Waterproof Kazam Tornado 455L weathers the storm (hands-on)

The new phone from the young smartphone brand will be on sale in Europe in Spring.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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If you want a smartphone that can handle tough weather, the Kazam Tornado 455L is aptly-named. The 4G LTE Android phone from young mobile brand Kazam is encased against the wind and rain in a waterproof shell.

The Tornado 455L will be available across Europe around March or April. Specific release dates and prices will be announced nearer the time. Kazam is a relatively new brand but has a relationship with operator Telefonica in Spain, while phone fans in the UK can buy directly from Kazam or from such emporiums as Argos, Tesco and Amazon.

Kazam was founded in 2013 by former HTC executives jumping ship to produce an assortment of wallet-friendly Android and Windows Phone smartphones. Devices start with the entry-level Trooper range, move up to the mid-level Thunder range and peak with the Tornado range. The new 455L is the second Tornado phone, following on from the skinny Tornado 348.

Kazam Tornado 455L spins 4G LTE in a waterproof case

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The new phone is no porker either, measuring 6.9mm thin. That doesn't mean it's not tough: scuff-proof Gorilla Glass on the front and back wards off scratches and the casing is waterproof and dustproof, so it will survive a trip to the beach or a tumble into your pint.

The downside of the waterproofing is that the headphone jack and microUSB slot are hidden behind a flap. Unless you're a professional snorkeller or habitually drop your phone in the toilet you'll probably only enjoy the waterproofing when on holiday or engaged in active pursuits, whereas most people are likely to use their headphones on an everyday basis. By comparison, Sony's waterproof Z range have regular headphone sockets that are waterproofed inside so there's no fiddly flap to mess around with.

The case is waterproof and the headphone slot is protected by a flap. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The phone feels sturdy and well-made, with a glossy patterned case and a vibrant 5.5-inch screen.

Under the screen is a quad-core 1.2Ghz processor. It also boasts a 13-megapixel camera with a Sony backside-illuminated sensor and a dual flash. There's a 5-megapixel camera on the front for video chats and selfies.

The 455L is running Android 4.4 KitKat software, which isn't the latest generation of Android. On the upside, the phone uses stock Android rather than slapping on extra skins or apps, which means it should be familiar if you've ever owned a Samsung, HTC or other phone from a better-known brand. You can transfer apps you've bought for your current Android phone, and download more from Google Play or other Android app stores.

Kazam takes an interesting approach to added extras: many manufacturers stuff their phones with apps that you don't want, also known as bloatware. A new Kazam phone has only the basic Android software, but you can choose to add more from a new service called Kazam Recommends. Phones come with a two-year warranty, and if you install three of the suggested apps you get an extra twelve months for a three-year warranty.

Kazam will also replace your screen if you crack it in the first year. And in another novel customer service twist, a service called Kazam Rescue enables the company to remotely access your phone and troubleshoot your problem. A customer service rep can log into your phone from a distance to check whether your software is up-to-date, for example, or identify if a dodgy app is causing your phone problems and delete it.

That saves you sending your phone in and being without a phone while it's fixed, although it's up to you whether you're happy to have someone poking around your device.