LAB REPORT: ONE TOUGH PHONE

It's Indestructible. Well, Almost.

The G'zOne Type-S doesn't mind a little splash in a puddle. Or a two-story fall. But an extended ocean swim is probably not a good idea.
The G'zOne Type-S doesn't mind a little splash in a puddle. Or a two-story fall. But an extended ocean swim is probably not a good idea. (Verizon Wireless)

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

RESEARCH QUESTION: Verizon recently started selling the G'zOne Type-S, billed as a rugged phone for customers with outdoor lifestyles. The phone meets military standards for water resistance, water immersion, humidity, dropping and dust resistance. It's no beauty, weighing in at a hefty 5.1 ounces in a chunky block. But many would gladly give up svelte lines for a phone that could stand up to an accidental spin dry. We wondered: How much pain can it survive?

METHODOLOGY: The phone had lots of street cred even before we took a crack at it. Reviewers from publications across the country had already taken their shots at it and its earlier version, the G'zOne Type-V. The G'zOne had been frozen in a vat of water, baked in an oven, dropped two stories, washed with a load of laundry, tumbled on ocean-submerged rocks, taken swimming in a pool, dropped in a toilet, pounded with a rubber mallet, etc. The only time it malfunctioned was when a reporter in Detroit stuffed it into a snowdrift and ran over it with his car, twice; even then, it could still make calls.

I decided to start small, gingerly letting it fall onto my tiled kitchen floor. No problem. Emboldened, I dropped it several times. Still no problem. I made calls, videos, took pictures, sent text messages. I did a "Will it float?" test by throwing it in a basin of water. It sunk like a stone, which was a little disappointing. But it still worked fine.

I took it to the beach, using its cool GPS system to lead the way. I dropped it in the sand, dusted it off and successfully dialed my daughter. I couldn't wait to get it back to the condo's swimming pool to take an underwater video. And I was seriously contemplating tossing it from my fifth-floor balcony onto the grass below. But first, I sent my husband into the surf, instructing him to call my cellphone from there.

Beachgoers looked on curiously as he headed in. A wave swept over them as he dialed. My phone rang twice and then . . . nothing. Maybe its charge was low, or its signal weak. I dried it off, took it home and plugged it into its charger. But by the next morning, the G'zOne was on life support. It could still make and receive calls, but most of its other functions had ceased working.

A day later, its screen turned black.

RESULTS: How had I become the only reviewer ever to kill the G'zOne? I started to blame my phone parenting skills. Or maybe this particular phone had been defective. I was looking for excuses because I had, for some odd reason, gotten attached to the ugly little guy.

John H. Johnson, Verizon Wireless's director of corporate communications, didn't blame me, although he did describe in an e-mail how other reviewers had tossed it from a second-floor window onto pavement and tied it to the bumper of their cars without a problem. "Assuming your phone was not immersed in more than one meter of water and that all the ports were fully closed, it should not have failed and may have been defective," he said. Johnson offered to send me another phone to try, but I had lost my appetite for destruction.

I went back to the Verizon Wireless specifications looking for more answers. Even though the phone passed multiple tests, including being submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes, the user guide does say, "The device is not water-proof. By placing it under a faucet or shower and adding water-pressure, or submerging it inside water for a long time, the warranty will be invalid because the device will become non-repairable." To say nothing of salt water.

CONCLUSIONS: Even with my sad ending, I liked this phone. The G'zOne will take much more abuse than the average cellphone. Cutting-edge techies will pass because it's pretty basic -- for example, it doesn't support music features such as V Cast -- but it is Bluetooth capable and does offer VZ navigator capabilities. At $150 (after $50 rebate and new two-year customer agreement), it may be a bargain for teens, outdoorsmen, construction workers, klutzes and others who are hard on their phones. But leave the crazy tests to the professionals, and don't lend it to me.

-- Carol Sottili

Get the phone specs from Verizon Wireless (http://www.verizonwireless.com).


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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