Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3
Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 Review
Most mobile future of work discussion focus on the phone as a collaboration and analysis partner. Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace, along with myriad enterprise applications that offer smartphone clients, drive the value narrative. But not all work takes place in offices. From warehouses to mills, from quarries to the scaffolding that rises ever higher with the buildings it helps create, from forests to farms, work takes place outside and often in inhospitable conditions. Of course, hundreds of cases offer protection for the delegated sculpted exteriors of Apple or Samsung flagships, but they are not ideally suited for the muck and grime, oil and water, dirt and dust of outdoor work.
Kyocera continues to develop ruggedized devices designed to serve those who work under less-than-ideal environmental conditions. Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3, as a basic phone, up against Apple or Samsung, does offer compelling value. But viewed through the lens of its unique features, it is clear that for harsh environments it is a worthy companion to compliment the work and keep the workers in those environments connected.
What we like
- Rugged design: MIL-STD-810H tested to withstand drops up to 5ft/1.5m on concrete,2 IP68-rated dust and waterproof3
- Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 7 Gen 1 (SM7450 (5nm) X62 Octa-core
- Bright display
- Replaceable battery
- FIPS 140-2 Level 1 cryptographic module and biometric security
- No need for a case or screen protector
- 2-Year Warranty
Before the Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 gets to be a phone, it has to survive. That is the point of this device. Consumers will not rush out to buy this $899 Android Verizon-locked phone because it’s better than Apple or Samsung’s latest flagships. They are going to buy the Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 because they plan on putting their phone through some serious shit, and they want to get a call out or check their GPS location while doing so.
The phone’s non-slip case helps keep it tight in wet or muddy hands. The corner bumpers and scratch-and-shatter-resistant display don’t require extra cases to protect the phone. And that display is bright enough for a sunny day, and the touch sensitivity works even with gloves or wet fingers. The phone is MIL-STD-810H tested to withstand drops up to 5ft/1.5m on concrete and sports an IP68-rated dust and water resistance.
The Pro 3 is also a HazLoc certified Non-Incendive, Class I, Div 2 device. That means it won’t set of flammable gases, vapors or mists should it encounter concentrations high enough to explode. The phone won’t spark.
So the audience is pretty clear: people working construction, utility maintenance workers, tow truck drivers, hikers, nature researchers, volcanologists. You get the idea.
As a phone, the Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 gets by. Its Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 7 Gen 1 isn’t the latest chip, but it isn’t a slacker either. It offers plenty of power for normal phone use. Video editing in the field isn’t recommended, however.
5G support includes C-band, as well as 5G Standalone, which removes the dependency on 4G LTE for enhanced mobile connectivity. The phone also offers push-to-talk, another outdoor feature that turns the phone into a walkie-talkie. The phone also supports Wi-Fi 6E for extended coverage and faster throughput. Dual Band GPS helps obtain location signals even in urban canyons.
At 6.06 by 2.95 by 0.57 inches (HWD), it fits the hand well and includes multiple slots for lanyards or other tethers. At 8.36 ounces, it’s a relatively light phone. It’s easy to hold and it’s not a burden.
The 5.38-inch, 2,160 by 1,080 pixels OLED display is covered in Gorilla Glass Victus with DX+, which gives it the aforementioned scratch resistance and also helps reduce glare. A maximum brightness of 650 nits is pretty good, making the display useable in many sunny situations, though very bright sun still challenges even the best OLED displays.
Another very “work” forward feature is the removable battery. I can imagine a hot swap station on a worksite that lets people come over and swap out their battery. Because of the various environments and hazard ratings, work sites won’t want the USB-C connector exposed to an external battery with a cable. And while Qi charging is available, it’s not an ideal solution for people and their devices subjected to shock, rapid movements, water, mud and dust. So, the replaceable battery is a good idea.
The Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 leverages Android’s authentication methods, including a PIN, fingerprint recognition and facial identification. FIPS 140-2 encrypts information on the device. For those seeking stronger security in the workplace, the phone can be updated from consumer-grade Android 13 to Android Enterprise to push updates.
Kyocera backs the phone’s ruggedness with a 2-Year warranty.
The cardboard packaging is fine, save the plastic sticker on the display that points out the functions of the large number of device keys. Kyocera as a company also has a good sustainability narrative, though I would like to see the story more front-and-center on their website than detailed in a downloadable PDF.
What could be improved
- Too many buttons/keys
- OK Cameras
- Locked to Verizon
I get that this phone is used by utility workers, but it seems more like a phone from Batman’s utility belt. That may not be a bad thing for some, but unlike my iPhone 13 Pro, the Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 often performed unintended tasks because I accidentally hit the wrong button, or well, any button. There are power keys (with fingerprint recognition), volume buttons, a push-to-talk button, a configurable button (default calls up the camera) and an SOS key, all of which make for a confusing exterior. It’s a lot.
I really don’t like the raised bump between the up and down volume. My fingers except a rocker, and I just get an immovable bump. Then I have to remember that the buttons that work are on either side of the bump. Poor ergonomics.
The 64MP Main, 16MP Ultra-Wide, or 2MP Macro lens, and dual LED flash cameras are OK, but not stellar, though Loupe Mode is an interesting feature for those charged with photographing small details. I’m thinking of building inspectors and paleontologists.
The $899 price is high, as it fits into the Apple, Google, Samsung range of devices. The 128GB memory (though expandable with a microSD card) contributes the perception of higher price than the value dictates. As a business phone, quantity and other discounts may reduce the price. The Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3, however, offers several unique ruggedness features (noted above) that offset the normal price drivers such as high-quality cameras or Apple’s unique connected ecosystem.
Those not on Verizon, nor not willing to switch to Verizon for this phone, will not be able to buy one that works on AT&T or T-Mobile.
Many products I review negatively inspire significant feedback because their designers chose complexity over simplicity. The Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 isn’t a bad phone, but its complexity provides multiple potential points of failure for its environmental resistance features, and even more so, for a poor relationship with its owner.
As with many Android phones, it is unclear if the Pro 3 will receive Android updates beyond 13, and if it doesn’t, how soon after general availability will those releases come.
Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 The bottom line
Kyocera has created a phone for a very specific set of audiences. I would characterize the Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 as a physical work phone. Not a work phone for office workers, but for workers who work in the elements: in the fog and rain, in the mud and in the dust. The bright screen and tough exterior make a good case for the Pro 3, while its price, middle-of-the road camera and overly complex buttons keep it from being a more universal work device.
Kyocera provided the DuraForce Pro 3 for review. Images courtesy of Kyocera unless otherwise noted.
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