The DuraPlus also has a turn-by-turn GPS navigation feature that you have to log in to with your e-mail to use the first time. When you access it, you can enter or search for your destination by either typing it in or speaking the address out loud. I recommend typing because when you choose to say your destination, your DuraPlus will call activate the Telenav and route you to some automated robot that will make you spend the next 10 minutes of your life shouting "Bryant Street" because it just "didn't get that."
In addition, the map is equipped with Sprint's Family Locator, which lets you pinpoint your kids or other family members on a map. You can also look up your current location, check traffic, search for airports and local businesses locations, or choose a contact to go to. Useful information, yes, but it all comes at a very glacial network speed.
The device is also loaded with a WAP 2.0 Web browser, which is a very elementary browser, reminiscent of what we saw on phones 10 years ago. When you use the navigation key to move through Web pages, the browser will first open to the SprintWeb portal, where you can choose to read the day's featured headlines, check the weather, or look for media files to download.
You can also check your e-mail, as long as it's a Yahoo, AOL (do people still have those?), or Hotmail address. A Gmail shortcut is not included. And you can check up on your social media networks like Facebook and MySpace (yes, despite this handset being released in 2012, the makers still think MySpace is relevant, just to show you how out of touch they are.)
I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800, 1900) DuraPlus in San Francisco using Sprint's services. Although this device doesn't have a lot of things going for it, it's got call quality in the bag. Voices sounded clear and clean, there was no extraneous buzzing or noise, and voices over speakerphone were just as clear. Likewise, my caller said that I could be heard perfectly, except that I sounded a little bit muffled when I switched over to speakerphone, though still easy to understand.
Kyocera DuraPlus call quality sample
The phone comes with Sprint's Direct Connect feature, which enables users to instantly connect with other Direct Connect subscribers using push-to-talk. It works on Sprint and Nextel network platforms. Customers using Group Connect can talk to up to 20 subscribers instantaneously, or up to 200 people via its TeamDC feature. You can also set up alerts, texts, and notifications, which will let you send an audio or text alert to other people to let them know you are trying to reach them via Direct Connect.
I thought the walkie-talkie feature worked pretty decently. After I set up another DuraPlus to call, I could hold down the push-to-talk button and communicate directly with the person holding that phone. Voices sounded loud and clear, even as I walked outside our CNET building and continued around the corner. I especially liked the chirping, which notifies you that your call was successfully sent.
Being a rugged device, the DuraPlus can take a beating. I dunked it in my sink and threw it in my freezer for 10 minutes each, and it came out completely functional. I also banged it around a hardwood floor and slammed it against a wall multiple times, and it still kept on ticking. Barely any of these activities made a dent on the phone, and the rubber exterior fended off a lot of scratches and dings.
On the other hand, the Sprint 3G network (1xEV-DO rA) on this handset was as slow as molasses. The carrier reports that the average download speed for this device ranges from "400 to 700Kbps with peak rates up to 2Mbps." Loading the CNET mobile site took an average of 32 seconds, but mind you, the mobile site on this device looks nothing like it does on a regular smartphone. Many of the images were stripped away and what was left was a skeleton of our site's key headlines. After numerous tries at accessing our full site, a "memory shortage" error message started popping up. The New York Times and ESPN mobile sites both loaded within an average of 10 seconds. Again, the sites were displayed within the bare minimum of their coding. Full sites for the New York Times and ESPN's were inaccessible since links to their sites were not shown.
During our battery drain tests, the phone lasted 11.47 hours. Anecdotally, the handset has a great battery life, which is to be expected for a non-smartphone. I spent most of the day browsing a sketchily rendered version of the Web, talking on the phone, and using the walkie-talkie feature without making a dent in the battery usage. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 0.78W/kg.
Despite being a rugged device that is shock-, dust-, and splash-proof, the Kyocera DuraPlus from Sprint is too heavy and thick for its own good, and its design is an eyesore. I simply would not enjoy lugging this thing around for daily use. However, I am fond of its push-to-talk feature and the call quality is superb. If you're a field operator working the night shift or a swashbuckling pirate, I can understand how this would come in handy. But if you don't need the walkie-talkie option and still want a decent tough phone, consider something a little more modern-looking.