Rugged phones no longer look like rocks

Brian Cooley/CNET

It is 2020 and you are still placing a tacky $15 cowl in your $1,000 telephone, making a mockery of the hundreds of thousands of {dollars} that Apple and Samsung spent to engineer it. Rugged phones that do not want instances aren’t new, however they normally appear like components that fell off a dump truck. Now a brand new breed of sturdy telephones is right here with some mixture of slimness, magnificence and distinctive options that may curiosity you in unsure instances.

For instance, the Samsung XCover Pro and Cat S52 lay declare to being the lightest and thinnest rugged telephones, respectively (although the Cat S52 is simply available in the US as a gray-market device). The larger however modern Cat S61 presents distinctive sensors for temperature and distance. The diminutive UniHertz AtomXL writes a brand new web page within the rugged telephone stylebook, whereas the Kyocera DuraForce Pro 2 and Sonim XP8 make no apologies for the rugged traces that envelop these apocalypse-ready gadgets.

Ruggedness and water resistance

These telephones snort at being dropped on a tough flooring, dunked in water and even immersed in liquid cleaner — that first one being a reasonably neat trick at a time once we’re disinfecting the whole lot. The ruggedness credential for many telephones is Military Standard 810-G, which encompasses a lot of specifications however is often described as the power to face up to a 1.5-meter (4.9-foot) drop with out injury. All of the telephones in our listing are 810-G-rated.

A telephone’s resistance to overseas matter is signified by an IP code, sometimes IP68. The 6 in IP68 means the telephone is closed to mud and grit, whereas the Eight means the telephone is protected towards water immersion “under conditions…agreed between the manufacturer and user“, in keeping with the Worldwide Electrotechnical Fee, which oversees the usual. Meaning not all IP68 scores are the identical. It may well denote immersion resistance starting from 5 toes for 30 minutes for the Samsung XCover Professional, 2 meters for 30 minutes for the Kyrocera DuraForce Professional 2 or as a lot as Three meters for 60 minutes for the Cat S61. Learn the tech specs before you purchase, however all of the telephones on our listing have some degree of IP68 safety. The Sonim XP8 and Cat S61 obtain an IP69 score, indicating that they will additionally resist direct sprays of liquid.

Among the telephones on this roundup have a tethered cap that seals their USB-C jacks. These are tedious in day by day use and complicate inserting the telephone in a desktop charging stand. Since most telephones on the listing do not use a cap to attain water and dirt resistance, I would suggest conserving that in thoughts when searching for a rugged telephone.

Push to Speak

With fires, energy outages, floods and different uncommon occasions changing into extra regular, many individuals are becoming a member of native neighborhood response teams or CERT teams, which depend on radio-style communications however not essentially with precise radios. Push to Speak over Mobile apps resembling Zello permit a telephone to work like a walkie-talkie with anybody else working the identical app. Sprint and Verizon supply comparable providers as plan choices. 

Push to Talk apps

So some ways to have a walkie-talkie in your telephone. PTToC apps for each shoppers, enterprises and first responders have proliferated in recent times with the vast unfold of 4G LTE that permits them to behave very very like an precise radio, however with way more smarts.

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All the telephones on our listing besides the Cat S52 have one or two devoted buttons that may be set to Push to Speak, and all of them can map that button to Zello, the most popular PTT platform. It is a extra intuitive expertise than tapping a button on a display to speak, although PTToC providers do not work except you have got a Wi-Fi or mobile knowledge connection.

Push to Talk button on Samsung XCover Pro

Many of the telephones in our roundup have a minimum of one assignable {hardware} button that may be mapped to a number of features resembling Push to Speak, utilizing the digicam or sending out an emergency beacon alert by way of an app.

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The Unihertz AtomXL is also a “real” radio, suitable with the kind of radios (GMRS and FRS radios, to be extra particular) which might be typically carried by neighborhood volunteers, in addition to with some ham radio frequencies. It may well transmit and obtain on frequencies from 400MHz to 480MHz, although that capacity continues to be pending FCC kind approval within the US. Additionally they require an exterior antenna, which attaches to a small, threaded SMA antenna jack on the telephone.

Unihertz Atom XL is also a real radio

The Unihertz Atom XL can talk with FRS and GMRS radios, in addition to with UHF ham radios, although such use is pending US kind approval by the FCC.

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The Sonim XP8 additionally has true radio functionality by way of an elective Xpand module that turns it into a transceiver on the 900MHz ISM band. That is not doubtless acquainted or helpful to the common individual, although. The XP8 is not suitable with the FRS and GMRS radios sometimes carried by emergency response volunteers.

Twin SIMs

Many of the telephones on our listing help twin SIMs, giving them one other sort of ruggedness: community resiliency. Should you’re prepared to spend the cash, having two carriers activated on a telephone can imply the distinction between having service or not throughout a disaster. Organising a pair of technically distinct carriers on a telephone can considerably scale back your odds of being offline when networks are jammed or broken. For instance, you would possibly activate each Verizon and AT&T on a dual-SIM telephone, or mix a Google Fi activation with both AT&T or Verizon for a digital three-network telephone since Google Fi faucets into each Dash and T-Mobile.

Samsung XCover Pro dual SIM and removeable battery

The Samsung XCover Professional options each twin bodily SIM help in addition to a swappable battery.

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Three of the telephones on our listing can be found with LTE Band 14 help to allow them to use AT&T FirstNet, a special mobile network that can prioritize you and preempt other network users at instances of maximum community load, like throughout pure disasters. You possibly can’t simply join FirstNet by having a suitable telephone, nevertheless; it’s worthwhile to even be sponsored by way of a collaborating emergency providers organisation you are concerned with.

Entrance-facing audio system

Many of the telephones we feature right this moment make a giant sacrifice within the title of design: Their audio system aren’t aimed toward our ears, however sideways from the telephone. A few the telephones on our listing rectify that with front-facing audio system that blow away the meek quantity ranges on mainstream telephones. 

Sonim XP8 front speakers

The loudest audio system of any telephone on this group are the front-facing ones on the Sonim XP8.

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That is helpful for PTT apps, particularly while you’re in a busy or out of doors location. However be aware my pet peeve: Speakerphone mode is means overused right this moment, so blare sparingly. We do not need to hear your dialog or FaceTime. Get some earbuds when a speakerphone is not mission-critical.

The Sonim XP8 has a protracted historical past with skilled first responders and has developed the screw-down Safe Audio Connector to supply audio and energy to a wide range of speakers, mics and combinations of the two.

Replaceable batteries

Bear in mind when many telephones had these? They made cost anxiousness much less of a difficulty. Simply pop in a spare battery and be again at 100% cost in seconds. The Samsung XCover Professional and Sonim XP8 have swappable batteries as a part of their ready-for-anything ethos. Even the quickest cost cannot compete with this straightforward resolution.

Oh, yeah, actually good cameras and screens

Rugged telephones used to deal with digicam and show high quality as elective, however these new fashions depart little missing in the case of these options. They might not have the variety of cameras discovered on flagship telephones just like the iPhone 11 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S20, however the cameras they do have are ample in megapixels and reap the benefits of the Google picture processing constructed into Android. The gallery of comparative pictures under is outstanding principally in how unremarkable the photographs are: They’re barely totally different from the standard snapshot taken with a flagship telephone. 

The Cat S61 takes digicam imaging a step additional with an built-in FLIR thermal sensor, which Cat says is correct to temperature variations of 0.1 levels Celsius whereas scanning as much as 100 folks a minute at a distance of 5 toes. That sort of thermal scanning perform might turn out to be extra well-liked now we’re dwelling in a coronavirus pandemic.

CAT S61 FLIR image

Who knew the coldest a part of a cat is its nostril? The FLIR temperature sensor on the again of the Cat S61 is correct to 0.1 levels celsius.

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All of the telephones on our listing use toughened glass. The 2 Cat telephones have the most recent Corning Gorilla Glass 6, which is extra immune to repeated and better drops than its extra generally discovered predecessor.  

Dimension and weight

Whereas among the latest rugged telephones are nearly indistinguishable from customary telephones, some are nonetheless cumbersome and pleased with it. A number of stand out within the stack under, however most are just like customary telephones.

Rugged phones incognito

You possibly can inform a few these are rugged telephones, however the remainder mix in with regular ones. From high to backside: Unihertz Atom XL, Cat S52, Sonim XP8. Samsung XCover Professional, Samsung Galaxy S8 with cowl, Pixel 3A with cowl, Kyocera DuraForce Professional 2, Cat S61.

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This chart exhibits the burden and have variations between the telephones. General, the Samsung Galaxy XCover Professional and Cat S52 are standouts in skinny design with gentle, rugged building. And bear in mind: These do not want a canopy.

Worth, USD


$485 (est.)


$648 (Verizon)

$500 (unlocked)

$444 (Verizon)

Programmable buttons







Twin SIM



Y (varies by area)




Swappable battery







Entrance speaker








4-inch, 1,136×640-pixel, Gorilla Glass 3

5.6-inch, 1,440×720-pixel, Gorilla Glass 6  

5.2-inch, 1,920×1,080-pixel, Gorilla Glass 6  

5-inch, 1,920×1,080-pixel, Gorilla Glass 3  

6.3-inch, 2,340×1,080-pixel, Gorilla Glass 5  

5-inch, 1,920×1,080-pixel, Kyocera Sapphire Protect  









7.9 oz.

7.Four oz.

8.Eight oz.

11.Eight oz.

6.Three oz.

8.Three oz.


Notably small and an actual radio

Thinnest rugged telephone on the earth

FLIR and distance-measurement sensors  

Function-laden and hard as nails

Candy spot for a brand new era of robust telephones

HD Voice and Qi wi-fi charging

Is rugged best for you?

If you’d like the most recent in superior video seize, computational images or a laptop-class CPU, these telephones aren’t fairly prepared to exchange your present machine. However if you happen to’re uninterested in breaking telephones, repeatedly use a PTT app resembling Zello or are huge on out of doors adventures or public service volunteer work, assume past the same old suspects subsequent time you are available in the market for a telephone. These new rugged options make telephones excitingly distinct once more.

#Rugged #telephones #longer #rocks


Brian Cooley