The Commando is not intended to be a powerful phone; the mere fact that it features 4G LTE, which is basically a given on most other phones these days, is enough to put it ahead of its rather sparse competition. That said, its 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM is respectable for this generation (heck, those are basically the specs of all the current “high-end” Windows Phones), even if it’s on the slightly more dated side of the spectrum.
The hardware generally keeps things running smoothly, but I did find that the one thing it did struggle with was processing the data from the sensors at a reasonable pace; the built-in compass widget that’s both on the home screen and the lock screen, for example, lagged so mightily when in use that it was difficult to ever get an accurate bearing on my direction. What the compass currently reads is typically the direction you were facing three or four seconds prior.
On the plus side, considering the phone’s rather heavy skin/UI, the Commando has a surprisingly quick boot time. And finally, the phone’s 16 GB of onboard storage is fine for a user like me, but those who are interested in having more space are welcome to expand using the phone’s microSD card slot.
For a phone that prioritizes physical toughness, you would think that what’s actually running on it would be the bare minimum, but that’s not the case here. The Commando actually comes with a rather unique software suite and user interface that implements a lot of features for active types, like a compass (both on the lock screen and as a widget), advanced weather information (suggested clothing, atmospheric pressure, sunrise and sunset times, etc.), and a flashlight widget. There’s also glove mode, which is essentially a simplified interface with access to the phone, camera, notifications, and messaging for those who need to access their phone quickly while wearing gloves.
And these are all features that are just available on the surface; the preloaded apps also include things like G’zWORLD and G’zGEAR (not joking about these names), the first of which lets you map out your activities and share them via social networks like Facebook or Casio’s Live G. G’zGear, meanwhile, is basically a suite of easily accessible outdoor tools, like a pedometer, thermometer, star maps, barometer, etc. The rest of the preloaded software is pretty standard fare, though there are some surprises given the nature of the Commando, including the Amex Serve app (for wiring money and using prepaid cards), Quickoffice, and a VPN client.
Unfortunately the downside here is that, as previously mentioned, the Commando runs a dated version of Android; version 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, to be exact. Odds are good that it won’t be receiving an update to more recent versions of the OS, given that it’s not a high-profile device and launched when Jelly Bean was available, yet did not come preloaded with it. There are obvious downsides to such a dated OS, namely that it could cause issues with app compatibility (either now or further down the road) and that the updates that have since been issued have fixed a number of security and stability issues with Android.
The camera on the Commando is a disappointment, especially considering that this is an ideal phone to take with you on outdoor excursions and the like. But you can forget about taking any stunning pictures with it over the course of your travels, because the 8-megapixel camera is utterly forgettable.
Pictures are typically noisy as all get-out, even in reasonable lighting, and colors are flat and lack saturation. The white balance is usually on point, but besides that, pictures generally don’t pop and lack the sharpness that you can find on just about another other smartphone camera.
The 1800 mAh battery of the Commando is nothing special. It’s not tragically bad, as I could typically make it through a full day on a single charge, even with fairly heavy use and my usual battery-draining settings like maximum display brightness, email push, etc. But it could only make it about halfway through the second day before it would quit on me.
Lighter usage didn’t help much either, as I could stretch out the battery life by another day or so, but never for more than two and half days, even when it was on standby for most of the time. Considering the clientele that the Commando is targeting, i.e. “active” types that may spend chunks of time away from outlets, one would think that this would have road warrior-approved battery life. Sadly, however, this is not the case.