Verizon's durable Kyocera Brigadier

Kyocera's Brigadier is an affordable, rugged handset from Verizon. In addition to sporting a superdurable sapphire crystal display, the device is water resistant and can be submerged in up to 6 feet of water for 30 minutes. It is currently available for $50 with a contract and $400 without.

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Bulky build for ruggedness

The phone sports an austere, industrial design, with a thick plastic and rubber encasing. It measures 5.37 inches tall, 2.69 inches wide, and 0.52-inch thick. At 6.6 ounces, it's also heavier than most handsets.

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Convenient programmable key

On the left are a volume rocker and a convenient programmable red button that you can customize to launch any app like the Chrome browser, your email, or the flashlight (which is useful for outdoor activities).

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Quick launch key for the camera

To the right is another quick key for the camera, and slots for the SIM card and the microSD card, which is expandable up to 32GB.

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Kyocera's Sapphire Shield display

The Brigadier's screen is made out sapphire crystal, which is second only to diamonds in terms of strength and durability. It's a synthetic, lab-grown crystal that's tough but also completely transparent.

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Survive the scratches and scuffs

I repeatedly dropped the device on both cement and wood floors face down. A number of times, I even put a hard stone on the ground and dropped the device directly on it. I also scratched the display with a set of keys and rubbed it repeatedly over a tray of small, craggy aquarium stones. Fortunately, none of these tests cracked or damaged the screen.

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Pump up that audio speaker

Below the display are three buttons that bulge out from the surface of the handset. They're used to navigate to back, home (or Google Now if you long-press it), and recent apps. Beneath that row of keys is the wide speaker that has proven itself to be very loud.

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Respectable hardware specs inside

The handset is powered by a 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor and a nonremovable 3,100mAh battery. Featuring wireless charging capabilities, the battery has a usage time of up to 26 hours.

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A few camera options

Both the 8-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front-facing one have several editing tools, such as three exposure options, a brightness meter, optical image stabilization, at least four ISO levels, and a timer.

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Barometer and a compass for the outdoors

To emphasize the outdoorsy proclivities of the device, Kyocera packaged a compass widget and a barometer, which indicate your altitude and atmospheric pressure.

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Not afraid of a dunking

The phone is dust-, shock-, and waterproof, and it can survive in up to 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

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Seal those ports

Before a submersion, however, make sure all the ports are sealed and plugged first.

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Ready to tumble

The handset survived several tumbles and bounces down four flights of stairs -- three times. Parts of its plastic encasing did gather a few scars from the falls, but the handset was still completely operational.

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Affordable price for the budget-conscious

The Brigadier isn't the only smartphone with a sapphire display. The Vertu Signature Touch, for example, also has one, but the device costs $11,300. The Brigadier, on the other hand, is the first mass-market and affordable handset to have such a screen. For more information on Kyocera devices, click here.

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