Greatest rugged telephones that you simply will not be ashamed to be seen with

rugged phones

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 tens of millions of {dollars} that Apple and Samsung spent to engineer it. Rugged telephones that do not want circumstances aren’t new, however often seemed like components that fell off a dump truck. Thankfully, a brand new breed of sturdy telephones is right here with a mixture of slimness, magnificence and distinctive options that can curiosity you in unsure instances.

For instance, the Samsung XCover Professional and CAT S52 lay declare to being the lightest and thinnest rugged telephones, respectively (although the CAT S52 is barely out there within the US as a grey market system). The larger however glossy 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 Professional 2 and Sonim XP8 make no apologies for the rugged strains that envelop these apocalypse-ready units.

Ruggedness and water-resistance

These telephones chuckle at being dropped on a tough flooring, dunked in water and even immersed in liquid cleaner — the latter of which is a reasonably neat trick at a time once we’re disinfecting every part. The ruggedness credential for many telephones is Navy Commonplace 810-G (MIL-STD-810G), which encompasses lots of specs however is often described as the flexibility to face up to a 1.5-meter drop (4.9 toes) with out harm. 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 dust- and grit-tight, whereas the “8” means the telephone is protected towards water to a depth of 1 meter. All of the telephones in our listing are IP68 rated, aside from the CAT S61, which is IP69 rated, that means it may well additionally resist direct sprays of liquid along with immersion.

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 realize water and mud resistance, I would advocate retaining that in thoughts when searching for a rugged telephone.

Push to Speak

With fires, energy outages, floods and different uncommon occasions changing into extra ordinary, many individuals are becoming a member of native neighborhood response teams or CERT groups, which depend on radio-style communications however not essentially with precise radios. Push to Speak over Mobile apps corresponding to Zello enable a telephone to work like a walkie-talkie with anybody else working the identical app. Dash and Verizon provide related companies 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 lately with the large unfold of 4G LTE that permits them to behave very very similar to an precise radio, however with much 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 preferred PTT platform. It is a extra intuitive expertise than tapping a button on a display to speak, although PTTOC companies do not work until you have got a Wi-Fi or mobile information 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 capabilities corresponding to Push to Speak, utilizing the digital camera or sending out an emergency beacon alert through an app.

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The Unihertz AtomXL can be a “actual” radio, appropriate with the kind of radios (GMRS and FRS radios, to be extra particular) which can be usually carried by neighborhood volunteers, in addition to with some ham radio frequencies. It reaches these frequencies via 400 to 480 MHz transmit and obtain talents, however they’re nonetheless pending FCC sort approval within the US. In addition 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 sort approval by the FCC.

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The Sonim XP8 additionally has true radio potential through an non-compulsory Xpand module that turns it right into a transceiver on the 900 MHz ISM band. That is not possible acquainted or helpful to the common particular person, although. The XP8 is not appropriate 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. When you’re keen 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 cut 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-Cell.

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 GSM Band 14 help to allow them to use AT&T FirstNet, a particular cellular community that prioritizes you and preempts different community customers at instances of maximum community load, like throughout pure disasters. You possibly can’t simply join FirstNet by having a appropriate telephone, nonetheless, you want to even be sponsored through a taking part emergency companies organisation you are concerned with.

Entrance-facing audio system

Many of the telephones we supply right now make an enormous sacrifice within the identify 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 whenever you’re in a busy or outside location. However observe my pet peeve: Speakerphone mode is manner overused right now, so blare sparingly. We do not need to hear your dialog or FaceTime. Get some earbuds when a speakerphone is not mission crucial.

The Sonim XP8 has an extended historical past with skilled first responders and has developed the screw-down Safe Audio Connector to supply audio and energy to a variety of audio system, mics and combos of the 2.

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 answer.

Oh yeah, actually good cameras and screens

Rugged telephones used to deal with digital camera and show high quality as elective, however these new fashions go away little missing on the subject of these options. They might not have the variety of cameras discovered on flagship telephones such because the iPhone 11 Professional or the Samsung Galaxy S20, however the cameras they do have are ample in megapixels and make the most of the Google picture processing constructed into Android. The gallery of comparative photographs under is exceptional principally in how unremarkable the pictures are: They’re barely completely different from the standard snapshot taken with a flagship telephone. 

The CAT S62 takes digital camera imaging a step additional with an built-in FLIR thermal sensor, which CAT says is correct to 0.1 levels Celsius whereas scanning as much as 100 folks a minute at a distance of 5 toes. That sort of perform might develop into extra well-liked now we’re residing within the 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.  

Measurement and weight

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

Rugged phones incognito

You possibly can inform a few these are rugged telephones, however the remaining 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 reveals the burden distinction and have variations between the telephones. Total, the Samsung Galaxy XCover Professional and CAT S52 are standouts in skinny design with gentle, rugged development. And bear in mind: These do not want a canopy.

Unihertz Atom XL

CAT S52 (gray market)


Sonim XP8

Samsung XCover Professional

Kyocera DuraForce Professional 2



$485 (est.)


$648 (Verizon)

$500 (unlocked)

$500 (AT&T)

Programmable buttons







Twin SIM?



Y (varies by area)




Swappable battery?







Entrance speaker?








4.0-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  

5.0-inch, 1,920×1,080-pixel, Kyocera Sapphire Defend  









7.9 oz.

7.Four oz.

8.Eight oz.

11.Eight oz.

6.Three oz.

8.Three oz.


Tremendous small and an actual radio.

Thinnest rugged telephone on the earth.

FLIR and distance-measurement sensors  

Characteristic-laden and difficult 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 need the most recent in superior video seize, computational images or a laptop-class CPU, these telephones aren’t fairly prepared to switch your present system. However for those who’re uninterested in breaking telephones, frequently use a PTT app corresponding to Zello or are large on outside adventures or public service volunteer work, assume past the same old suspects subsequent time you are out there for a telephone. These new rugged options make telephones excitingly distinct once more.

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