With the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona around the corner, handset makers are beginning to rumble. Sprint and Kyocera are pushing out the Torque, a rugged 4G LTE Android smartphone. The Torque will make its retail debut on March 8 against heavy competition from both Samsung and HTC.

Selling for $100 after a $50 mail-in reward card rebate and a two-year contract, the Torque is powered by Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. The device promises 18.9 hours of talk time on a single charge. Sprint is offering its Truly Unlimited 4G LTE data Relevant Products/Services plan without throttling on the Torque.

David Owens, vice president of Product Development at Sprint, called out the durability and sound quality of the Torque: "Whether you're on a construction site, an outdoor adventurer or a mom that worries about their kids breaking their phone, Torque can hold up to those drops, spills or dunks."

Torque is Tough

What makes Torque so tough? The smartphone is built to Military Standard 810G (MilSpec) to withstand dust, shock, vibration, solar radiation, humidity, blowing rain, low pressure, salt fog and extreme temperatures. The Android smartphone also meets IP67 standards for dust, sprayed water and full immersion in water 1 meter deep for as long as 30 minutes.

The Torque is the first phone stateside to include Kyocera's new Smart Sonic Receiver technology. The technology transmits sounds not only as traditional sound waves, but also as vibrations carried by body tissue directly to the eardrum and inner ear for unparalleled sound clarity even in the noisiest environments.

Kyocera also has a unique marketing Relevant Products/Services angle for the Torque. The handset maker commissioned Bear Grylls, Everest mountaineer, former British Special Forces, star of television's "Man vs. Wild," and the father of three active boys, as a spokesman for the device.

"Bear Grylls is the ultimate survivor, in both his extreme adventures and the challenges he deals with day-to-day like the rest of us," said Eric Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of global sales and marketing at Kyocera Communications. "Most of us know him as an intrepid adventurer who has withstood the most extreme environments, but he's also a businessman and a parent, and he appreciates the value of a smart, rugged device like Torque that can seamlessly support those different sides of his lifestyle."

Sprint Network Upgrades

Finally, the Torque features Sprint Direct Connect push-to-talk service. In 2012, Sprint added more coverage area to its Sprint Direct Connect push-to-talk service, creating three times the push-to-talk coverage of its Nextel national network by adding roaming and Sprint 1xRTT coverage areas.

Sprint was careful to point out that the expansion of the Sprint Direct Connect network marks a milestone for Network Vision. Network Vision is Sprint's nationwide network upgrade. Sprint plans to consolidate multiple network technologies into one seamless network with the goal of increasing efficiency and improving network coverage, call quality and data speeds for customers.

Sprint introduced its all-new 4G LTE network in July 2012 and now offers service in 58 markets.