Concept Technology
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Rugged Smartphones Should Become the New Normal

Published on Oct 15, 2014 at 3:57 pm in Tech Trends, Tennessean Articles.

This post also appeared in The Tennessean, where Concept Technology has a bi-weekly feature in the Business section.

iPhone pictureThe average smartphone user checks his or her phone 150 times a day. That’s 150 opportunities for a slip, spill or drop to damage your phone, or 54,750 times until your next annual upgrade. I’d say the odds of cracking your screen or sending your phone to a watery death are fairly high.

We buy covers and cases to protect our phones, but these are often bulky and heavy, and the more cosmetic ones do little in the way of protection. It’s a shame that Apple designers, for example, devote themselves to creating a beautiful, aesthetically appealing product that users immediately go and cover with a cheap plastic sleeve. But, as a user who has cracked more than one iPhone screen within the past year, I say who can blame us?

Most smartphone manufacturers have created a line of “rugged” smartphones, which are billed as waterproof, shockproof, scratchproof and capable of surviving all terrains. The problem, of course, with rugged smartphones is this protection has traditionally made the devices too bulky, heavy, expensive and generally unattractive.

They are also traditionally marketed to adventure seekers and those with outdoor and/or dangerous jobs, like construction and demolition workers and people in the military. While my kids may not be mountain climbing or trekking in extreme conditions in their spare time, they are pulling their phones out of their backpacks 150 times a day, all while walking, talking and chewing gum at the same time. Not a good formula.

The rugged phone should become the new normal for teenagers and young adults, and also for businesspeople who rely on their devices for critical interactions every hour of every day. As users, we should push developers to further integrate these rugged features into the mainstream smartphone.

When I was recently given the opportunity to demo the Kyocera Brigadier phone, a new rugged model, I jumped at the opportunity. I asked two of Concept Technology’s field engineers, Jeremy Light and Joe Last, to test the phone and give me their assessments. We found that for the user who needs a tough, waterproof phone and wants every modern smartphone feature, the Brigadier is a good option. Here are the Concept Technology field engineers’ extended thoughts:


The Kyocera Brigadier battery life is certainly one of the phone’s best selling points. We had a phone conversation for over an hour with no noticeable drain on the battery. Additionally, we kept the phone on standby for four days, with some internet browsing and picture taking, before it needed to be charged.

Cosmetic design: The Brigadier has a larger screen size than typical smartphones, which we generally enjoyed. Its built-on case makes the phone feel heavy and solid. Ports, like the USB port for charging and the audio jack for headphones, are protected behind removable flaps.


The phone never felt sluggish when we tested it. We could shift between screens and open apps quickly.


The phone runs Android’s operating system, but it strips some modern Android features. For example, Google’s latest version of Android makes Google Now accessible from the left of the phone interface, but this isn’t available on the Brigadier. A few more cons include camera quality and audio quality from the earpiece.

Disclosure: I was given a free Kyocera Brigadier phone to test by Verizon Wireless as part of a demo program that allows journalists and tech influencers to test new devices. However, I was not compensated for this post,and all opinions are solely mine.