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Hands On with Kyocera DuraForce Pro

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Jan 5, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Kyocera's flagship rugged smartphone is the DuraForce Pro. This is one tough handset that combines brawn and brains into a compelling, water-and-drop-proof package. Here are our initial impressions.

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Kyocera's DuraForce Pro isn't a new phone. The company first announced it back in August of 2016. It landed in AT&T stores first, followed by Sprint, and now Verizon Wireless. All the same, this week at CES offered Phonescoop its first opportunity to spend a few moments with the phone.

The DuraForce Pro is rather small for a fully ruggedized handset. It's much smaller than an iPhone 7 Plus or Pixel XL, for example. That's good news. Fully rugged phones are often oversized beasts that are unwieldy and awkward. Not so with the DureForce Pro. Kyocera managed to keep the frame compact, likely thanks in part to the mid-sized 5-inch screen.

DuraForcePro  

I appreciate the phone's appearance. It looks like it belongs in a military convoy. The chunky, exaggerated features, numerous angles, and huge buttons give the phone a look all its own. As you'd expect, the materials are hardened plastic and rubber. The phone is put together tightly. I thought all the seams were sealed up nicely. The Pro is no metal and glass flagship. The DuraForce is a HMMV compared to most flagship's Acura-like nature.

Kyocera opted for a 1080p HD screen, which complements the 5-inch LCD panel nicely. The screen is plenty sharp and bright. Viewing angles are decent. There are three physical buttons on the front below the screen. They are raised high enough that you can find them with gloves on and the travel and feedback is great. You'll see speaker slits above and below the display, with the lower slits protected by metal.

The user-programmable button and volume toggle are on the left edge of the phone. The buttons have slim physical profiles that make them somewhat hard to find with gloves on. Worse, the travel and feedback is minimal, especially on the small volume toggle. The screen lock button is high along the right edge. It has a chrome accent to stand out visually, but the smooth texture too closely matches that of the side edge itself. This button could be easier to find and use. The headphone jack is on top and the microUSB port is on the bottom. Both are protected by hatches/gaskets that must be closed for the phone to attain its waterproof rating. There's a dedicated speakerphone button on the top edge, as well, but it is a bit small. There's also a dedicated camera button on the right edge. It is too small, too.

The rear panel is tapered a little bit as it approaches the sides. The hard plastic panel is covered in a sparkly black paint. It's not overly sparkly, but there are some flecks in there that sometimes catch the light. The dual-camera module is ensconced in a hard rubber triangle. The module itself has a chrome rim and a two-tone flash off to one side. A similar triangle covers the bottom portion of the rear panel and contains two large copper contacts for docking the phone.

The DuraForce Pro ships with Android 6 Nougat and Kyocera's special apps and software. Most of the apps focus on fitness and outdoor activities. It's got an outdoor weather report, bright flashlight, font magnification tool, eco mode for battery conservation, and more. The phone is shipping and our review unit runs well.

If you need a rugged phone that's compact enough to serve as a daily driver, the DuraForce Pro fits the bill.

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