Kyocera DuraSport 5G UW
Kyocera DuraSport 5G Review
With the $579.99 Kyocera DuraSport 5G UW, Kyocera made a phone that survives drops of 5 feet onto concrete. The DuraSport survives mild soap, running water, and disinfectant wipes. Did the phone fall in mud? Rinse it off in the nearby creek. Dusty construction site or extracting fossils in the desert. No problem. And if any of that fails, Kyocera will replace the phone for up to 2-years.
All that durability is great. But underneath, Kyocera delivers a pretty basic Android phone and middling camera.
Kyocera didn’t make all the tough choices. They let durability drive design, turning a basic phone into a ruggedized basic phone—what they should have done is optimized the other features for outdoor use, making a compelling rugged consumer phone that performs as well as a clean and dry and is does wet.
What we like
Rugged. There is no doubt. Gorilla Glass 6 protects the display. MIL 810H-certification attests to its drop worthiness. The IP68 rating confers waterproof and dustproof credentials. It even takes photos underwater.
Those looking for a rugged 5G smartphone in a footprint will find few choices. The DuraSport’s bigger sibling, the Kyocera DuaForce 5G is well, much bigger. And this is a nice-looking, rounded-edged phone design.
The slim phone’s main draw beyond ruggedness is its 6.2-inch FHD IPS LCD, 500-nit display. The 400PPI screen offers lovely colors and fine detail. As part of its outdoorsiness, the DurSport screen works with gloves or when the screen is wet.
supports Qi wireless charging and USB-C Quick Charge 4. It’s roughly the size of a Google Pixel 5A. For an iPhone comparison, it’s about the width of an iPhone mini, but about a ½-inch taller.
A 48MP rear camera is complemented by a 16MP ultrawide camera. The 48MP claims superior night vision, but see the What could be improved section for notes. An adequate 8MP camera faces forward. A unique action mode combines video from front and rear cameras to document things like bike rides, that you may perhaps narrate as you go. If you have ANT+ fitness sensors, you can link the action videos to your performance metrics.
Business users may appreciate the push-to-talk feature for use on job sites, for instance, but I don’t know anyone with push-to-talk so I reprogram that button to Google Assistant with a double-tap bringing up the news.
Business buyers will also appreciate built-in features that leverage the 802.11mc Wi-Fi for trilaterated asset tracking. The other wireless features include Bluetooth 5.1 and NFC.
While smaller than many phones, the 4,500mAh battery keeps the phone running for two or three days if not overused.
The review unit included Verizon Wireless 5G Ultra Wideband. Unfortunately, my neighborhood does not yet receive this service from Verizon. If I drive a couple of miles, the 5G kicks in.
The DuraSport supports facial recognition and fingerprint recognition.
The Kyocera DuraSport 5G runs Android 11 without skins or other add-ons (besides the over 20 preloaded apps). While the marketing looks aimed at individuals who adore the outdoors, the phone is really an enterprise phone at heart. Kyocera sits on the Android Enterprise Recommend list, promising security updates through November of 2023.
What could be improved
The ruggedness wraps itself around a pretty basic phone. The Kyocera DuraSport 5G employs the Snapdragon 480 processor, sports 4GB of RAM, and ships with only 64GB of internal storage. It will also accept microSD cards for expanded storage. 128GB should be standard on a phone in this price range.
Other phones with the Snapdragon 480 cost far less and have better hardware features. One example is the Nokia X10 which includes 128GB of storage, 6GB of RAM and a camera with a Zeiss lens system for less than $350. Buyers will really need to decide if the rugged features outweigh other smartphone and camera features available on other devices.
I would love to see a better camera. For a device designed for the outdoors, I would love to see it perform as well in shady groves as it does on bright beaches. Though Kyocera promises a Night Mode it doesn’t
And only put useful software on the phone. I’m OK with a print app, and the outdoor apps for the most part, but Bingo Blitz, Disney+ and Pluto TV don’t need to be default apps. I can download them should I need them.
As for the outdoor apps, I appreciate the warning on the barometer app that it’s all relative. I’m less impressed that my altitude is calculated via the barometer. The phone includes GPS. It should know precisely where I am and at what altitude. I should not be required to adjust my altitude—which also seems a bit ludicrous as I would need some other device, like an iPhone, as a reference to make the adjustment. Kyocera and Google can do better.
That complaint aside, I like the outdoor dashboard. I get that individual apps allow for more granular use, but I’m not sure the phone needs the dashboard and the individual apps. The designers need to go back through the DuraSport 5G with simplification in mind.
I find too often that sitting in my office my phone wants my pin in addition to my fingerprint, even though it is set up with “smart lock,” which should inform the phone it hasn’t gone anywhere lately—so if it trusted me a few minutes ago, it should trust me now. I would also appreciate an improved lift-to-wake feature, which is on but doesn’t seem to wake when I lift.
With wake to lift seemingly asleep, I would love to see the power button above the volume buttons as I too often hit volume when trying to turn on the phone.
Kyocera DuraSport 5G: The Bottom Line
I like that the Kyocera DuraSport 5G is rugged but doesn’t look rugged. I don’t like that the premium price doesn’t include premium features beyond that ruggedness. The real selling point with the Kyocera DuraSport is not the quality of the phone, but the quality of the build.
If you plan on exposing your phone to a lot of risks, from drops to dust, to water, then this phone, along with the 2-year warranty (with a replacement before return) will give you peace of mind not available in most devices. If you want a good camera with decent environmental ratings, your range opens up and you may want to keep exploring hardware before you head into the great outdoors. And remember, you can also put just about any phone in a high-end Otterbox case and feel pretty secure about its chances of survival.
Kyocera provided the DuraSport 5F UW for review. Images courtesy of Kyocera.
Serious Insights is not a Kyocera affiliate.
For more serious insights on hardware and accessories click here.