Kyocera's $99 rugged Torque smartphone launches March 8

BARCELONA—Kyocera and Sprint are bringing rugged smartphones to the masses with the Kyocera Torque, an ultra-tough smartphone that will be available March 8 for just $99 with a two-year contract.

Kyocera’s Torque arrives March 8 with a $99 price tag (provided you sign a two-year contract).

I got to take a look at the Torque at Mobile World Congress, and it’s a pretty neat device. It’s a rugged phone, so be warned—it’s not a sexy, sleek handset, and it’ll definitely take up more room than an iPhone 5. It’s got a hard, rubberized exterior, a bright, crisp 4-inch touchscreen, and three physical buttons (back, home, and settings/menu) along the bottom.

The phone is actually built to military standards (MIL-STD-810G), which means it can take a beating. For example, you can drop it from a height of six feet, toss it into three feet of water for up to a half-hour, and you can take it with you into the freezing cold or the scorching desert (the phone can withstand temperatures between -22 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s also dust-, vibration-, salt-, fog-, humidity-, and solar-radiation-proof, so it should be able to withstand even the most extreme adventures.

Of course, at this decently low price point it’s not just for outdoorsy types—if you’re particularly clumsy, or if you’ve got technologically inclined toddlers, this phone might be worth a look.

The back of the Kyocera Torque.

The Torque also is the first U.S. phone to have special proprietary tissue-conduction technology built into it. The tissue-conduction tech uses a ceramic actuator to turn sound into vibrations. These vibrations can then go straight to your inner ear, which means you can hear sound decently well through headgear, such as a helmet or ear-muffs. This technology also makes it easier to hear sound (or rather, to hear vibrations) in a noisy environment.

The Torque will ship in March with Android 4.0 ICS—at the moment, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean doesn’t support Push To Talk. However, Kyocera assured me that when (if) Jelly Bean gets that feature, the Torque will receive an update.

Other specs include a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, and a 5MP rear-facing camera.

Overall it’s an interesting device—rugged enough that it can take some abuse, but still small enough that it doesn’t feel like a Galaxy Note II. Also, it’s reasonably priced at just $99 with a new two-year contract.

This story, "Kyocera's $99 rugged Torque smartphone launches March 8" was originally published by TechHive.

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