Review: Kyocera DuraMax for Sprint
The DuraMax uses a new system to deliver push-to-talk, walkie-talkie style conversations. Whereas Sprint Nextel's legacy PTT system uses iDEN, the new one uses Sprint's existing CDMA network. This is the third effort taken by Sprint to bring a workable iDEN alternative to market. For example, back in 2006/2007, Sprint launched ReadyLink, which was also based on CDMA. Later, in 2008, Sprint launched QChat phones, which used a CDMA-based PTT alternative. While QChat was reasonably good, the lag time when sending walkie-talkie messages back and forth proved to be too much for the impatient PTT user.
Now, we have this new service, which was also developed by Qualcomm and also runs on Sprint's CDMA network. For all intents and purposes, most users won't be able to notice the difference between the new service and the legacy iDEN-based service.
Once you've configured the handset for PTT services and added some DirectConnect contacts, reaching out to them is a breeze. The user interface for initiating calls and setting up chats is nearly identical to the previous tools. Anyone used to a Sprint-branded PTT service will feel right at home on the tools offered by the DuraMax. DirectConnect is there, as is GroupConnect, Call Alert, NextMail, and a handful of other features.
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In my tests, the delay in the time it took to send/receive PTT messages was just as short as it would be with an iDEN-based handset. It was as close to instantaneous as you could ask. The one caveat here is network strength. With poor (read 1X) coverage, the system is useless. It requires 3G to function properly. This means if you're in an area with crummy Sprint 3G, the DuraMax may not always offer the best PTT service. But when coverage is good, you've got nothing to worry about. The system works with other new DirectConnect devices as well as the older iDEN handsets, though I couldn't gt it to duplicate the DirecTalk system, which let two handsets communicate even without a network presence (true walkie-talkie style).
The quality of the calls coming through the PTT service was acceptable, but even via speakerphone, not quite as loud as they should be. This is the only real negative. Out in the quiet of the woods, sure, it'll be plenty loud. On the construction site? Not so much.
Only the most seasoned veterans of Sprint Nextel's iDEN services might be able to tell the two types of PTT services apart, but I doubt it. Sprint and Qualcomm have done an admirable job of matching the performance of the iDEN network with respect to PTT services.
The DuraMax doesn't offer any surprises in the phone call department. Press the green send key to get at a list of all your calls. The in-call options range from the typical phone book access to 3-way calls. You can also set up to 98 speed dials if you wish.
The contacts applications is simple and straight forward. From the contact list, the left soft key automatically initiates a text message.
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