A Solid and Rugged Smartphone Value with an unusual name
How often do you get to take a piece of expensive electronics and treat it like it’s a bowling ball? The answer for me is not that often but that is exactly what I found myself doing with the InfoSonics verykool RS90 Vortex Smartphone. From the moment I received it, I have pummeled it, drowned it, bowled with it and literally dropped it on every surface I could find. I couldn’t break it so I enlisted my kids to damage it. When I was watching them; they smashed it on a variety of surfaces and apparently watched videos in the pool with the phone under water. I don’t have any idea what they did when I wasn’t around but based on the damage done to a laundry list of other products, I imagine it wasn’t pretty.
verykool RS90 Vortex Water Test
The worst thing that happened in these tests was the rear cover would come off and need to be reattached. There is a sealed compartment under the cover which prevents water from getting to the electronics. In fact, the removable cover does let water in and I suggest you remove the cover and dry the inside of the phone after submerging the device.
I almost broke the phone installing the battery when I first got the unit. The rear case is to be placed on the back of the phone and slid into place. I was very rough and tried to press the two pieces together by grinding them back and forth. Bad idea. Apparently I bent the plastic “pins” on both the case and the phone. I gave the device to my IT department who used a screwdriver to fix the damage I did by unbending the plastic pieces. The subsequent break and water tests were not affected by my initial roughness.
How I first learned about verykool
The phone is encased in a 4.5-inch qHD tempered scratch resistant Corning Gorilla glass touchscreen which did not scratch in my testing. I used the phone for many functions such as web browsing, remote control for Sonos, and as a music playing gadget. The volume of the phone was surprisingly loud but also distorted at volume more than other smartphones I have tested.
The device packs a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. A 5 megapixel camera performed adequately and the 1800 mAh Li-Ion battery could last a whole day depending on how much you use the device. There is also a built-in FM radio I didn’t test. Having said that, I didn’t test the “phone” portion – I solely used WiFi.
The phone is adequately fast for average but not power users.
It is a perfect product for typical people with a very active lifestyle or parents who want to let their kids use their phone as a pacifier with no fear. Also, companies who need to supply phones to their workers and are concerned about device damage should seriously consider the Vortex. This is especially true of those companies in industrial fields but really any organization could save money deploying the RS90 instead of a phone from a more common company.
It’s retail priced at $279 which makes it perhaps the best value you can find in a rugged phone – it works adequately and doesn’t break the bank or itself for that matter. Samsung has a water resistant phone the Galaxy S4 Active but it isn’t really very rugged or “shock resistant” – and it costs more than double what this smartphone does at $595 – assuming the RS90 doesn’t sell at retail of course. The drawback to this smartphone besides the distortion of the speaker is the fact that while streaming music from an online service, the other applications on the device become sluggish. For example, streaming Sirius XM Satellite Radio and playing Subway Surfers means you will see lags in swiping and having your “surfer” change lanes. A quad-core RS90 successor will eventually be available according to the company.
Moreover, Cablevision’s Optimum App won’t support the video screen of this device for whatever reason. It makes a fantastic indestructible video companion by the way so I hope this gets dealt with soon. Dozens of other popular apps I tried from HootSuite to Slacker worked fine.
Finally, the WiFi reception seems a bit inferior to a Galaxy Note 2 or iPhone 5 – perhaps due to the increased density of the unit required to absorb shock.
Although this observation isn’t specifically limited to this phone, I have found if I am not constantly thinking about it, using a phone which you aren’t afraid to break gets you in the habit of being less careful with other delicate items you handle such as a tablet.
When asked about the company’s unusual name – they told me they are keeping it. I have had a few people – general consumers and industry writers suggest a name change could be useful. The company says they have invested in the brand for about ten years, it is very popular in Latin America and moreover that unusual names are very popular these days. Tough to argue with any of that.
verykool RS90 Vortex turns off easily after suffering tremendous abuse
Just before I finished this article – the phone developed sensitivity to being tapped on a desk. It would shut down when doing so and also when the power cord was removed. Without having many of these phones to test it is difficult to determine if the problem is a defect in the design of this particular unit or a larger problem. Moreover, the issue could be that I intentionally beat this phone up… Most of you would only drop it occasionally.
I recommend the Vortex – it is heavier than a non-rugged phone but this is to be expected. In fact, it may be time for us to realize that there are tremendous costs associated with repairing consumer electronics devices which aren’t designed to handle the massive strains we place on them when they bounce down the stairs and fall in our toilets. The verykool RS90 Vortex is a solid phone at a bargain price and should be considered seriously for all the reasons outlined above.