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Casio G’zOne Commando Review (Video) – Verizon Wireless

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Smartphones are traditionally devices which we hold close and keep a watchful eye on when we could drop them, especially around water. But what about adventurers and contractors that need a rough and tumble phone that can handle the elements including the occasional drop into a puddle or flowing stream? For these demanding users there is the Casio G’zOne Commando from Verizon Wireless. We’ve had the opportunity to use the Commando for the past two weeks and have kept it everywhere from our pocket to a cup of water, the shower and our freezer without a hitch.

Casio G'zOne Commando Review

Casio G'zOne Commando Rugged Android Smart Phone

The Commando may not have the biggest screen, fastest processor or the best camera, but it is still a good option for users who value durability and a go-anywhere phone. The Casio G’zOne Commando is available from Verizon for $199.

Casio G’zOne Commando Hands On Video

Casio G’zOne Commando Form Factor

The Casio G’zOne Commando has a very unique form factor and build thanks to the MILSPEC ruggedness rating. This means you can subject the G’zOne Commando to conditions you wouldn’t even imagine taking your current smartphone into, like underwater!

Casio G'zOne Commando Review - BUILD

Because it is designed to be a rugged Android smartphone, the phone is large for its size. The Commando is actually bigger all around than the HTC Thunderbolt which has a 4.3″ display compared to the 3.6″ display found on the Commando. The good news is that this added bulk brings with it the ability to go underwater for 30 minutes and is Shock and Dust Resistant with the MILSPEC 810G ratings for Vibration, Salt Fog, Humidity, Solar Radiation, Altitude, Low and High Temperature Storage. In order to come in waterproof, the G’zOne Commando has port covers and a lock in battery cover which gives the phone a distinct look and feel. The sides of the G’zOne Commando have a nice ridged appearance that makes it easy to hold onto while you are being active outdoors.

The G’zOne Commando is built very solidly. I joked with a friend who is a police officer that he could probably through it at a fleeing suspect to subdue him, leave the phone sit in a puddle while he did the arrest paperwork and then pick it up to take a picture of the suspect. After 2 weeks with the device I’m pretty sure the Commando would fit that bill, as long as you don’t need a high quality picture.

One nice touch is the inclusion of hard buttons all over the phone. If you want to take a picture, press your hard camera button. Need to launch a favorite app, press the “Tactile” button. These are in addition to a power button and volume rocker. With an adventurer in mind the ability to hit buttons without looking is a nice touch.

Casio G'zOne Commando Review - Build

Casio G'zOne Commando Has a lot of Buttons

The G’zOne Commando shares its looks with earlier members of the G’zOne family such as the Casio G’zOne Rock pictured next to the Commando below.

Casio G'Zone Commando and G'zOne Rock

Casio G'zOne Commando and G'zOne Rock

Casio G’zOne Commando Display

The Casio G’zOne Commando has a relatively small 3.6″ display with a 400 x 800 resolution that is recessed from the front edge of the phone to help provide a bit more protection from drops. The display is sufficiently bright that you can use it outdoors without much trouble.

Casio G'zOne Commando Review - Display

Casio G'zOne Commando Display - G'zOne Apps

The screen is readable, and we understand the decision to go with a smaller screen to keep the device size manageable and to cut down on battery drain, but we do miss the larger 4″ display found on the Droid Incredible 2. The screen is not as responsive as you may be used to on other Android smartphones. It responds better to a slower drag than a quick flick of your finger. This is likely due to the waterproofing and 1mm thick Gorilla Glass, but this doesn’t make the device unusable, just adds a learning curve if you are coming from another Android phone.

Casio G'zOne Commando Review - Display Comparison

Casio G'zOne Commando, Droid Incredible 2, HTC ThunderBolt

Casio G’zOne Commando Camera

Casio G'zOne Commando Review - Camera

If you were hoping to take the Casio G’zOne Commando out on your adventures and leave your camera at home, you’ll be disappointed. The built in 5MP camera is a poor performer failing to capture colors accurately and giving users a meager amount of control. Unlike the Incredible 2 and ThunderBolt, there is no touch to focus, only a center focus. For reference, the wheelbarrow in this shot should appear a crisp blue, not greenish aqua.

G'zOne COmmando Photo Sample

G'zOne Commando Photo Sample - Poor Color Capture

Things don’t improve in the dark with a single “flash” that is more direct than anything else. As you can see in the image below, the flash is a direct beam that doesn’t light up your entire image.

Casio G'zOne Commando Sample image with Flash

Casio G'zOne Commando Sample Image with Flash

The video isn’t much better, coming in under 720P and showing the same issues with color as the still camera. The video is also a bit choppy, as you can see in the sample below.

Casio G’zOne Commando Speakers

The G’zOne Commando has an impressive set of speakers on the front of the device, which is also a nice touch given that so many phones place the speakers to the rear. Music was quite loud and pretty clear, beating out some notebooks we have reviewed!  If you want to close out the world, just pop the cover off the headphone jack and you’re good to go. Overall the volume level and quality was impressive. If you want to provide the music after a long hike, the Commando would be loud enough to sit on a picnic table and annoy other hikers. We also found that with the music at full volume we could keep the phone in our pocket while on a walk and still hear our music without headphones.

Casio G'zOne Commando Review - Speakers

Casio G'zOne Commando Speakers

Casio G’zOne Commando GPS

GPS on the Commando is accurate and locks very quickly. Even indoors, we had a GPS lock in less than 10 seconds, which is impressive. The phone comes with Bing Maps as the default map and navigation application as well as VZ Navigator. Fortunately, you can install Google Maps from the marketplace, which provides a superior experience in our usage.

Casio G’zOne Commando Battery Life

The G’zOne Commando has a 1460mAh battery which in our testing was more than enough to last us through a full day, even during heavy usage of the phone including email syncing, surfing, a few games and the included G’zOne apps.

Casio G'zOne Commando Review - Battery Life

Casio G'zOne Commando Snap On Battery Cover

Casio G’zOne Commando Software

The Casio G’zOne Commando has Android 2.2, but you might not realize it when you first look at the device thanks to the custom keyboard and mild user interface tweaks. This isn’t a Sense or Blur overhaul, but there are some changes. The biggest change you will see is the SnapOut Menu. This small icon in the lower left allows you to snap out 5 shortcuts you use most often and access them quickly. Thanks to the sounds, you don’t need to look in some cases. There is a loud swipe sound when you open and as you move your finger back across the shortcuts there is an audible tone to you know which shortcut you are on. We really like this feature, and made use of it in our review period.

Casio G'zOne Commando Review - SnapOut

Casio G'zOne Commando - SnapOut

As far as apps go, there are a lot of preloaded apps included the default Bing Maps app and Bing Search as default. You also get the standard complement of V CAST Apps which cannot be removed. You can go get your favorite Google apps from the market, but make sure you skip past the V CAST App Store on the home screen and grab the official market from the  app drawer.

The phone also comes with a collection of apps designed to complete the adventurer experience. These apps cover a wide array of items and will appeal to different users. We most commonly used the Thermometer and Earth Compass, specifically through their respective apps, but you may use them more. The Casio G’zOne Android apps include the following apps, shown in the video that comes with the device.

Casio G’zOne Apps:

  • Earth Compass – Functions as a standard compass, the GPS shows the distance and direction to several domestic and international landmarks, including Yosemite National Park and Mt. Everest.
  • Walking Counter – Measures steps, distance and energy consumption, and total steps for the day, week or month. It also provides virtual treks for famous North American trails and roads including Mt. Kilimanjaro, Annapurna Circuit, Torres Del Paine Circuit, John Muir Trail and Transcontinental
  • Adventure Training – Takes training to a new level by allowing users to run with virtual opponents, like world-record holders, wild animals, or their own best personal performance stored in the training history.
  • Trip Memory – Plots and records outdoor activities along with location information to share with friends and family on Twitter and Facebook®.
  • Tides – Showcases the tidal graph for the day; time of tide ebb and flow; and current, past and future sea tide levels. GPS displays the nearest location map.
  • Thermometer – Displays current temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit with numeric and graphic thermometer readings and compares the current temperature across multiple locations.
  • Sun / Moon – Checks the time of the next sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset, and tracks the moon phases for your current location.
  • Star Gazer – Utilizes GPS to display the stars and constellation names based on the current season and time.

In addition to the apps, there are a collection of G’zOne widgets which we like. The Earth Compass widget is fun to play with, but our favorite is the weather widget that gives you a two day forecast with weather, temp and a nice icon to tell you what type of clothing you should wear. The clothing recommendations aren’t perfect, but at a glance you can see if you should grab a long sleeve shirt or a jacket before you run out.

Casio G'zOne Commando Review - Weather Widget

Casio G'zOne Commando - Weather Widget

Casio G’zOne Commando Keyboard

When you first look at the Commando’s keyboard, you might wonder what’s going on, and you should. Gone is the standard Android keyboard and in its place is a XT9 keyboard which works like Swype, allowing you to drag your finger across the keys to type. In practice this works pretty well, though it isn’t perfect in guessing what you want. The standard tap-typing method also works, but is sub-par compared to other Android phones.

Casio G'zOne Commando Review - Keyboard

Casio G'zOne Commando Keyboard Is Similar to Swype

The keyboard doesn’t have a voice button, like you will find on many other phones, which means you’ll need to type instead of relying on Google’s voice processing to turn your voice into text.

Casio G’zOne Commando Phone and Voice Quality

We tested the G’zOne in a variety of settings and while the call quality was passable at full volume, it wasn’t up to the amazing quality we had on the Droid Incredible 2. There were times where we had to ask the caller to repeat what they had said. If you do use speakerphone, it is sufficiently loud, but your mileage may vary as our callers reported some crackling while on speaker.

Casio G’zOne Commando vs. Droid Incredible 2 vs. HTC Thunderbolt

Casio G'zOne Commando Review

When you compare the G’zOne Commando to the HTC ThunderBolt and the Droid Incredible 2, you can quickly see the difference in screen quality and if you read our reviews, you will notice that the ThunderBolt and the Incredible 2 have larger screens, better cameras and faster processors, but the G’zOne Commando holds its own, highlighting one of Android’s strengths – multiple form factors. Even with a slower 800Mhz processor and less responsive touchscreen, the Commando is a good option for users that need durability.

Casio G'zOne Commando Review - ThunderBolt Droid Incredible

Comparison with Droid Incredible 2 and HTC ThunderBolt

Conclusion

Despite the issues we note in our review, the G’zOne Commando is a phone that we like for the rugged nature it brings to the table. The Commando is clearly aimed at a select group of users that place a greater emphasis on durability and ruggedness than on screen size, responsiveness and pre-installed apps. For outdoorsmen and women, adventurers and users that need a phone that can survive falls and more, the Commando is a good choice.

The Casio G’zOne Commando isn’t a flagship phone, and it isn’t perfect, but it is a good phone for its target market.

Casio G’zOne Commando Gallery

Casio G’zOne Commando Specs

  • Android™ 2.2
  • 800MHz Processor
  • Meets Military Standards 810G for Immersion, Rain, Shock and Dust Resistant, Vibration, Salt Fog, Humidity, Solar Radiation, Altitude, Low and High Temperature Storage
  • 5-megapixel camera with auto-focus, still photo, video capture, LED light
  • High-security encryption for corporate email
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n connectivity
  • Stereo Bluetooth™
  • VZ Navigator® for GPS and audible turn-by-turn directions
  • Mobile Hotspot capable-share 3G connection with up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices

Josh Smith is Editor of GottaBeMobile and Notebooks.com. He's always looking for ways to help you get the most of your gear and loves to talk about tech on radio and TV. Josh uses an iOS and Android devices as well as Mac and Windows Computers. Josh Smith on Google+ Email: [email protected]