Under the hood, the Brigadier’s power isn’t excessive, but it gets the job done. A 1.4 GHz Snapdragon quad-core chipset runs the show, providing an average performance of 9677 across four runs of Quadrant Benchmark, which is ranks out as solid for an upper mid-range device. Everyday testing backed this up. This is combined with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of flash memory, though the phone features a microSD card slot for further expansion if needed. There’s also support for Qi wireless charging, meaning that, with the right supporting hardware, the Brigadier can stay sealed against the elements while refilling its ample 3100 mAh battery.
The Brigadier ships exclusively on Verizon’s network, supporting its existing 4G LTE network and its ongoing “XLTE” deployments, which boost the carrier’s 4G speeds using some new batches of wireless spectrum. That’s joined by support for NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 LE/EDR, Miracast, and all of the current Wi-Fi standards. Signal strength for both Wi-Fi and LTE was excellent on the Brigadier, with LTE performance easily comparable to any other smartphone we’ve used.
Kyocera definitely applies a distinctive look to the Brigadier, but it largely comes through the addition of extra widgets – really just Kyocera replacements for some Android staples — than in fundamental changes to how Android 4.4 KitKat’s interface works. This is largely a good thing.
Most of the alterations aren’t anything new, but they’re sensible for this kind of phone. The biggest emphasis is on making the device more “finger friendly” for anyone who might have to operate it while wearing gloves, so Kyocera engorges app icons, buttons in the phone dialer, and the like.
A “large print text” mode for easier daylight visibility is also included, as are few tidbits like a flashlight app and a combination barometer/altimeter. That last one is subject to hardware limitations, so you’re better off not expecting pinpoint accuracy, but it’s nifty to try out. Voice search is also heavily emphasized, and the device features a pair of apps to help improve battery life. More on that in a minute.
The 8-megapixel main camera on the Brigadier is fairly typical – read: “marginal in anything but broad daylight” — but it does somewhat make up for it by having a very powerful flash. That’s no doubt a nice side effect of it being intended to double as a flashlight in a pinch.
Thus, you can take photos in pretty dimly lit surroundings and still make out what you’re seeing. The Brigadier’s shots won’t win any awards for crispness, but a fuzzy photo is preferable to a dim one full of noise. Photos were much less clear than they were on a flagship like the Galaxy S4 performed under the same conditions, but they were slightly better lit when using the flash.
The Brigadier’s battery is unfortunately non-removable, though that’s understandable given that it keeps the device heavily water-resistant. So to compensate for that, Kyocera made sure that you had enough juice to go out, do your thing, and get home. Inside the phone is a 3,100 mAh battery, which the company promises will deliver up to 20 hours of talk time, or 15 days of standby time.
The much more nebulous “average use” rate is harder to pin down, but based on our experiences, you’ll likely get at least full day out of the Brigadier unless you go out of your way to drain it. A day and half of life is more realistic, even with a demanding schedule. Point being, it lasts a good while.
As mentioned above, the Brigadier also comes with certain software tools to help you better manage your battery power. Kyocera’s helpful “Eco Mode” can reduce the screen timeout time, lower display brightness and the like, either by command or automatically once the phone drops to a certain battery percentage. The mode is also very easy to turn on and off, so you’re rarely inconvenienced if you need to temporarily disable it.
Also present is “MaxiMZR,” which can further save battery life and mobile data by stopping apps you haven’t used in a week from accessing background data. This has a lot less room for customization, and it’s harder to turn on and off, but it’s also fairly unobtrusive. It’ll only limit your apps’ data use in the background, and only if they’ve been idle for a while at that.