Review: Kyocera Torque for Sprint
The Torque includes the native Google Play Store and associated apps for consuming media. The store lets Torque owners purchase music, television shows, books, and magazines, as well as movies and movie rentals. Each type of content has its own app for playback, and they are all pre-installed on the Torque. The Torque also includes the stock YouTube app. The Torque plays back side-loaded content without any issue.
There are no Sprint media apps pre-installed, but plenty are available for download from the Sprint Zone, such as Stitcher Radio, Sprint TV and Movies, Sprint Music Plus, NBA Game Time, NASCAR Sprint Cup and others.
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Kyocera developed its own skin for the camera application, though the underlying mechanics appear to be similar to the stock Android camera app. The camera can be opened from the lock screen, or by pressing the dedicated camera key when the device is already awake. It launches quickly. Disappointingly, you can't launch the camera when the Torque is asleep, even by pressing the camera key.
The fastest and easiest way to take a picture is to press the physical camera button. It focuses in a blink and captures images in two blinks. This is a single-stage button. It focuses and shoots; there's no half-step just for focus. The Torque does not support touch-to-focus, which is a bummer.
The Torque includes several picture modes (normal, continuous, panorama, HDR, etc.), resizable images (5-megapixels down to VGA), several shooting scenes (portrait, scenery, action, etc.), and some cool things like blink detection, and so on. It is among the more flexible cameras I've seen on a device made by Kyocera.
The Torque's 5-megapixel shooter does a passable job. Most of the shots I took outdoors showed accurate color and were in focus. Exposure was sometimes problematic, with bright areas blown out and dark areas lacking detail. Sharp focus was harder to obtain indoors, and indoor shots were prone to annoying grain. Still, on average, the pictures are usable.
The Torque can capture video at a max resolution of 1080p HD. In general, video results look pretty good. I notice the same type of problems with the video camera that I did with the still camera: video captured with good lighting looks good, video captured with poor lighting doesn't. The Torque had trouble adjusting to big swings in background light (see the video clip below).
The Torque uses the stock Android 4.0 tools when it comes to the gallery software. The central image library ties together all the photos associated with your Google accounts, including Google+, and you can sync them to the device for offline access if you want.
Images are arranged in vertical columns. Poke the image you want to manipulate it and it loads in a snap. The image fills most of the screen, but there's a ribbon that stretches across the bottom so you can jump to other images in the library fairly quickly. Up top, you'll see the sharing tool.
Editing features include the ability to add effects, such as highlights, shadows, and so on; add filters such as fisheye effects; adjust colors and tones with sepia, B&W, etc. You can also crop the image, fix red-eye, adjust for face glow, straighten images, rotate or flip them, and sharpen them.
My one complaint is that the gallery app is a bit slow. Perhaps another sign of an underpowered processor or slow internal memory?
Sprint has been proactive in reducing bloatware on its Android phones. The only Sprint-branded apps are Sprint iD and Sprint Zone. Sprint iD and Zone let you do nothing but download other Sprint-branded apps and services. The Torque only includes 1GB of built-in storage, which is rather skimpy, so you have to be careful about what apps you download and where you choose to store media on the device. It supports microSD cards for both.
The Torque's Bluetooth 4.0 radio worked very well. I had no trouble pairing it with other Bluetooth devices. Most importantly, call quality was excellent through both headsets and my car's hands-free system. Music worked well, too, via Bluetooth headphones.
The Torque has the age-old standard Android browser installed in addition to Google Chrome. I found the Torque performed well as a browsing device over Sprint's 3G network. Despite the limitations of Sprint's 3G network, the Torque was quick to load web pages and it never timed out. In my experience, the Chrome browser is a bit more feature-rich than the older stock browser, but I can't say that I saw any different in page load times between the two. (The Torque supports Sprint's LTE 4G network, but given the limited footprint we were unable to test in there.)
The time is visible at the top of the lock screen. It is a digital clock made of thin, white numbers. It cannot be adjusted or changed, and can be difficult to read when outdoors.
Google Maps is the only mapping software pre-installed on the Torque. If that's all you ever use, you'll be fine. It is a capable piece of software for discovering local points of interest and routing directions to them. As far as the GPS radio is concerned, it is accurate and quick. It often took 15 seconds or less to pinpoint my location. It was usually as close as 10 feet to my actual position.
Hands-On: Kyocera Torque
Kyocera was showing off the Torque at Mobile World Congress. This ultra-rugged Android smartphone claims to have it all.
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