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Kyocera Brigadier Review

This article represents the author's own optinion and may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosures for more information.
Saturday, August 16, 2014
I recently purchased the new rugged Kyocera Brigadier available from Verizon Wireless is a thoroughly kick-ass phone. It's a great phone for guys (and gals) who have to use their phone in extreme environments. It is built tough to military specs with a Sapphire front glass, is certified for use in hazardous (explosive) environments, can be used with gloves and can be submerged in up to 6 feet of water for 30 minutes. While it doesn't sport the fastest processor on the market, the 1.4Ghz Quadcore Qualcomm Snapdragon is nothing to sneeze at. Enterprise features, good quality cameras (front and rear), bright and clear display round out the features. If you mostly use your phone to check TMZ and post selfies to Instagram while you walk around the mall sipping your kale and acacia smoothie, maybe this isn't the phone for you. If you work hard and play hard and want a phone you can depend on. This is it. You can order the Kyocera Brigadier from Verizon online at Amazon.

More details below.

Why I chose the Kyocera Brigadier

My old smartphone was having issues and just wasn't very responsive. I called Verizon with the intention of upgrading to a Samsung Galaxy S5. At some point I mentioned that I use my phone for tracking my trail runs, hikes and other outdoor physical activities. At that point the friendly Verizon rep informed me of a new phone coming out in a week but she didn't have all the specs for it. Not much was available online either. All I knew was it had a sapphire display, ran Android KitKat and was waterproof, not just water resistant. I waited until the day it was released to check the full specs and was very pleased that in addition to being a very durable phone, the technical specs were good enough that I should be pleased with the performance. It was much better than my current phone and I could deal with out having the latest and greatest in terms of processing power. The phone comes with 16Gb of internal memory which can be expanded via a MicroSD card.

Touchscreen works with Gloves

One of the nicest things about the Kyocera Brigadier is that the touchscreen works with gloves. Not just special gloves that are made for touchscreens. I've have a pair I used in the past but the conductor that makes the gloves work on traditional touchscreens also seems to conduct cold and my fingers were not warm.

I'm frequently using my phone when wearing gloves, either when working on home improvement projects or out in the cold hiking or running.

The Brigadier works with a variety of gloves. Here's a video testing the Kyocera Brigadier with gloved hands.


It worked with leather motorcycle gloves, deerskin work gloves, thick fleece gloves, thin knit gloves and nitrile disposable gloves. With the latex dipped work gloves, the cheap kind you get at the home improvement stores, the touch screen recognized the touch but the latex was too grippy and wouldn't slide on the glass. A pair of synthetic leather gloves with a thin lining didn't work at all.

What I found is that it's important for the gloves material to be pressed firmly against your skin. If there's a seam over the finger it doesn't work well. In the video you can sort of see me adjusting the finger tips on some of the gloves because they side seam rolled over onto the finger.

Overall the phone worked well and I don't have to worry about buying new pairs of expensive work gloves with special tips.

Durability

The Kyocera Brigadier is one tough phone made to withstand impacts, water and extreme environments.

Sapphire Crystal Display

If you own (or just drool over) high-end watchers, you know that sapphire crystals are the best type of crystal you can get. This man-made mineral is second only to diamonds in terms of hardness. Kyocera has 41 years of experience growing man-made sapphire crystals and it's no surprise that they would be the first manufacturer to come out with a sapphire crystal smartphone.

Sapphire can resist damage from impacts, lets say if you drop your phone on a rock while trail running, better than the strengthened glass used on other phones. It also resists scratches, abrasions and micro fractures which can cause the glass on other phones to weaken and shatter over time. 

While you won't need a screen protector to protect the screen something like the SUPERSHIELDZ-Anti-Glare and Anti-Fingerprint Screen Protector Shield can help reduce glare when using the Brigadier out in the sun.

Dust Proof and Waterproof

According to Kyocera, the phone is built to military specs. If you work in tough environments or live a very active lifestyle the phone is rated to hold up. Great phone for trail running, hiking, cycling, kayaking and other sports.

Brigadier is engineered to meet Military Standard 810G for protection against dust, shock, vibration, temperature extremes, blowing rain, low pressure, solar radiation, salt fog, humidity and water immersion. Plus its housing is reinforced for additional durability. Brigadier is tested to survive:
  • Heavy dust for eight hours—bring on the dusty trail
  • Shock—dropped from 4 feet 26 times
  • Horizontal, vertical, and sideways vibrations—for one hour
  • Extreme temperatures of -4 degrees to 140° F (-20° to 60° C) for an operating unit for four hours— 
  • from snowboard trips to Death Valley hikes, don’t sweat it
  • Low pressure at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) for one hour—higher than the tallest mountain peak in 
  • the lower 48 states
  • Solar radiation exposure of 1120 W/m2 for 200 hours—you might need sunscreen, but Brigadier 
  • doesn’t
  • Exposure to heavy salt fog—two consecutive cycles of 24 hours of exposure and 24 hours 
  • of drying 
  • High humidity—10 straight days in 95% humidity
  • Water—total immersion for up to to 30 minutes in up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) of water
You can see more details on Brigadier's durability ratings here.

With some trepidation, I tested the Brigadier's claim to being waterproof by putting it in a sink full of water. Apologies for the blurry display but I couldn't fit a tripod in my bathroom.


Before submersing the phone in water it's important to have the ports sealed. The USB Port, headphone jack and SIM card/MicroSD slot all have covers that protect the ports from water and dust. The rubber covers snap off with a fingernail but remain attached to the phone on one end so they don't get lost. Since the back of the phone is secured with screws the Sim card slot and additional memory slot are accessed from the side of the phone.




While you can use the touchscreen while it's wet, like in the pouring rain, the screen doesn't respond while it's fully submerged. If you're looking to take underwater photos or video you'll need something like this FRIEQ Universal Waterproof Case

I've also tested the phone by dropping it a few times. Well testing isn't the best word. I'm just a bit clumsy at times. So far so good.

Hazardous Location Protection

The phone is certified Nonincendive, Class I, Division 2, Group A-D, T4. This isn't a feature I need but for certain professions this is a great feature. Basically, the phone is rated so it won't produce sparks so you don't blow up if you use it in areas with a high concentration of explosive gas.

RatingDefinition
Class 1Hazard Location Type—Where flammable gasses or vapors exist in the air
Division 2Hazardous Location Condition—Where ignitable concentrations of flammable gasses, vapors or liquids are not likely to exist under normal operating conditions
Group A-DNature of Hazardous Substances—Kinds of flammable gases, vapors or liquids. A:acetylene B:hydrogen C:ethylene D:propane
T4Temperature Class—No point inside phone will get hotter than 135°C, as long as phone is kept within operating range of -30°C to 60°C

Tech Specs

Android KitKat 4.4

The Brigadier runs Google's latest moble OS, Android KitKat 4.4 so as far as software capabilities, it can pretty much do all the same things any other phone using KitKat can do.

One thing I really like about KitKat is you can have multiple lock screens with widgets on them. The Brigadier comes preconfigured with it's Dura Widgets. Main screen has the the Dura Date/Time widget, then the DuraWeather widget which provides you with a lot of information for the day at a glance as well as the DuraCompass.



It's nice that you can access the compass without unlocking your phone but there's no compass app. Only the widget. DuraCompass is pretty simple, there are better compass apps available that have a rotating bezel for map orienteering.

Processor

The specs list the processor as the MSM8928, Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 400 processor with 
1.4GHz quad-core CPU. The Snadrogon family of processors is a SoC (System on Chip) which means it not only has the CPU but also GPU, camera, GPS, sensors and other functions all in one chip package.

I'm a little confused about the listed processor. The M8928 is supposedly a 1.6 Ghz quad core cpu, not the 1.4GHz stated. In fact I don't see any 1.4GHz chips in the 400 series. The only 1.4Ghz chip is the 410 model which is 64-bit capable and has a newer Adreno 306 GPU. If that's the case the Brigadier might also be the first 64-bit capable smart phone. I'll need to double check with Kyocera.

The CPU, while not the fastest on the market is pretty fast. It's similar, but a little slower, than the 1.7Ghz quad core processor on the Samsung S4.

Battery and Usage

The Brigadier features a 3100 mAh non-removable battery. It provides up to 20 hours of talk time and 365 hours of standby time. I typically get about 1.5-2 days before needing to charge. I don't use the phone much but I use the apps frequently.

Display

The display is not the biggest but at 4.5" it's a nice size. The display is bright with good contrast at it's 720p (1280x720) resolution.

Video quality and playback speed is very good. I know some phones can do higher resolution but I really don't see the point on such a small screen. Here's a screenshot of a youtube video.


Touch screen is very responsive and the sapphire glass feels a little stickier on the fingers which I find easier to use.

Though the Brigadier has two speakers and the sound is loud and clear, and okay for videos, listening to music through the speakers is a bit tinny.

Cameras

The Brigadier features an RGBC camera sensor which is the same camera filtering technology used on newer Motorola Droid phones. This design gives the camera sensor better low light performance.

Rear camera is 8MP and capable of video up to 1080p at 30fps. The 2MP front facing camera allows for 2 way video calling (Skype) from your phone.

The camera software has an HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode which creates images with a higher contrast range than the camera sensor alone can take. I used to use an HDR camera app that would take multiple exposures and then merge them together. The HDR function seems to only take one shot, or it takes multiple shots very quickly, which solves the problem of having to keep the phone steady while taking HDR photos. Sadly, the HDR app I used to use doesn't seem to work with this phone.

Image quality is very good as is video. You can see some photos I took with the phone in my Bike & Hike to Tenafly Nature Center article.

Connectivity

Mobile Wi-Fi hotspot capability, up to ten 4G or five 3G connections (additional fees may apply).
Wi-Fi® a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4 and 5GHz.
Stereo Bluetooth® (4.0 + LE/EDR) wireless technology support and Bluetooth Smart Ready.
NFC support to easily swap contact information or content. (The thing where you tap your phone to another to exchange data)
Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Miracast®.

Sensors

The senors on the phone can help it do some cool stuff. The Brigadier features a 3-axis accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, digital compass and barometer. I like the ambient light sensor because I can use a light meter app along with my DSLR camera for manual exposures. The barometer is pretty unique but not something I'd use often. It would have been nice to have a pedometer but apps like Noom Walk seem to work well enough with the accelerometer.

Sound Quality

Kyocera calls it Smart Sonic Receiver Technology. It's supposed to make it easier to hear phone conversations even if you're in a loud environment like a bar, stadium or active construction site. It seems to work well as I haven't had a problem hearing the person I'm calling when I'm someplace noisy where my old phone used to have problems.

The phone has two speakers in front and a button on the top left that turns the speakerphone on or off when you're in the middle of a call. Simple enhancement but I find it very helpful.

Programable Button

In addition to the speaker button, the power button, the up/down volume buttons there's also a button that opens the camera as well as a large button on the left of the phone that you can program to launch whichever app you choose. Calendar, browser, email, I think pretty much anything.

Overall very happy with the Kyocera Brigadier and you can order it through Amazon here.

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