Review: Kyocera Brigadier for Verizon Wireless
The Brigadier offers a variety of media apps and services. The Google Play Store is available for purchasing content, and the individual Play apps are loaded, as well. These apps haven't changed much over the last few years. The Brigadier also offers a basic music player for side-loaded music, and the stock YouTube application. I had no trouble using these apps to browse for, purchase, and play back various types of content.
Verizon was sure to bundle in a ton of its preferred apps, as well. You'll find Amazon Music and Audible for MP3 and audio book consumption, respectively, along with the Amazon store and Amazon Appstore. The Brigadier has the NFL Mobile and Slacker Radio apps, as well. Lastly, the Brigadier has Verizon's (crummy) ringtone app.
Music sounded good to my ears through my favorite headphones, but I was unimpressed with the quality of movies played back on the screen. They didn't have the same "pop" I've seen on other handsets. Perhaps its the lower-rez screen.
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The Brigadier carries over the newer camera software from some of Kyocera's more recent Android offerings. Believe me when I say this is a good thing. I'm glad to see a dedicated camera button on the phone, which makes it easier to launch the camera app. The camera launches quickly with a long press of the button, even when the phone is locked.
All of the controls for the camera are lumped to the right edge of the screen. The camera includes separate buttons for capturing photos and capturing video. This makes it easier to capture snapshots when recording video. There is a strip next to the shutter buttons that contains some basic tools for switching mode and scenes, as well as altering white balance and controlling the flash. The modes include panorama, smile shutter, and HDR. Scenes include auto, portrait, landscape, night, and action. These modes and scenes are all fairly typical and function as expected. Some indicators are lumped together in the upper-left corner so you know what modes/scenes you are shooting in.
In order to adjust more behaviors, you need to select the full settings menu. This expands another control strip across the bottom of the screen and provides access to resolution/quality controls, as well as autofocus and metering behavior, the timer, blink detection, storage location, review period, and so on. The one thing I don't like is that all these items are represented by a little icon with no text. You have to press them in a trial-by-error fashion to figure out what all the little buttons do. This is frustrating the first few times around, but you can learn them over time.
I do wish the camera focused and captured images faster. It'd say it borders on slow, and it one of the most obvious limitations of the Brigadier's mid-grade processor.
Every device has a crutch, and the Brigadier's is its camera. The phone has an 8-megapixel sensor and it just doesn't perform on the level it needs to. Focus is soft, exposure is all over the place, and white balance is iffy. My biggest complaint is focus; images are just not sharp enough. The other items can be fixed to a certain degree after the fact, but focus cannot. I'd go so far as to say the camera cannot replace a point-and-shoot, let alone a dedicated dSLR. If vacation photos are important to you, bring a real camera.
I will point out again that water vapor occasionally clouded the camera lens of our specific review unit. When it did, the camera was completely useless (unless you prefer your images to be hazy smears of color).
The video camera, which can shoot 1080p HD, fares slightly better. It delivered more consistent exposure and white balance, and focus was somewhat improved. I'd say the Brigadier is fine for everyday recording needs, but don't use it to shoot your Magnum Opus.
The Brigadier uses a nearly standard version of the Android gallery application. It doesn't offer anything new or different compared to other Android 4.4 phones, aside from an appearance favored by Kyocera. It's acceptable for managing photo albums and sharing photos with social networks. It also has some simple editing features, such as crop, rotate, red-eye reduction, and filters that help correct color, exposure, and other issues. I like the way the editing tools are laid out in a strip across the bottom of the screen.
The Google Photos+ app is also on board if you prefer to use that. Perhaps its best feature is the ability to automatically back everything up to your Google Drive account.
Verizon stacked the Brigadier with plenty of annoying apps. Some include Caller Name ID, Verizon Cloud, My Verizon Mobile, VZ Protect, and VZ Navigator. There's a full suite of Amazon-branded apps. Kyocera kept its own-branded apps to a minimum.
The Brigadier supports Bluetooth 4.0 and a wide range of profiles. I successfully paired the Brigadier with a half-dozen different devices. Phone calls routed to my car's hands-free system sounded very good and offered plenty of volume. The Brigadier includes the A2DP stereo music profile, but not the high-quality aptX option. That means music sent to my favorite Bluetooth speaker sounded decent, but not the best.
The Brigadier includes only Google's Chrome browser. I like the way it syncs open tabs and bookmarks between other devices, and it does a fine job of rendering web sites. It performed very well over Verizon's LTE 4G network.
As noted earlier, it's a breeze to change the lock screen clock to any number of different designs. Some are analog and some are digital, and they vary in size. Most include the weather. Nearly all the clocks are readable from an arm's length even when under bright sunlight.
The Brigadier includes Google Maps and Verizon's VZ Navigator for navigation. Both apps paired well with the Brigadier's GPS radio, which was consistent at pinpointing me in fewer than 5 seconds and to within 15 feet. I like Google Maps because it's great for search, routing directions, and is free. VZ Navigator is also a solid option, but it carries a small monthly fee.
Aug 10, 2016
Kyocera today announced the DuraForce Pro, its new rugged Android phone. The DuraForce is positioned as a significantly upgraded replacement for both the DuraForce and the Brigadier models, and comes in versions both with and without CDMA.
Jul 31, 2014
Verizon Wireless today added the Kyocera Brigadier to its lineup. The Brigadier has the distinction of being one of the first phones to ship in the U.S.
Jan 7, 2020
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