-announced Rise smartphone — running Android 4.0 and sporting a pleasant physical keyboard — might help.

Kyocera introduced the new phone at the CTIA Wireless conference where we had a chance to test the device out and see what it has to offer. While the phone is not impressive in any one way, it’s a solid all-around package that will likely appeal to those on pre-paid carriers like Boost and MetroPCS.

The specs aren’t terribly impressive: the Kyocera Rise offers a 3.5-inch screen with 480-by-320 resolution, a 1-GHz processor, a 3.2-megapixel camera with LED flash, and a 1,500 mAh battery. Up close the screen looked terrible, with dull colors and a cheap-feeling plastic case. But on the plus side, the device is lightweight, the keyboard offers a nice typing experience, and its basic performance was fluid thanks to the Ice Cream Sandwich software.

The pre-paid market doesn’t get the sexy hyped phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III or HTC Droid Incredible 4G, but those who prefer more reasonable plans on the pre-paid carriers still want power and versatility out of their devices. That’s a completely fair expectation, and it is admirable Kyocera is tackling that. In the same category as the Rise is the Kyocera Hydro, a waterproof smartphone with Ice Cream Sandwich that was also announced at CTIA.

A Kyocera spokesperson told me on the floor of the convention that Kyocera doesn’t even register in the top 10 manufacturers by smartphone market share in the U.S. But its strategy of putting cheap Android phones on carriers like Cricket, MetroPCS, U.S. Cellular, and Boost Mobile seems a smart way to gain traction since the post-paid market is overcrowded with Android phones.

Pricing and availability for the Rise are both up in the air, but Kyocera said the device will arrive on pre-paid and post-paid carriers. We expect the device to be free with a 2-year contract or less than $200 upfront on a pre-paid carrier.

Check out our slideshow of the Rise:

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