Sprint intros Kyocera DuraMax, next-gen Direct Connect service

Sprint announces details about its upgraded Direct Connect service and the newest handset to support it.

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The Kyocera DuraMax will be the first to support Sprint's new Direct Connect service.

Sprint revealed today that it will launch its next-generation Direct Connect push-to-talk service, along with the compatible Kyocera DuraMax, starting October 2.

With the help of Qualcomm, the new Direct Connect platform works on Sprint's 3G CDMA network and allows for faster data speeds compared with the current Nextel iDEN network, which is being phased out in 2013. Another advantage to the next-gen service is broader coverage. Sprint says that by early 2012, Direct Connect is expected to match its CDMA voice coverage area, which is about three times the square miles covered by iDEN.

Aside from the usual push-to-talk functionality, Direct Connect will continue 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.

Of course, with the new service, you need new handsets and the Kyocera DuraMax will be the first compatible model. The rugged flip phone meets military specifications and comes with a 2-inch QVGA internal display, 1-inch monochrome external screen, a 3.2-megapixel camera, stereo Bluetooth, and a 1GB microSD card (supports up to 32GB). The cost of the phone is $69.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate.

In addition to the DuraMax, Sprint will offer the Kyocera DuraCore by the end of the year and an Android-based Direct Connect device from Motorola in Q4. Pricing and release dates for the two models were not given at this time.