There’s no doubt that I get excited about new and innovative tools. After all, if brands only redesigned the housing, there wouldn’t be a whole lot to talk about. What’s really changed is our need to carry technology on the jobsite. From our cell phones to tablets and laptops, it seems like we can hardly be left alone long enough to actually work! Hitting this technology sector of the industry is the new Kyocera DuraForce XD.
The XD is part of Kyocera’s rugged phone lineup and the first to enter the market for T-Mobile users and AT&T users can pick one up as well. This model is quite a bit different than the Kyocera Brigadier we last reviewed, so let’s take a look at what it offers.
Chances are, you or someone you know owns a phablet – you know, those really big phones that double as a tablet computer. That’s what the Kyocera DuraForce XD is. I’ve watched people walk around with these things for a couple of years now and quietly made fun of them. They’re just really big for a phone.
The advantage of a phablet is the large screen size. It’s big enough for those of us with big fingers to navigate and type effectively. Like a big-screen TV, it’s also much easier to see details.
Size and Weight
As a phablet, the Kyocera DuraForce XD’s size and weight work against it – at first. The phone is a little more than 6-1/2 inches tall, nearly 3-1/2 inches wide, and just over 1/2 an inch thick. It also weighs in at 10.8 ounces. That’s pretty beefy.
When I first took the XD out of the box, I wondered how I could go from a really slim, lightweight phone to this seeming monster. Honestly, after a couple of days, I was so used to the size and weight that my old phone felt like a toy. Like a quality-built tool, there’s actually some comfort in the heft of the phone now. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not for everyone. For those of us who expect our tools to be tough, I think you’ll like it.
No Guts, No Glory
It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? That’s definitely true when it comes to technology. The XD packs 2 gigabytes of RAM along with 16 gigabytes of internal storage. A big advantage over one of the phones that shall not be named is the ability to add up to 64 gigabytes of additional storage via micro SD card.
The processor is Qualcomm’s MSM8928 Snapdragon 1.6 GHz Quad-core. This is a huge step up from even just a couple of years ago. However, it’s solidly mid-range when compared to today’s top players.
The large profile of the Kyocera DuraForce XD offers another advantage – a monstrous 3700 milliamp lithium-ion battery. My old phone had a puny 2300 milliamps to run on and wouldn’t make it through the day. My typical workday involves a lot of texting, social media, photography, and video capture with my phone, and I still usually have 30% – 40% of my battery remaining at the end of the day. I even failed to drain it while streaming a 5-hour cycling race.
The battery is also removable – a trend the industry has gone away from. Should the battery fail or become less able to fully charge/discharge, you won’t have to take pay the shop for the labor to swap it out.
Military Specs, Jobsite Tough
Like we saw on the Brigadier, the DuraForce XD holds Military 810G specifications against drop, shock, and vibration as well as IP68 rated against dust and water intrusion. It’s also certified Class I, Division II non-incendive for OSHA hazardous jobsites.
The screen isn’t the sapphire glass we saw on the Brigadier, unfortunately, but it is an impact-resistance glass that I have yet to damage. O-rings on each cover seal out water from the battery compartment, power port, and 3.5-millimeter auxiliary jack while a rubber overmold encompasses the sides.
What does all this mean?
While I can’t legally tell you this phone is bomb-proof, it sure feels like it is. I’ve dropped this thing on concrete, sent it for a metal spark shower, and dunked it in the mud. It even goes with me on bike rides and gets soaked in sweat for a couple of hours at a time. There’s not the first hint of wear or damage on the XD yet.
We all would love our phone screens to extend the entire width of the phone. While a couple of companies are getting close, they vast majority don’t and won’t any time soon. The Kyocera DuraForce XD has a 5.7-inch screen and the “go big or go home” mentality of a phablet will change your view of smartphones. The size of the screen tangibly reduces eye strain whether you’re watching a show on Netflix or scrolling through your contacts to find out why your subcontractor is late.
The display itself is 1280 x 720 for a true HD picture. You’ll notice some motion blur on sports and action movie playback. It’s still a far cry from SD pictures and still quite enjoyable to watch while you’re away from the plasma.
Aside from the ability to see the screen better, you can still easily navigate and type when the screen is wet – even with gloves on. While texting is easier on the large screen, the voice-to-text function is also very accurate.
The XD features an 8-megapixel main camera and 2-megapixel front-facing camera – from jaw dropping. What I’ve been thoroughly impressed by is the quality of the photos it’s captured. The video capture quality has been solid as well. If you’ve been following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all of our video snippets the past month have been taken on this phone. Here’s a side by side shot with the XD on the left and my Nikon on the right (both photos are shot in auto and are unedited except for size).
Additionally, the IP68 rating means I can even take underwater video and photography up to 6 feet deep for 30 minutes!
Listen to the Sound
The XD’s speaker is loud and clear despite the fact that it had to be engineered waterproof. The quality of the sound in both the earpiece and speaker is average, but easy to hear. The sound was muddled a little bit once I pulled it out of the water. It cleared up quickly as the excess water came off.
I’ve been with T-Mobile long enough to know my limits when it comes to cell coverage, but that’s changed significantly. The Kyocera DuraForce XD pulls a signal in places I haven’t been able to get one before and is much stronger where I typically had a weak one. There are still dead zones here and there, they’re just much smaller than they were.
The Bottom Line
The haters out there will say that the XD is too bulky and they have a point. The weight takes some getting used to, but the screen size is fantastic and it still fits in any of my pockets. The built-in toughness of the phone means you won’t need to buy a case that bulks up all the sexy phones out there anyway.
I could easily double the length of this review telling you every detail about what this phone can do. The bottom line for us on the jobsite is we need a smartphone capable of running the apps required to do our job well and can do more than just survive the jobsite – it needs to thrive. The Kyocera DuraForce XD does just that.
Kyocera DuraForce XD Specifications
- Carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile
- SIM Type: Nano
- Battery: 3700 mAh
- Standby Time: Up to 34 days
- Talk Time: Up to 23 hours
- Screen Size: 5.7″
- Display Quality: 1280 x 720 pixels
- Operating System: Android 5.1.1 (Lolipop)
- Processor: MSM8928 Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.6 GHz Quad-core
- Memory: 16 GB internal storage, 2 GB RAM
- Micro SD Compatibility: Up to 64 GB
- Dimensions: 6.57″ tall, 3.40″ wide, 0.55″ thick
- Weight: 10.8 ounces
- Rating: IP68, Military 810G
- OSHA Certification: Class I, Division II non-incendive
- Price: $399.99