I remember my first smartphone. It had a host of features to keep me connected – and I killed it in 3 months. A month later, I killed my second smartphone. I went into the Verizon store and told the salesman that I needed something that could keep up with my fishing, cycling, running, and other outdoor habits. He took me to a phone in the corner, clearly not intended to be seen with the other “Super Phones” out there. It was exactly what I needed: waterproof, scratch-proof, and as far as I could tell, Kenny-proof. I used that phone for a solid 4 years before an up-to-date replacement came my way – the Kyocera Brigadier.
Before I get into all the features that I love about the phone, let’s talk price point and where it fits in the smartphone world. The Kyocera is around the midpoint of both. Full MSRP runs $399.99 (I paid $450 for my previous phone). That’s not as crushing to your wallet if you’re paying for it outright compared to the $650+ you’ll pay for the premium phones out there.
Internally, the Kyocera Brigadier is running Android 4.4 (Kitkat) with Qualcomm’s 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor and 2 GB of RAM. The phone comes with 16 GB of internal storage space and – unlike the hipster phones out there – can be expanded by an additional 32 GB using the micro SD card slot. These basic specs put the Brigadier squarely in the middle range of performance.
The battery is a monstrous 3100 mAh that is capable of up to 20 hours of talk time and 365 hours on stand-by. With moderate use, I’ve been able to get two full days of work out of the battery before having to recharge it. Compare that to the Acer Liquid Jade Z I’ve been using the past few months which needs its 2300 mAh battery to be recharged during the day if I want to still have juice in the evening.
Jobsite Tough Exterior
Sapphire Isn’t Just for Jewelry
You could have gone to a number of other sites to get an idea of what to expect from the Kyocera Brigadier, but you want to know if it’s a solid fit for use on the jobsite – something the tech geeks (I say that lovingly, I need my tech geeks every day!) sitting behind a desk all day can’t begin to understand. It starts with the sapphire glass screen. This is lab-produced sapphire like what is found in the Jord Ebony and Copper Watch we reviewed. Second only in mineral hardness to diamond, Kyocera’s Sapphire Shield about as close to scratch-proof as you can hope to find. You can toss a screen protector on there if you really want to, but I wouldn’t bother.
Taking the Gloves Off… Er, Putting them On, Actually
There are gloves sold with a touch screen fingertip for use with phones and tablets, but you wouldn’t trust them to protect your hands on the jobsite. Kyocera managed to find a way to make the touch screen sensitive enough to work when wearing gloves up to 3 mm thick. I was a bit skeptical as to how well this would work, but I had absolutely no problem navigating with my Klein journeyman gloves on. Where I did have an issue was using the keyboard – the small keys just aren’t conducive to gloved use.
The phone senses and automatically adjusts to gloved finger use. It can even increase the size of commonly used icons so you’re less likely to hang up when your boss calls. Perhaps most impressively, the touch screen still functions well when it’s wet.
The housing is pretty robust and there’s enough weight to the phone to give you confidence in its build quality. Like a good tool, it’s not so light that it feels cheap, yet not so heavy that it’s cumbersome. There’s even some rubber overmolding around the base.
One complaint I’ve seen several comments about the bulk of the phone. Let’s be perfectly honest though – if you buy the newest iPhone, you’re probably going to wrap it in a Lifeproof case immediately killing the slim benefits of the phone in order to protect it. You don’t have to worry about a case with the Brigadier, so I’m calling this argument null and void for the professional who works somewhere other than an air-conditioned building.
Moving on to what you can’t see, the Kyocera Brigadier is Military 810G certified. In terms we’re a little more familiar with, it’s IP68 rated. That means the phone is built to handle being 6 feet underwater for up to 30 minutes and resist heavy dust exposure for up to 8 hours according to the scale. It can handle wind and rain, being dropped in the mud, or being covered in sawdust and dirt. When you look at the full suite of Military 810G testing, you’ll be pretty impressed to know your phone passed them all.
Can You Hear Me?
In order to keep the phone waterproof, traditional speakers and microphones are out. Instead, the phone transmits sound through vibrations in the screen. This seems a little strange to wrap your mind around, but practically, it works pretty well. I found the sound quality during a call to be decent, though I noticed a drop compared to my Acer. It’s definitely going to be noticeable against premium phones. While I certainly don’t have a problem with the sound quality, if you want an upgrade, consider pairing the Kyocera Brigadier with the Jabra Steel – a jobsite ready Bluetooth headset.
Texting is always an adventure, particularly with auto-correct (be sure to let filter out offensive words – *ahem* David C. Smith). I prefer sending messages with voice-to-text whenever I can. This worked out a lot better than I expected and had fewer typos than what I’m getting from my current phone. Normal type texting is just a matter of getting used to the size of the keyboard if you’re coming from a different size screen.
Putting the gloves on made things interesting. I was able to navigate easily, but operating the keyboard was more of a misadventure. I’d definitely recommend voice typing if you’re wearing gloves.
Photos aren’t a big consideration for everyone. However, a significant number of users do send photos back to the office for everything from diagnosis to estimation. The better the photo quality, the happier the person will be that has to make a decision based on it. The Brigadier packs an 8-megapixel main camera and 2-megapixel front-facing camera.
The main camera is a little under the megapixel capacity compared to what is coming on other phones in this class, but that’s relative. I’m still shooting with a 6 megapixel Nikon that’s taking outstanding photos. It boils down to the camera quality more than the capacity at this stage. Here are a few photos side by side. The first I took with my Nikon, the second with my Acer phone, and the third with the Kyocera.
None of the photos make me want to go out and frame them without some work in Photoshop. However, you can see the Brigadier picked up some additional brightness even though there’s a bit of extra green in it.
Don’t Make an App of Yourself
I have yet to find an app I need that has failed to run on the Kyocera Brigadier. The mid-range hardware shouldn’t have an issue in that regard. I’m running 4 social media platforms, live tracking on my workouts (in case I get hit by a car), Spotify, Netflix, ESPN, Fox Sports, the entire Google suite of productivity apps, smart home product apps, and a lot more. I’m not running these all at the same time – that’s where you’ll find your limitations. As long as you close out apps as you’re finished with them, you shouldn’t notice any lagging issues.
If you’re a Verizon user looking for a capable smartphone that can resist the early death most phones experience on the jobsite, the Kyocera Brigadier is a compelling choice. It’s got the tough personality to withstand just about everything you can throw at it from water and mud to concrete and blades. Internally, it should be able to handle the majority of apps out there whether you’re managing productivity, flinging birds with a slingshot, or tracking your latest workout. The Brigadier earns my hearty recommendation to any Pro.
Kyocera Brigadier Specifications
- Screen Size: 4.5 inches
- Resolution: 720p HD (1280 x 720 pixels)
- Material: Sapphire glass
- Battery: 3100 mAh
- Run Time: 20 hours (talk), 365 hours (standby)
- Operating System: Android 4.4 (KitKat)
- Chipset: MSM8928 Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 (1.4 GHz quad core processor)
- RAM: 2 GB
- Internal Storage: 16 GB
- Expandable Memory: 32 GB micro SD (not included)
- Dimensions: 5.37 x 2.69 x 0.52 inches
- Weight: 6.6 ounces
- Hazardous Location Certification: Nonincendive, Class 1, Division 2, Group A-D, T4
- Military Certification: 810G
- IP Protection Class: IP68
- MSRP: $399.99