Feature phones have become rare in the US, but they haven’t gone extinct. Kyocera is still pumping them out, and the ultra-rugged DuraXTP for Sprint ($216) is a new flip phone that gives you the ability to make calls, send texts, and do some limited Web browsing. It’s one of the simplest rugged phones available on Sprint, and a solid choice as long as you don’t mind its limited functionality. The less expensive Sonim XP Strike offers the same basic capabilities in a candy bar form factor.
Design and Features
At 4.13 by 2.15 by 0.99 inches (HWD) and 5.75 ounces, the Kyocera DuraXTP is beefier than your average clamshell, though it’s still easier to fit in your pocket than a brick like the Sonim XP6 (5.39 by 2.54 by 0.81 inches; 9.52 ounces). The Sonim XP Strike is a bit of a closer match, at 4.96 by 2.36 by 0.98 inches and 6.52 ounces.
The DuraXTP’s body is made of hardened black and gray polycarbonate, with a rubbery finish along the edge. Rubber flaps cover both the micro USB port and audio jack, protecting the phone from water and dust, and there’s a Push-to-Talk button on the left side, under the volume rocker. There are two Keyguard buttons up top; they let you accept or reject phone calls, and turn on the speaker.
The phone meets military specification 810G, allowing it to hold up against shock, vibration, blowing rain, and extreme temperatures. It’s also OSHA-certified, so it can be used in hazardous environments where it may be exposed to flammable gases. With IP68 certification, it can withstand 30 minutes of submersion in up to six feet of water. The DuraXTP survived several six-foot drops on the rubberized floor of the PCMag test lab, as well as drops on the street outside. It emerged no worse for the wear beyond a few scuffs. The phone also held up just fine after being placed in a glass of water for 30 minutes.
There are two displays. The one on the outside is a 1.08-inch, 102-by-90-pixel, black-and-white LCD, which is useful for delivering notifications and telling the time. Flipping the phone open reveals a full-color, 2.4-inch TFT display. At 320-by-240 pixels, it is reasonably sharp for its size (167 pixels per inch), and it gets very bright, so you should have no problem using it in direct sunlight.
The keypad below has large backlit keys that can be used with gloved hands. There are Talk, Speaker, End, Back, and Camera buttons on top—all located around a directional navigation pad. Below the keypad is the grille for the loud front-facing speaker.
The back panel is a hard piece of plastic, held in place by a metal screw. Opening it up gives you access to the removable battery, SIM card slot, and microSD card slot (which accepts cards up to 32GB).
Network Performance, Connectivity, and Battery
The DuraXTP runs on Sprint’s 3G network, supporting CDMA (800/1900MHz) and GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz) bands. There’s no Wi-Fi connectivity, and data speeds are slow. That’s not a big deal, since the phone is clearly not built for heavy Internet access.
Call quality is good, with clear, natural tones. The earpiece and speaker can both get loud, and are easy to hear in noisy environments. Noise cancellation is decent, but some degree of background noise is present, resulting in slightly garbled transmissions.
At 9 hours and 3 minutes of talk time, battery life is good. However, it’s no match for the Sonim XP Strike, which manages 12 hours and 50 minutes. Still, 9 hours should be enough to get you through a full day of even heavy use.
The phone has GPS and Bluetooth 3.0, as well as a 3.5mm audio jack. Sound quality is fine on wired and Bluetooth headsets.
Apps, Multimedia, and Conclusions
The DuraXTP uses the Brew Mobile Platform. It has a simple UI, with Messaging and Contacts shown on the home screen for quick access. Hitting the OK button in the middle of the direction pad takes you to a grid or list view of different options, like the Account, Alarm, Photos and Videos, Settings, and Tools. Under Tools, you can find additional apps like Calendar, Stopwatch, World Clock, and Voice Memos.
There’s a music player, allowing the device to play MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, AMR, and MIDI files. It can also open BMP, GIF, JPEG, and PNG images, and supports MPEG4, H.263, and H.264 video. You’ll need to use a microSD card to load songs, though, since there’s only 512MB of internal storage.
There’s nothing you can do that requires a lot of processing power, so the Qualcomm QSC6185 chip and 256MB of RAM is more than sufficient.
See How We Test Cell Phones
The phone has a 5-megapixel camera rear-facing camera and LED flash above the exterior display. It’s slow to launch and cumbersome to use, asking if you want to launch the camera, video, or enter settings every time you open it. Pictures are noisy indoors and outside, with cold colors. The camera is capable of capturing 720p video, but there’s no stabilization so recordings are often shaky and blurry.
The Kyocera DuraXTP is a simple, functional feature phone. It’s less expensive than the Sonim XP Strike, and more elegant than the Kyocera DuraPlus. But unless you need a supremely rugged flip phone, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck these days with a smartphone. The LG Tribute 2, for instance, gets you full internet access, a better camera, and apps, for the half the price of the DuraXTP. And we haven’t reviewed it yet, but the rugged Kyocera TorqueXT ($360) looks to be a solid, Android-powered alternative, although it costs a bit more.