Hands-On: Kyocera Torque
Feb 24, 2013, 3:06 PM by Eric M. Zeman
Kyocera was showing off the Torque at Mobile World Congress. This ultra-rugged Android smartphone claims to have it all.
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The Torque is another ultra-rugged handset from Kyocera for Sprint's network. It runs Android 4.0 and can take one heck of a beating. It also has some unique features that we were able to test out whilst in Barcelona.
Since it is a rugged phone, the Torque is as chunky as they come. Much of the exterior surface is hardened rubber. It is the type of device that is not meant to go in pockets; rather it belongs in a holster or, better yet, a bag of some sort. It is thick, somewhat heavy, black, and appealing all at the same time.
The patterned rubber shell is easy to trip. Thanks to the non-phablet-sized screen, it is a narrow device (as measured side-to-side), so it is a cinch to hold tightly in one hand. It has a screw-on battery cover to prevent moisture ingress, and the headphone and microUSB ports are protected by hatches. Kyocera had a small tank of water on hand, so of course we plunked it down in there. Sure enough, the water didn't do the Torque any harm.
The controls are just as blunt as the design. The three Android buttons that are below the screen are large and should be easy to find and use with gloves on. The travel and feedback was a bit mushy, though. The PTT button and volume toggle are on the left edge of the phone. I found the PTT button sticks out too much and was way to easy to press. I accidentally fired up PTT calls every time I squeezed the Torque's sides. The volume toggle is the exact opposite. It is too small and hard to press. I didn't get to test it with gloves, but I'd assume it would be nearly impossible to find the button, let alone use it with gloves on.
The screen measures 4 inches across the diagonal and offers 800 x 480 pixels. It is reasonably sharp, but I've seen better. It is very bright and colorful.
The user interface is near-to-stock Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. If you're wondering why it's not shipping with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, it's because Android 4.1 doesn't yet support PTT. (Go figure.) In the time I spent with the Torque, it was speedy and quick.
The one really cool feature we tested as the new tissue conduction technology. Basically, the device can be set to vibrate in such a way that you can hear phone calls through things such as helmets and ear protection. You hold the phone against the helmet or earmuffs and it vibrates them, passing the sound through to your head and, eventually, ears. It's not perfect, but it works pretty well.
In all, it's a neat little device that will surely do well on Sprint's network.
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Sprint and Kyocera today announced the Torque XT, a minor update to the original Torque. The two updates include compatibility with Sprint's Direct Connect walkie-talkie service, and the improvement on onboard storage to 20GB.
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