Apparently, the rugged smartphone business is profitable because manufacturers continue to make durable phones and release them. Not only are they still being made, but they're getting better. I remember a time when rugged phones were the outcasts of the cellphone market. Recently, though, these ultra-durable devices are packing internals that can keep pace with a lot of phones on the market. Not only are they rugged, they're actually good enough to use.
The Rugby Smart by Samsung is designed to be water, dust, shock, and temperature proof and is IP 67.00 and MIL-STD-810 certified. It can withstand drops from 6.6 feet, temperatures from -60 degrees Fahrenheit to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and can survive blowing rain, dust, sand, high humidity, solar radiation, salt, fog, and thermal shock, at least according to Samsung. I'll have to put it to the test to see if it's actually rugged enough for your lifestyle. In the meantime, here are my first impressions of the Rugby Smart after using it for about a day.
- For being a rugged phone, the design is quite modern and stylish. Obviously, it's not going to rival the iPhone or one of Samsung's high-end smartphones in the design department, but it's certainly not hideous like some rugged phones I've tested. The back features a textured finish and the sides are molded with rubber. It's thin for a rugged phone, only .35-inches in depth.
- The 3.7-inch Super AMOLED display looks great. It's crisp and the color saturation is excellent. So far, the touchscreen is smooth and responsive. The screen is made of Gorilla Glass to add to its durable nature. A 3.7-inch display seems small after using so many of these new devices that feature 4+-inch displays, so that may be a concern going forward. This will obviously be a factor if you have large hands or fingers.
- The Rugby Smart ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread and TouchWiz 4.0. I'm somewhat surprised by the decision to use Gingerbread but I'm even more surprised by the inclusion of the latest version of TouchWiz. This is not something you typically see in a phone of this caliber. TouchWiz 4.0 brings several improvements to the UI, including a refined design, resizable widgets, motion zooming using the accelerometer and gyroscope, and more.
- I've been impressed with the phone's performance thus far. It's powered by a 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor backed up by 512 MB of RAM. I haven't noticed any lag or major slowdowns in the short time I've been using it. Web browsing has also been smooth and enjoyable. A quick Quadrant Standard benchmark test gave the phone a score of 1,425.
- I've yet to perform many tests with the phone's 5-megapixel camera. It features an LED flash and autofocus, and it captures 720p HD video. A video sample will be uploaded within a few days. The phone also has a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera.
- I'm not expecting to get excellent performance from the Rugby Smart's 1650 mAh battery, especially considering it's a 4G phone. Samsung estimates that you should get eight hours of talk time or 16.7 days of standby time. I haven't been able to perform any battery tests just yet so those results will have to wait for the full review.
- As I mentioned in the above bullet point, the Rugby Smart supports AT&T's HSPA+ network and is capable of speeds of 14.4 Mbps for downloads. I've historically gotten inconsistent and slow speeds when testing AT&T phones in the Dallas area. I've done a couple of speed tests with the Rugby Smart and I'm getting an average of 700 kbps for downloads. This is quite slow for an HSPA+ device and I hope it will improve over the course of the test period.
For those who need a reliable, rugged smartphone, the Rugby Smart appears to be a good option. I can't pass judgement until I've been able to test it fully, but all signs are positive so far. The price isn't bad either at $99 on contract. Keep it locked on PhoneDog to see my video and written reviews of the Samsung Rugby Smart.