Skinny, touch-screen phones may be the flavor du jour of the cell phone world, but there are still those of us who want a handset that can take a beating. Ruggedized phones are nothing new, of course, but few are attractive or designed with the everyday consumer in mind. The Casio G’zOne series of phones aimed to change that perception, with sporty-looking handsets that are military-tested to be tough as nails. The Type-V was the first model; it had EV-DO and a megapixel camera, but no Bluetooth. The Type-S was the second; though it had Bluetooth, it had no EV-DO, and only a VGA camera. In 2008, Casio and Verizon have finally settled down on a model that has all the desired features wrapped up in a striking new design. Dubbed the G’zOne Boulder (so named for its angular, rock-like look), this handset has EV-DO, push-to-talk, a megapixel camera, and Bluetooth, as well as access to V Cast Music, which wasn’t on either of its predecessors. The Boulder looks to be the perfect all-in-one durable handset for outdoor enthusiasts, industrial workers, or the clumsy among us. It’s currently available for $129.99 with a two-year service agreement. If your company doesn’t allow camera phones, the Boulder is also available in a sans-camera version.
The Boulder is one tough cell phone, and it shows. It has jagged, rocky angles along its front exterior that makes the handset deserving of its namesake. But that doesn’t mean it’s not attractive; the Boulder has a simple stripe down the middle of the phone, plus a round external display that looks a lot like a typical sports stopwatch. At 4.9-ounces, it’s not a fashion phone by any means, but we like the overall sporty look. We can easily see someone using this on, say, the ski slopes, without looking out of place.
Measuring 3.9 inches long by 2 inches wide by 0.9 inch thick, the Boulder is also covered in rubberized bumpers and a hard plastic chassis, all built to take a beating. Military-certified (under code MIL-STD-810F, if you care about that sort of thing) to withstand water, shock, dust, immersion, vibration, salt, fog, humidity, solar radiation, high altitude, and extreme temperatures, the Boulder is certainly no wimp. There’s even a locking mechanism with the battery cover so you can be sure the battery won’t get damaged (you can unlock it by using a small coin), and all the ports (microSD and charging slots) have a tight rubberized cover as well. We weren’t able to truly test out the durability of the phone, but we did dunk it in some water and throw it against a wall a few times to no ill effect.
As we mentioned earlier, the Boulder has a round, monochrome external display, similar to the ones on its predecessors. It measures 1.2-inches across, and displays the date, time, caller ID, battery, and signal strength information. When the phone is closed, you can also use it to view music player information, as well as the electronic compass, the countdown timer, and the stop watch. Even though the external display is mono, you can still use it as a self-portrait viewfinder when the camera is activated. You can change the clock format on the external display if you like. Above the display is a camera lens, plus a bright flash, which can also be used as a flashlight. On the left spine are the push-to-talk key, the volume rocker, and a key that acts as the voice command key when the phone is open, but acts as the compass/countdown timer/stop watch key when the phone is closed (you switch between the different options by holding down the key). The microSD card slot is on the right.
Flip open the phone and you’ll find a very nice 2.0-inch, 65,000-color display. Even though it only supports 65,000 colors, we still thought it was a lovely looking screen, with bright tones and legible font. Though it comes with the default tab-style Verizon menu interface, you can choose to select a Grid style configured to either a messaging or personalizing focus. You can adjust the screen’s backlight time, the clock format, the dial fonts, and the contrast.
The navigation pad consists of two soft keys, a four-way toggle with a middle OK key, a dedicated camera/camcorder key, plus a speakerphone key that acts as a flashlight key if you hold it down for a longer press. The toggle’s up, left, and down arrows act as shortcuts to three user-defined functions, while the right arrow leads to a mini My Shortcuts menu with up to four user-defined shortcuts. Of course, the array is followed by the Send, Clear, and End/Power keys under that. We found all the keys well-spaced apart and quite easy to dial and text. The keypad on the Boulder carries on the theme of its namesake by incorporating tiny peaks and valleys in the design of the keys, which results in a pleasant tactile experience.
While we’re fans of the Boulder’s rugged design, we’re even more pleased with its feature package. It has all the features of both the Type-V and the Type-S, plus a few that weren’t in either. But first, let’s start with the basics. The Boulder has a 500-entry phone book, which seems a little small for our tastes, but each contact is able to hold up to four phone numbers and two e-mail addresses. Each contact can also be organized into groups, matched with a photo for caller ID, or with one of 12 polyphonic ring tones and alert sounds. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone (which can be activated prior to a phone call), an alarm clock, a calendar, a calculator, a stop watch, a countdown timer, a world clock, and a notepad.