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This ultra-rugged Android phone has every battery feature you can imagine

Glass sandwiches don't work well in challenging environments, but the Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 is built for the rigors of it all.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Hand holing the DuraForce Pro 3
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

While millions work in offices and remotely within their homes, there are many jobs that require a person to work outdoors, in warehouses, and in locations that are not always friendly to expensive glass sandwiches. People are also spending a lot more time exploring the world around us and don't want to break their expensive phones or wrap them in bulky protective cases.

Also: What is a rugged phone and which are the best?

The new Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 is built to withstand the rigors of the world to provide you with a smartphone that keeps on going long after others may have given up the ghost. I've used rugged smartphones for many years and it's great to see devices get slimmer, provide features for better usability, and improve the camera performance so that a single device can be used when operating in challenging conditions.

View at Verizon

A side fingerprint sensor/power button, three custom programmable buttons, four lanyard attachment points, 100dB+ stereo speakers, a removable battery, wireless charging, and enhanced rugged build features are provided with the DuraForce Pro 3. The lower right programmable button is perfect as a camera launch and then a camera capture button when holding the phone in landscape orientation. The AI-enhanced speakers are extremely loud, making it easy to hear when working outside or in areas where heavy machinery noises and other background sounds are present.

The phone is certified with an IP68 dust and water-resistant rating and has been MIL-STD-810-H tested against sand, vibration, shock, and more. I took it trail running and dropped it in the forest repeatedly, submerged it in water, and left it in the blazing sun for some similar trials, and the phone continues to work perfectly.

DuraForce Pro 3  in water
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

A 5.38-inch OLED display that supports gloved hands and usage in wet conditions is present with the phone powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 processor and 6GB of ROM. Wi-Fi 6/6E is included, along with Verizon 5G, Bluetooth 5.2, and dual SIM support.

Also: Why this rugged Android 13 phone reminds me of the good old Nokia days

Three cameras are positioned at the top of the back panel behind a glass protective cover with dual LED flashlights on each side for bright night illumination. The 64 MP main camera, 16 MP wide-angle camera, and 2 MP macro camera perform very well and will help you capture great photos and 4K video. There are advanced camera modes available that include action overlay (speed and GPS information captured on the display), multi-camera (excellent for field work when you want to show yourself and the subject of the discussion), and underwater (touchscreen turned off and buttons are optimized for camera control). I enjoy taking photos and videos of the fish I catch while the fish remains in the water, so this underwater mode is much better than trying to use an iPhone with a rugged case.

The back panel is held securely in place with a screw near the bottom that also has rear contacts for connecting to accessories for scanning and other functions. Kyocera also provided a rugged swivel holster from Axessorize to test out with the phone.

Back of DuraForce Pro 3 open
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

I highly recommend taking the time to set up the single, double, and press/hold options of each of the three programmable buttons so that you can fully optimize using the phone with minimal interaction with the display. Having all of these button options to launch apps or perform key actions makes a huge difference when you are busy trying to get other things done with your hands.

Also: The best rugged tablets (and what 'military grade' means)

It's rare to find a phone with a removable battery, but the DuraForce Pro 3 has a 4,270 mAh battery under the rear cover. This means if you are planning to spend a significant amount of time in the field with no available charging option, you can pack extra batteries and stay connected. The removable microSD card means you can also swap in and out external storage cards, so you won't have to worry about storage limitations either.

Side view of Kyocera Duraforce Pro 3
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

In my experiences, I was able to get through a full day of work and play with the battery. I also appreciate having wireless charging available to easily keep the phone topped off as I performed desk work next to a wireless charging pad. 

Android 13 is installed on the phone and it runs a fairly stock version of Android with just a couple of available settings provided for Kyocera-specific options. The review phone is running the April 1, 2023, Android security update. Looking at past Kyocera DuraForce phones, quarterly updates for security look fairly standard with a single likely firmware upgrade to Android 14 expected on the DuraForce Pro 3.

The Kyocera DuraForce Pro 3 is available now on Verizon for $900 or $25 for 36 months. Kyocera also provides a two-year manufacturer's warranty on the phone, so it is built to last.

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