If you find yourself working or playing in an environment that would be hazardous to a shiny, smashable smartphone – or you’re just downright clumsy – here are some hardcore, hardened handsets for the manne and Tank Girl(s) out there.
Sonim phones are used by the US military and in 2011, Sonim set and holds the Guinness World Record for the highest mobile phone drop with its XP3300 Force, which was dropped from 25m and survived. The Sonim XP7 is another of the company’s ultra-rugged smartphones. It has handy features such as a touchscreen that can be viewed in direct sunlight and that responds to touch even if you are wearing dirty or wet work gloves. It’s fitted with an extra loud speaker, a powerful battery (providing 40 hours of talk time and 1 000 hours on standby), it can be dropped from 2m and also remain submerged at 2m for up to 30 minutes. It comes with a three-year comprehensive warranty. On the downside, the screen resolution is only 480 by 800 pixels, but this is a function-over-form kind of phone.
The brand Caterpillar (or CAT) conjures up images of huge diggers and steel-capped leather work boots and it’s not surprising that the CAT S60 is a heavy-duty phone. The S60 is the latest, top-of-the-range CAT handset that is built from a mixture of a hardened polymer and reinforced die cast metal, with Gorilla Glass 4 screen. It’s drop-proof from heights of up to 1.8m. It is also waterproof to depths of 5m for up to 60 minutes, if the switch that seals the speaker grille is active, otherwise you can safely dunk it 2m below the surface. The phone has an SOS button that can be customised to call emergency services and send out location alerts. It is also the first phone with a built-in thermal imaging sensor.
The Blackview is a Chinese phone that has an excellent build quality with a metallic frame, is waterproof for 30 minutes in up to 1m of water, and is also shockproof. We’ve seen YouTube videos where it survives a car driving over it and carrots being chopped with a sharp knife directly on the screen, which is made from Gorilla Glass 3; although we haven’t had our hands on one to test this ourselves yet. It runs Android 6.0 and has 32GB internal memory and another 32GB in the SD card. It features GPS, an FM radio and Google Play. The display resolution is 1 280×720 pixels, which is the same as the CAT S60. It has a 13 megapixel rear camera and five megapixel camera on front (again, the same as the CAT S60) and is a dual micro SIM phone.
The entry level CAT S30 is a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails phone that’s drop-proof from heights of up to 1.8m just like its big brother the CAT S60. However, while both phones can endure 60 minutes in the drink, the S30 can only do so in water no deeper than 1m, while the S60 can safely sit at 5m below the surface. There’s a vast difference in the S30’s memory, screen resolution, battery life and in the quality of the camera when compared to the S60 and the S30 doesn’t come with features like the thermal imaging tech. All this lagging behind the top-of-the-range CAT phone means the S30 is a lot cheaper. It’s also worth considering the CAT S40 that is sandwiched in the middle of the range.
RugGear RG310 rugged phone
This RugGear phone looks pretty old school with its physical keypad and tiny touchscreen, but it’s a smartphone running Android and most importantly, it’s tough. The phone is waterproof for 30 minutes in up to 2m and is also impervious to dust and microparticles. It can withstand 2m drops onto concrete and is fitted with an SOS button that, when pressed, will call up to three SOS contacts in succession, until the call is answered. It also carries an MIL-STD 810G certification that is normally required for products designed for military use.
Price R3 499
Already have a non-macho phone?
If you have a highly polished, metrosexual phone with a fragile touchscreen (just like us), this is what you can do to toughen it up.
Cocoon your phone with an extraordinarily tough military-spec case from Urban Armor Gear. An iPhone 6 protected by an Urban Armor Gear cover was taken up to space, with a balloon and dropped back to Earth. A parachute slowed the fall somewhat, but the manufacturer reports that after recharging the phone, it remained in perfect working order. There are covers available for a variety of Apple and Android phones.
Price About R460–R785
Get a waterproof and shockproof case like the Lifeproof Nuud or Fre or the popular OtterBox.
Price around R1 000 but prices vary
A screen protector won’t turn your phone into a toughie, but it will prevent scratches and make the screen slightly more impervious to cracks.