Review by Andrew Kameka on Monday March 18, 2013.
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The Sprint Kyocera Torque is not a phone made for those who need a cell phone insurance plan. There's little chance that someone would ever need to file a claim for the Kyocera Torque, built with the explicit intention of withstanding more than the trouble the average Android user can get into, because of hardware damage. That's because this phone is not designed for the average user; it's made for the person who needs the extra protection afforded by a rugged phone.
Can Kyocera succeed where so many other rugged phone makers fail at making a durable phone that's also a good phone? Durable devices may withstand the elements, but they are often plagued by software shortcomings and a lack of imagination. Someone needs to build a phone that's as engaging as it is tough; might the Kyocera Torque be that phone?
Smartphones are often described as if they are beauty pageant contestants, but the Kyocera Torque would fair poorly in such a competition. The bulky and stretched shape removes any notion of this being a pretty phone, but that's to be expected considering its stated purpose. It would be more fitting to describe the Torque in terms related to bodybuilding competitions: strong and tank-like. The phone stands far more appealing in that arena because this is hardware that is hard. Four raised bars on the back of the phone give the Torque extra protection when dropped, and extra shock protection is built in the corners of the device.
Kyocera makes durability a priority, and the main selling point, of the Torque. Aside from shock protection, the phone's design has exposed screws that secure its heavy frame (168.5g, 5.94oz); a locking mechanism that keeps the battery cover secure; and hard covers that protect the USB charging port and 3.5mm headphone jack. The airtight protection makes the Torque waterproof and dust proof. I dropped the phone in snow for 15 minutes and nothing happened. Submerging it in a container of water for 28 minutes also yielded no adverse effects (the phone can last up to 30 minutes in 1 meter, or 3.28 feet, of water). I don't have a dusty test zone to gauge how well it does there, but living up to previous claims makes me accept Kyocera's word that the Military Standard 810G spec phone can withstand extreme conditions.
The Torque's ability to withstand damage is enabled by coarse materials that have plenty of grip but don't always feel pleasing to the touch. Protection comes at a price. Anyone expecting an exciting new toy will probably be disappointed; those looking for a phone capable of a very hard's day work will be pleased. I've dropped the phone about 15 times in a week, most of them intentional, and it took a drop from 6 feet before a piece of the material chipped away slightly.
With a phone capable of surviving falling in a pool or falling down a flight of stairs, you'd expect the screen to be equally hardened. The Torque has a 4-inch IPS with 800x480 resolution, and the screen is impact-resistant. It's also recessed, which reduces the chance that the screen will come into contact with a surface hard enough to break it when dropped. The resolution falls short of the bar set by HD displays in recent phones, but the quality is good enough to provide passable video and text. I didn't run into any problems with dark colors or poor visibility, though I did notice that the recessed screen can sometimes make it hard to tap on-screen buttons in the corner.
Kyocera Torque Performance and Key Specs
Perhaps my favorite attribute of the Torque is the volume. Whether in calls or listening to music, this phone can really raise the sound levels; it doesn't offer the crispest sound on the market, but it's definitely the loudest Android smartphone I've ever used. For a device that rests its hat on reliable communication and durable materials, the speaker comes in handy.
The Kyocera Torque has a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. That's obviously a step back from what's sense on Android's cutting edge, and the difference is apparent. The Torque isn't a slow device, but there are occasions when it doesn't snap along quite as fast as a device with more RAM or a newer processor might. It also doesn't help that the phone uses Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich - not Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which is known to have performance enhancements, especially in terms of transitions and animations. The lag noticed when switching between or launching apps made that clear before I even bothered running benchmarks to try and quantify its abilities. For the record, the phone scored 4,139 in Quadrant, putting it behind last year's HTC One X. I'd say that the Torque managed to be a good performer that occasionally left something to be desired.
- Dimensions: 128.5 x 68.4 x 12.9 mm (5.06 x 2.69 x 0.51in)
- Weight: 16.5g (5.94oz)
- Memory: 4 GB ROM, 1GB RAM, microSD slot up to 32GB
- LTE, Push-to-talk Direct Connect, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0+ LE/EDR, Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz 802.11 b/g/n
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.