The Casio G'zOne brand is well known for its line of rugged phones. From the Type-V all the way to the more recent Ravine, the Casio G'zOne series of handsets are built tough in accordance with stringent military specifications. They can withstand a variety of environmental hazards that include immersion, rain, and humidity, so they should stand up against everyday drops and spills as well. Despite all this toughness, though, the handsets are typically of the feature phone variety. The only rugged smartphones we've seen so far have been the Motorola i1 and the Motorola Defy, neither of which are available for Verizon Wireless.
The Casio G'zOne Commando promises to change that, as it is the first rugged Android phone from Casio and Verizon Wireless. It's padded from head to toe in durable material with the classic G'zOne look and feel. Indeed, it also comes equipped with G'zGear, Casio's suite of outdoor-friendly apps. The G'zOne Commando ships with Android 2.2 adorned with a custom UI. Notable features include high-security encryption for corporate e-mail, Wi-Fi hot-spot capability for up to five devices, and a 5-megapixel rear camera plus LED.
One glance at the Commando will tell you that this is a product in the Casio G'zOne series. It has the trademark black and red markings on the exterior, and the surrounding hard rubber casing is secured tightly with eight visible screws. Its diamondlike shape is softened by curved corners and doesn't look as severe as previous G'zOne phones, but the overall design is still quite masculine. Measuring 5.08 inches long by 2.58 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep, the G'zOne Commando is bulkier than most Android smartphones, and its 5.45 ounces gives it considerable heft in the hand.
Its size and weight are largely due to its protective shell. Like the other G'zOne phones, the Commando is military-certified (under MIL-STD-810G certification) to be resistant against water, shock, rain, dust, vibration, and more. The display is made out of Corning Gorilla Glass, which is designed to not crack easily, so you should be able to toss it around without having to worry about a scratch. While we weren't able to replicate the conditions of the certification, we did dunk the Commando in water a few times, and were pleasantly surprised to see that it could still answer a phone call underwater. We should warn that the phone is only water-resistant as long as you have the open ports plugged up with the accompanying rubber stopper.
The Commando has a decent size 3.6-inch touch-screen display with a 480x800-pixel WVGA resolution. It's not quite as luscious as high-resolution displays that are 4 inches or larger, but we still found it colorful and bright for the most part. Our main complaint about the display is with the touch screen itself. Even though the capacitive screen was responsive for the most part, the tap accuracy doesn't seem as refined as it could be. This is especially apparent when using the virtual XT9 keyboard. The T9 Trace software (similar to Swype) did help in speeding up typing, but even that wasn't safe from error. You cannot switch back to the stock Android keyboard.
Underneath the display are four touch-sensitive Android shortcut keys that lead to the Home screen, a menu for the current screen, the Back function, and Search. Beneath that are the external speaker grille and the microphone. Above the display are sensors for temperature, light, and proximity. On the left spine are the volume rocker, a tactile key that can be mapped to any application, charging terminals to be used on an optional desktop cradle, and the power key. The 3.5 mm headset jack, microUSB charging port, LED notification indicator, and camera key are on the right.
Flip the headset over, and you'll find the 5-megapixel camera lens next to an LED that can act as either the camera flash or a flashlight. The battery cover is securely locked with a switch; to unlock it, simply slide it over to the left. The microSD card slot is located behind the battery.
The Casio G'zOne Commando comes with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a preinstalled 8GB microSD card, and reference material.
The Casio G'zOne Commando ships with Android 2.2, and for the most part the interface stays true to the standard Android experience. There are five customizable home screens, and the main menu has those black fading edges when you scroll up and down. The icons look the same as well. However, Casio did add a custom G'zOne snap-out menu to the usual UI.
Along the bottom row of the home screen, you will see the phone icon, a square main-menu icon, and a round Snap button. By default, the Snap button is on the lower left corner. Presuming you're holding the phone with your right hand, you can then use your thumb to drag the Snap button out along a curved guideline. Immediately, the snap-out menu appears, showing up to five customizable shortcuts.
Still keeping your thumb on the screen, you can then drag the Snap button back in the opposite direction to lock the menu in place and highlight the function you wish to select. When you remove your thumb, the selected application will launch. However, if you drag the snap-out menu all the way to the right and let go, you will see all five shortcuts. If you wish, you can customize the shortcuts by selecting the gear icon. You can also drag the Snap button to the lower right corner of the home screen instead so that it's easier to use if you're left-handed.
The snap-out menu is designed to give you quick access to frequently used apps at the flick of a finger, but in actuality, we found it a little annoying. Flicking the menu out wasn't as smooth and precise as we would like. Instead of sweeping out in one fluid motion, the menu would sometimes jerk a little bit as we dragged our thumb back to select a function. In the end, we ended up just accessing apps the usual way by adding shortcuts to the home screen.