The idea of a rugged, Android-powered smartphone is nothing new. The problem is, more often then not they’re underpowered, run out of date software, or both. While it isn’t the most impressive phone on the market spec-wise, the Kyocera Torque isn’t a slouch either. Plus, it’s built like a tank. Is that enough to make it worthy of a recommendation? Read on to find out.
Water, sand, fog, salt–you name it, and the Kyocera Torque is built to be resistant to it. Yes, it looks very similar to a random phone couched in an Otterbox, but… well, there’s actually nothing more to say about that. Still, while it isn’t as sleek as a lot of phones we encounter, there is something about the look that is kind of cool in an industrial sort of way.
To keep all the various ports protected, they’re covered, which is handy in that the Kyocera Torque can be submerged in water, but it does make actually getting to the USB port or headphone jack a little cumbersome. It’s a small price to pay for safety if you drop your Torque in the sink, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
Despite it’s relative bulk, the Kyocera Torque is surprisingly light at 168.5g. It also fits well in most pockets, and in the palm of your hand, for a lot of people anyway.
As is usually the case in devices with similar specs, the display featured in the Kyocera Torque is probably its weakest point. With a resolution of 800 x 480 and a 4.0-inch screen size, the 233 ppi pixel density could be higher, but we’ve seen similar phones with less sharp displays, and they couldn’t double as a doorstop.
Colors are fairly well represented, and while we’ve seen better, black levels were decent as well. No backlight leakage was apparent at the edges of the screen, though even if it was present, there is a possibility that it would be covered up by the ridges of the body protruding from the side of the device.
Unlike many rugged phones we’ve seen in the past, the Kyocera Torque offers relatively smooth performance. To get a handle on its performance, we ran a few benchmarks, starting with AnTuTu. We used our standard method of running the benchmark three times and taking the average score, ending up with a final score of 10,375.
Next we ran Epic Citadel. In High Quality mode, the more demanding of the two available modes, we ended up with an average framerate of 56 frames per second. In High Performance mode, the average framerate was 57 FPS. It’s worth keeping in mind that these high numbers are due in part to the low display resolution, but the results were still impressive for a phone like the Torque.
Finally, we moved on to real-world performance. Using the common but ineffective “scroll through screens really fast” test, we didn’t see any noticeable lag. Apps launched fairly quickly, with none of the “did I tap the icon right?” scenarios that accompany slower-performing phones. Last, we played a quick game of Temple Run 2. It ran quickly, but it’s not the most demanding game on the market.
The Kyocera Torque runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. While this is somewhat of a disappointment, Kyocera has said that they plan to update to Jelly Bean. Unfortunately, this requires waiting for Sprint to update its Direct Connect app, which the Torque relies on, so how long we wait is firmly in Sprint’s hands. On the plus side, the Torque’s interface is one of the closest to stock Android we’ve seen in a while.
The Torque does have a few pieces of bloatware installed, though luckily most of the included apps are at least some what useful. The Flashlight app is the kind of app that seems useless until you drop your keys in a parking lot, and Eco Mode is a tool that claims to save battery life, though I didn’t have much of a chance to try it out. Polaris Viewer is included instead of the “Lite” version of Polaris Office, but this is still useful for a quick glance at a document.
Along with the display, the Torque’s front and rear cameras are the devices other most significant weak point. While photos are certainly usable, there are some blurred edges in photos, and low-light performance isn’t great. The biggest issue is the washed out nature of photos. Whether outside under the sun or inside with various light sources, images seemed to be somewhat lacking in the color department.
1080p video capture was the same, but perhaps due to the shorter exposure times necessitated by video, the effect wasn’t as pronounced. While video is decent, you’ll want to avoid moving too quickly if you can, as this leads to a noticeable jerkiness. In my experience, lowering the resolution to 720p seemed to lessen this effect.
It’s important to keep in mind that in these rugged phones, cameras are often barely usable, so while it isn’t among the best we’ve seen in this class, the Torque’s camera is above average.
Snapdragon S4 chipsets are known for doing great things with small batteries, so the Kyocera Torque’s moderately-sized 2,500 mAh battery does a great job here. After nearly 10 hours of benchmarks, video playback and other heavy testing, the Torque still had over 65 percent battery.
Kyocera claims almost 19 hours of talk time, which more often than not can be equated to normal use time, ie. email, web browsing, etc. During my time with the Torque, I never needed to charge the battery during the course of a 17 hour day, so Kyocera’s claims seem to be accurate.
The Torque’s battery is removable and replaceable, so you can carry an extra battery on longer trips or swap out the stock battery for an extended one, assuming one is available.
I mentioned this in the video review, but it bears repeating here: chances are good that you already know very well whether or not this is a good choice for you, simply based on your needs. If you have a job that requires a tough phone but you still want the power of an Android device, it’s a no brainer. On the other hand, if you’ve never dropped your phone or scratched a screen in your entire life, you may well be better off with a different device and a low-profile case.
Do you often find yourself wishing you had a tougher phone? What do you think of the Kyocera Torque? Let us know in the comments below.