Kyocera Brigadier Review – The Only Rugged Smartphone I’d Buy
Sometimes we get a little rough with our phones. Mostly it’s by accident, but some people don’t have a choice. Their jobs and hobbies may put them in a place where their phone is in danger. So what do you do? Well ideally you get a phone that is scratch-proof, waterproof, shatter-proof, and shockproof. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many choices in that category, at least good ones. Rugged smartphones have always been either overpriced, underpowered, or running software from 3 or 4 years ago. So what do you buy? Over the past couple weeks I’ve been looking for the answer to that question, and the best solution I see right now is the Kyocera Brigadier.
- 4.5” Inch 720p Display With Sapphire Glass
- Snapdragon 400
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB Internal Storage (microSD up to 32GB)
- 3,100 mAh Battery
- 8MP Rear Camera
- 2MP Front Camera
- Android 4.4.2 KitKat
As I already mentioned, the Brigadier is a rugged phone. It’s meant to be handled tough and it can take a hit or two. Three factors contribute to that. First, the design. The device has a “lip” raising up above the screen to protect the display when it is placed face down on table or dropped on the ground. The back also has plastic and metal to assist in a shock proof design. Second, it has an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance. This means whether you work at a pool or a construction site, water won’t be a problem. The phone can handle up to 30 mins in up to 6 feet of water. While unfortunately that means you have flaps covering the headphone jack and charging port, Kyocera is finally the one to understand how this should work. While other water resistant phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z3 have flaps on the charging port, you have to use that. On the Kyocera Brigadier you don’t. If you don’t want to use microUSB, you can simply use Qi wireless charging which is built into the device. I think that is a great addition, especially on a water resistant phone. Now for the third thing making the Brigadier a rugged phone, the sapphire display. That’s really the big deal with this phone. Second only to diamonds, sapphire is virtually unscratchable. This makes the phone great for taking outdoors especially when around rocks or sharp materials. This was one phone I never had to worry about putting in the same pocket as my keys or dropping on the ground because I knew it could handle it. I might not be the type of person it’s designed for, but I certainly gave it it’s fair shot and a rough time. The hardware stood up well to any type of abuse. I’d say that the back and sides of this phone will be the first to go as that sapphire display won’t see any damage.
The one huge problem with most rugged phones is that they either run a horrid skin on top of Android or run a version 3 years prior to the phone’s release. The Brigadier is one of the very few that does a pretty decent job in the software area. It comes with Android 4.4.2 KitKat out of the box (I wouldn’t expect an update). When it comes to device, it does look quite a lot like stock Android, at a glance. Once you start using the phone a bit more you start to see how much Kyocera has changed. Some of it is for the good, some for the bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely not a bad software experience, it easily beats out it’s competition, but it’s definitely not something I’d prefer to have. With a Snapdragon 400 and 2GB of RAM under the hood, there’s plenty of power so things are for the most part fluid. There are quite a few times though when things grind to a halt. It’s annoying but doesn’t happen too often. I fixed the issue (mostly) by swapping Kyocera’s own launcher for Nova Launcher and not keeping too many apps open at once.
The Brigadier packs a 4.5” inch 720p display. While it’s not the highest resolution, it was a pretty nice display. Viewing angles were decent and colors were pretty good as well. The size of the display makes it great for one-handed use and is just big enough to be enjoyable for watching videos. It’s lower resolution also allows for better performance on that Snapdragon 400 processor inside. Overall though the philosophy with this display is the same as on last year’s Moto X. You don’t need a ton of pixels to have a good viewing experience.
Battery is a huge part of any smartphone and the Brigadier packs a huge 3,100 mAh battery. That’s much higher than most other phones in it’s size and this battery certainly delivers. Usually I can pull about 4-5 hours of screen time over a 15 hour day with this phone. While that might not sound extremely impressive, keep in mind that I’m using the device in an area with spotty Verizon coverage. Considering the phone is searching for a signal most of the time while I’m at work, I’d say battery life is pretty solid.
The Brigadier packs an 8MP rear camera and while it’ll take a picture when you need it, it’s probably one of the worst I’ve seen in a while. That doesn’t mean it’s the worst, trust me, there are far worse smartphone cameras out there, but whether it’s in low light or in broad daylight, images usually appear with lots of noise and muted colors. It does gain some points back though for the addition of a dedicated camera shutter button on the right side. Below are a few images I took with the Brigadier.
Call Quality, Speakers, Network Performance
Call quality on the Brigadier is honestly pretty amazing. Both on Verizon’s own network and using VOIP, calls sound great on my end and the receiver’s. Interestingly this device doesn’t have an actual earpiece like nearly every other phone does. Instead the entire display acts as an earpiece. No I’m not kidding. The entire display vibrates to play sounds. While that feature is only used during calls, the standard speakers are also pretty impressive. They are louder than just about any other device I’ve used, by a lot. If you’ve heard the LG G3 at full volume you were probably pretty impressed with it’s volume. The Brigadier is easily twice as loud. Part of this is the location of the speakers as they are on the front. That makes a big difference in not only the volume but also the quality of the sound. Network performance on Verizon is solid and speeds were as I normally get on other Verizon handsets. WiFi performance on the other hand wasn’t quite as impressive. I noticed that getting even a medium distance from my WiFi router brought the signal strength down to only a single bar. I compared this with my LG G3 and also a Samsung tablet and WiFi performance was much better on those two the same distance from the router.
Overall the Brigadier is a pretty decent option, if you fit the target demographic. The phone is aimed at those who need a phone that can handle some tough conditions without damage and for that it certainly fits the bill. For the average person, I probably wouldn’t recommend this phone simply because for it’s $99 price with a Verizon contract($399 off contract) , it’s not the best you can get. If you are a construction worker, hiker, or basically anyone who spends most of their time outdoors, than yes this is definitely the phone to get, if you’re a Verizon customer.