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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.