Aside from the usual push-to-talk functionality, Direct Connect continues to offer call alert with text, Group Connect, Next Mail, availability notification, and the signature chirp sound to let you know that your call was successfully sent.
Direct Connect services aside, the DuraMax is a pretty basic phone. The address book can hold up to 600 contacts, with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, IM handles, birthdays, and more. You also get a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, text and multimedia messaging. The handset is EVDO-Rev. A capable and has Bluetooth 2.0 and GPS.
If you want to surf the Web, there is a WAP browser onboard, though it will test your patience. It's not particularly fast and doesn't render HTML pages very well. Other preloaded tools include a calendar, a calculator, a voice memo recorder, a countdown timer, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a world clock, Sprint Navigation, and Sprint Family Locator.
The Kyocera DuraMax is equipped with a 3.2-megapixel camera with flash and video recording capabilities. The camera app offers a decent set of editing options, including zoom, a self-timer, white balance controls, contrast, and fun frames. Picture quality was OK. Low-light performance was poor, as you can see from the image above. Though the objects in the photos are pretty easy to identify, the colors are washed out and the overall picture is very dark. The camera performance was much better in brightly-lit rooms and outdoors, however.
By the way, if your company prohibits camera phones for security reasons, Sprint also offers the camera-less Kyocera DuraCore.
I tested the Kyocera DuraMax in San Francisco using Sprint service, and call quality was OK. With volume set to midlevel, I had no problem hearing my callers, and there wasn't any distracting background noise. However, once I stepped outside onto a busy street and jacked up the volume, calls sounded blown out, and it was difficult to understand what my friends were saying. Meanwhile, callers said the sound was mostly clear but a couple of people noted that my voice was distorted at times.
Kyocera DuraMax call quality sample
I also tested the Direct Connect service with my colleague Jessica Dolcourt, who was in L.A. and also using a DuraMax. The sound quality of the PTT calls was good, and there was only a slight delay in transmission. My only issue was that speaker volume wasn't very loud. With volume set at the highest level, I could hear most of the conversation outside on a fairly busy street, but I craved more volume. I can only imagine if someone was using this at a construction site, it would be hard to hear some of the Direct Connect calls.
The Kyocera DuraMax ships with a user-replaceable 1,360mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 8.08 hours. I'm still running battery drain tests, but so far, battery life has been great. I'll update this section with final results as soon as testing is done. According to FCC radiation tests, the DuraMax has a digital SAR rating of 0.41W/kg.
If you're a customer of Nextel's iDEN push-to-talk services, then you should find Sprint's next-gen Direct Connect service to be comparable. The features worked well on the Kyocera DuraMax, and though it's a very basic handset, it offers a rugged exterior, easy-to-use controls, and good battery life.
However, there are a couple of issues that you should consider before picking up the phone. First, the speakerphone volume is pretty weak, so if you work in loud environments, such as a construction site, the DuraMax might not be the best choice. Second, be aware that for now, the CDMA-based Direct Connect service doesn't work if you're roaming, so consider the 3G coverage in your area before making the plunge. If you prefer to stick with iDEN a little longer or want some more features, check out the Android-based Motorola Titanium or CDMA Motorola Admiral.