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MWC 2013: Rugged Kyocera Torque hands-on preview

Bear Grylls may endorse the Kyocera Torque, but he was nowhere to be seen at the device's first public outing at Mobile World Congress. Then again, this is probably the first and only time you'll find the Kyocera Torque amidst so much red wine, croquettes, and jamón ibérico. You're more likely to find it tucked in a tool belt on a construction site.

Built to military spec 810G, the Torque is made to withstand water, dust, shock, vibration, solar radiation, humidity, and extreme temperatures. Those figures are no joke – US carrier Sprint is quoting exactly 26 four-foot drops before the Torque tweaks out. It also meets IP67 standards for dust and water immersion, so it can withstand heavy dust for six hours, or three feet of water for 30 minutes.

I got to see these claims in action, when the phone was submerged in a shallow tank of water (see the above image) and dirtied up with some sand. It got a little wet and dirty, but was no worse for wear in the end.

As far as the design goes, the handset feels a lot like other rugged phones we've tested, with a thick, rubberised casing. There are rubbery covers for the headphone and power ports, which must be covered for the phone to be fully waterproof.

Perhaps the coolest feature is the inclusion of Kyocera's Smart Sonic Receiver audio technology, which eliminates the need for a traditional speaker. The phone actually uses vibrations to transmit sounds directly to the eardrum – so when you place the phone within the vicinity of your ear, you can hear it, even though there's no speaker. It's crazy. It reminds me of those electronic lollipops that played music by vibrating your skull, but 10 times better and a hundred times less uncomfortable.

The rugged features of this phone are legit, and the Torque also features 4G LTE connectivity – which is great – but like most tough phones, the overall specs are only so-so. The 4in, 800 x 480-pixel display looks fine, but isn't anything to get excited about. And Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is really starting to get long in the tooth.

At least the dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor should pump out enough power to keep things moving at a decent clip, and the 2500mAh battery should keep you going all day.

At the moment, the Kyocera Torque is only confirmed for the US network Sprint, and it will be out with that carrier at the beginning of March priced $100 (£66). Rugged phone fans will just have to hope that the Torque wings its way over to the UK before too long.