Review: Kyocera Brigadier for Verizon Wireless
The Kyocera Brigadier packs a punch. This rugged Android handset for Verizon Wireless is one of the toughest available in Big Red's lineup. Here is Phone Scoop's full report.
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Is It Your Type?
The Kyocera Brigadier is one tough mother of a phone. If you're looking for a delicate smartphone, the Brigadier is not for you. The Brigadier is for those who want or need a device that kicks butt and takes names at the same time. It is a hearty smartphone for the adventurer and thrill-seeker.
The Brigadier is fairly typical in its design as far as rugged phones go. It is chunky, blunt, heavy, and covered in a mashup of lines, surfaces, and textures. The Brigadier is among the first to use real sapphire over the display, which improves the phone's toughness factor significantly.
It would seem Kyocera designed the Brigadier with Verizon in mind from the get-go. There are subtle "Vs" built into the shape and various surfaces of the phone. One might say it looks more like Casio's G'zOne hardware than Kyocera's other handsets. Kyocera seems to be steppin on Casio's hallowed ground a bit here. The phone is a black slab, but one with lots of angles to break up the typical rectangular shape. It's no follower, and sets forth with its own identity. It clearly comes from Kyocera's family tree (at least as far as my eyes are concerned), but it manages to eschew tired design tropes in order to meet its usability and toughness needs.
The weight of the Brigadier tells me it's strong, but it's not a phone you ever forget is in your hand or pocket. I can just barely wrap my hands around the wide Brigadier. The thickness doesn't help it slip into pockets, where I found I more often had to give it good shove rather than drop it in. The materials are typical for a rugged phone. They feel tough, but not premium. We're talking heavy-duty plastics here, not metal and glass. The lower half of the phone has a textured surface for added grip.
The Brigadier's front face is a busy place. The screen is recessed deeply, with a pronounced rim surrounding it. This helps to protect the sapphire from damage when the phone is placed screen down. I found the rim a bit annoying because it is so thick. There are four exposed screws on the front that give the Brigadier an industrial look. The phone has three physical buttons below the display for controlling the Android operating system. The buttons are easy to find bare-handed, but not so easy if you're wearing gloves. The travel and feedback is good, though. A grill for the speakerphone runs along the bottom of the front surface.
There are three buttons built into the left edge of the phone. There are two separate buttons to control volume (rather than a single toggle). They are positioned near the top, but are rather small. The travel and feedback is good. There's also a massive user-assignable action key. Kyocera told us that the Brigadier will receive PTT in a future update, so the button can be used for that if you want. For now, you can program this button as a shortcut to open a wide array of other apps on the phone. The button is very easy to find and has excellent travel and feedback.
The Brigadier has a dedicated camera button on the right edge. It a bit small and could be easier to find, but travel and feedback are good. A large hatch on the right side protects the SIM card and memory card slots. It requires a bit of effort to peel back, but that's OK. You want this to stay firmly shut most of the time.
The Brigadier has two other hatches, one on top and another on the bottom. The top hatch protects the stereo headphone jack. I didn't have any trouble with it. It is joined on top by two buttons, one on either side. One initiates the speakerphone and the other is the lock/power button. Both buttons have decent profiles and good action. The hatch on the bottom covers the micro-USB charge port.
The hatches are important, as they help keep the Brigadier resistant to water and dust. I dunked the Brigadier in a host of household liquids, held it under running water, let it sit in a bucket for a while and otherwise introduced it to dirt and liquid. It's still working, but I noticed that water vapor occasionally made its way into the phone and clouded up the camera lens. Kyocera assures us this is not normal behavior and likely a problem limited to our review unit. I was able to get the water vapor to vanish by holding the phone in direct sunlight for a few minutes, but it returned often. I wouldn't worry about this, though, as it is surely an issue specific to our device. As for the Brigadier's toughness rating, yeah, it can take a bruising. I threw it, kicked it, dropped it, hit it, and otherwise abused it. It suffered no injuries.
One thing the Brigadier doesn't have is a removable battery. The phone is locked up tight, and doesn't provide access to the internals.
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Not just water proof
I let my son take it in a creek this weekend and he was able to play Minecraft with the phone underwater.
The USB cover was annoying so I bought a $20 wireless charger.
The USB cover was annoying so I bought a $20 wireless charger.
One of the best things about the Torque (and it appears that this Brigadier model is probably a spin-off from the Torque) is the incorporati...
...but what about the PTT button?
Because the Brigadier looks a lot like the Kyocera Torque from Sprint, I'm wondering if the Verizon version has the same wimpy PTT button that the Torque has. Any info on that will be appreciated.
The old Motorola PTT phones had excellent PTT buttons, honed from many years of feedback from two-way radio customers over several decades, and also by Nextel users over the last ten years of iDEN's life. But Kyocera's PTT buttons on all of their Sprint phones are incredibly wimpy, so easy to push that one can not use the One Touch DC functionality because the wimpy Torque PTT button causes untold numbers of unintended PTT ch...