GADGET WATCH: Kyocera Torque

Japanese electronics giant Kyocera is best known among camera enthusiasts as a maker of high-end photographic equipment.

But as more of its traditional customers have opted for Instagram over instant film, the company has increasingly invested in building a smartphone business.

Its latest effort is a rugged 4G smartphone called the Kyocera Torque, which the company claims is designed for use in the great outdoors.

A major selling point for the phone is that it is waterproof and continues working after being immersed in up to a metre of water for up to 30 minutes.

Aside from being waterproof, the company claims the new phone has protection against dust, shock, vibration, solar radiation, humidity, blowing rain, low pressure, salt fog, and extreme temperatures. It even has an endorsement from British adventurer Bear Grylls.

But does the Torque have the horsepower to help Kyocera muscle into the Android market? Or will established Android rivals such as HTC and Samsung be too much for this waterproof wonder to bear?

Hardware and features

A key feature is the thick, shock-resistant plastic and rubber casing that’s screwed onto the outside of the phone and gives it many of its protective qualities.

That aside, the specifications are pretty middle of the road for an Android smartphone. It features a 4-inch, 800-by-480-pixel display, runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and a not particularly fast dual-core 1.2-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

It’s fairly large at 113 x 60 x 14 mm and at 156 grams it’s probably heavier than your current phone.

The phone also has fairly limited memory at just over 1 GB, although thankfully this is expandable up to 32 GB with a microSD card. It also has a 5 megapixel main camera and a 1.3 megapixel front camera.

What’s the consensus?

According to Slashgear, it doesn’t have the looks or performance to compete with flagship phones from Samsung or Nokia:

In the end, while the Torque probably won’t win any awards in the looks department, it certainly gets props for being an extremely rugged smartphone. There’s definitely some things that could be better if it wants to compete with the flagship devices currently on the market, so you’ll definitely have to make some sacrifices in the performance department if you’re wanting something rugged.

On the other hand, AllthingsD was impressed by the ability to talk on their smartphone while in the shower:

The Kyocera Torque is tough enough to withstand some pretty brutal treatment, and will suit consumers who care more about durability and less about the fastest processor, the newest operating system and the best smartphone camera.

The sentiments were echoed at Engadget, with the limited amount of built-in memory proving to be a frustration:

If your primary concerns are aesthetics and power, you’re better off going with the latest flagship phone from the sundry outfits battling it out for smartphone supremacy.

“However, if ruggedness beats out your thirst for sheer horsepower and sleek looks, the Torque may fit nicely in your pocket – if you don’t mind picking up a microSD card to remedy its frustrating 1GB of available storage, that is.

Who’s it for?

If you have a nasty habit of accidentally breaking your iPhone screen, regularly need to work outdoors or spend your leisure time camping, this might be a smartphone to look at.

However, if high performance or aesthetics are your main concerns, it might be worth giving this phone a miss.

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