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Kyocera today introduced the first rugged smartphone with Verizon’s millimeter-wave UWB 5G in it, the Duraforce Ultra 5G. A super-tough Android phone with rubber bumpers, it’s most notable to me for potentially being a Wi-Fi hotspot on outdoor worksites.
Verizon’s UWB 5G system is super fast, but primarily works outdoors in urban areas. The average white-collar worker hasn’t been out in those places much over the past year, but the folks who build, fix, and construct things have been hard at work. Even before regular street life returns, there are folks repointing bricks up on scaffolding, building sidewalk dining sheds, moving commercial HVAC units with cranes, and maintaining public parks.
Kyocera’s Duraforce lineup of rugged Android phones tends to appeal to outdoor adventurers and blue-collar workers. The Ultra 5G has a 4500mAh non-removable battery with both wireless and 27W wired charging; a 2,160-by-1,080, 5.45-inch LC screen; and a Snapdragon 765G processor. It runs Android 10. On the back, there are 24MP and 16MP cameras with a time-of-flight sensor for accurate AR measuring, and on the front there’s an 8MP camera. The speakers are extremely loud, at 106dB, and the phone is dustproof, waterproof, and non-incendive. It’s also a brick, at more than nine ounces.
There are some interesting corporate-friendly technologies in here. They have a physical fingerprint sensor. The phone supports CBRS, a network band that is supposed to be used for corporate private networks in the future. And its Wi-Fi specs include 802.11 e, i, k, r, v, and mc, which enable corporate security, quality of service, network management, and indoor positioning.
What fascinates me most about the phone, though, is why 5G? The phone has both Verizon’s millimeter-wave 5G and its DSS 5G; the X52 modem on board doesn’t have quite the speeds of flagship phones, but it’ll easily break 1Gbps on millimeter-wave. The answer’s outside my window. One person with a Duraforce Ultra 5G at a job site is the Wi-Fi hotspot for everyone around them. It can power a few tablets, laptops, music players, or even the phones of other workers who have sub-optimal data plans.
In that way, there’s a clearer argument for UWB 5G on the Duraforce than there is for most phones. For your average user who lives and works indoors, UWB 5G was a little abstract even before COVID—I mean, who’s going to head out to do their downloads? (The real advantage would have come in public parks, on campuses, and other places that tend to attract crowds, but I digress.) The Duraforce, on the other hand, hits the people where they are—working outdoors.
The Duraforce Ultra 5G will be available from Verizon in early Q1. Kyocera didn’t announce a price.
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