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Japan's latest gift to Thailand

Kyocera rejigs an acclaimed phone for I-Mobile: Renamed the IQX KEN, it's a beauty

Samart I-Mobile is touting the IQX KEN as its new flagship Android-based phone with its fast processor, five-inch Full HD display and 4G connection.

I-Mobile's first made-in-Japan phone is actually Kyocera's Digno M re-released for the I-Mobile brand. Avirut Lerddirekrat of Smart Multimedia says Thailand is the first foreign country where it's available.

The phone is a sleek off-white, light in the hand at 134 grams, the smooth, curved back tapering from nine millimetres to just three at the edges. The Digno M won the iF design award in January.

The KEN is powered by a fast quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 MSM8974 processor, running at 2.2GHz. It's equipped with two gigabytes of working memory and another 32GB are inside. A microSD card boosts storage by up to 64GB.

The bright, five-inch Full HD TFT LCD screen is 1080x1920 pixels in resolution.

The phone is as waterproof as can be - top IPX8 level - and dust-resistant at the IP5X level. Kyocera says it can spend 30 minutes at 1.5 metres underwater and still function, making it great for the beach or pool or while it's raining.

Being a reporter, I had to test that claim, so I dunked my KEN in water. Sure enough: no damage. You just have to make sure the card slots are firmly covered. The body itself is permanently sealed - you won't be opening the back to change the battery. The ports for the stereo jack and USB remain open, but water can't get inside from there.

You get a good-quality camera with a 13-megapixel CMOS image sensor. I got some fine shots in decent lighting. There are even several fun effects for jazzing up your pictures.

Both 3G and 4G LTE connections are possible and I discovered using my home Wi-Fi connection that the KEN supports the fastest Wi-Fi 11ac protocol as well.

It seems weird at first glance that there's no main speaker up front. In fact, there are no speakers at all. Instead you have Kyocera's award-winning Smart Sonic Receiver, which sends the vibrations of a song or a voice directly to the eardrum. Kyocera says the technology is so effective that you can hear clearly even while wearing heavy-duty ear protection. You can hear a caller's voice fine even in a noisy crowd.

Since there's no speaker, you place your ear anywhere on the display. This is "Tissue-Conduction Audio" technology. The whole display vibrates to transmit sound waves, so tunes and voices get to your ear both directly and by air conduction. The screen blocks ambient noise while you're chatting, making it easier to hear the other party, even in hellish environments. I could stay on top of a conversation walking through the din of a city street.

The KEN uses a Nano SIM, which is quite convenient to install. The minimalist design means there are just three buttons. The power button is to the right of the main camera lens and two volume buttons are on the left, slightly lower. This makes things convenient for a right-handed user: The right index finger locks or unlocks the phone. Holding the phone in your left hand requires turning it over and pressing Power with the right.

The user-interface applications are grouped in five categories - Frequently Used, Function, Communication, and Tools and Downloads. The Alarm Clock, Sound Recorder, Camera and Calculator are in the Function group, for example.

One interesting app is E-saving Settings, where you can customise phone usage to prolong battery life. If you're concerned about your health, you'll love the Pedometer app. It counts your steps or the distance you run or bicycle and estimates the corresponding number of calories burned off. You must first enter your height, age, sex and weight.

The KEN performs impressively thanks to its generous RAM and quad-core processor. The menus and touch screen are quite responsive and scrolling pages is fast and smooth. I tested its handling of a 3D game and video clips, including from YouTube, and everything ran smoothly.

Dolby technology lets the phone serve as a good-quality music player. I popped on my in-ear Razor headphones and was impressed by the sound - it was clear, with good details and decent bass.

The KEN is a very interesting premium-grade smartphone, especially when you compare its price - Bt16,900 - to those of other brands' flagship phones.

KEY SPECS

Operating System: Android 4.2.2

CPU: MSM8974 2.2GHz quad-core

Display: 5-inch Full HD TFT LCD

Main camera: 13-megapixel CMOS (facial recognition, auto focus, anti-blurring features)

Front-facing camera: 1.2-megapixel CMOS

Battery: 2,600mAh

Memory: 2GB RAM

Storage: 32GB ROM, expandable with microSDXC (64GB max)

Water resistance: IPX5 / IPX8

Dust resistance: IP5X

Networks: LTE, GSM, UMTS

Connectivity: WiFi IEEE802.11b/g/n/a/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth ver4.0 +EDR

Original technology: Smart Sonic Receiver

Size: 69?138?9.9mm

Weight: 134g


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