If you work outdoors or you spend a lot of time taking part in outdoors activities and sports, you may prefer not to carry an expensive, top-of-the-range smartphone such as the iPhone 4S, Galaxy Nexus or Nokia Lumia. Although some of these top smartphones include chemically toughened glass such as Gorilla Glass which provides some protection against drops and scratches, they are still at risk of being damaged by dust particles or contact with water (for example during heavy rain or dropping your phone in the toilet!).
For people who want mobile phones which are protected against impact, dust and water, there are a class of “rugged” mobile devices. These devices are certified to be waterproof and dustproof and often feature specially designed glass displays which are guarded against the force of drops and impacts. These rugged handsets can either be used as a replacement for your primary phone or can be kept as a secondary phone purely for use when outdoors. In this article, we look at the range of rugged mobile devices available on the market. We also look at how to assess the level of protection they provide against the elements.
IP Certification: Classifying rugged phones
Rugged handsets differ from normal mobile phones in that they are additionally certified by the level of protection that they offer against the elements.
The standard certification method is called the Ingress Protection Rating (an IP Rating for short). An IP rating consists of two numbers, the first of which measures the level of protection against dust and the second of which measures the level of protection against water.
Most rugged phones are IP67 certified. This means they score 6/6 on dust protection (they are fully dust tight) and 7/8 on water protection (they can be immersed in water up to a depth of 1m).
Rugged Android Smartphones: Motorola Defy, Samsung Galaxy XCover & Sony Ericsson Xperia Active
Almost all rugged smartphones available on the market run on the Android operating system. This is due to the flexibility of Android which allows it to run on a range of different form factors.
Compared to mainstream smartphones, rugged handsets tend to feature slower processors, smaller amounts of memory and lower resolution displays. This means they’re not as good for web browsing and viewing multimedia, but it’s the trade-off that needs to be made for the phone to be rugged. All 3 handsets provide torch and GPS functionality, both of which can come in handy in the outdoors and all 3 handsets will run the majority of standard Android applications.
All three devices are compatible with giffgaff and some great savings can be had by buying these devices upfront and using one of our giffgaff goodybags.
Note that although these phones are designed to be used outdoors, their batteries have much the same capacity as mainstream smartphones. This can potentially lead to problems when constantly using GPS functionality as it can consume a lot of power. If you plan to use the GPS functionality on long hikes or runs through the countryside, it may be worth investing in a portable external power pack.
If you’re looking for a more basic rugged handset to be used as a second phone rather than to replace your main phone, it may be economical to opt for a more basic model such as the JCB Toughphone or the Samsung Solid Immerse. Although these phones lack advanced features such as GPS, the two phones are available for around £80 and can offer better battery life than their rugged smartphone counterparts. The JCB Tradesman Toughphone also has the unique distinction of floating on water.
Can I switch my SIM card between a normal handset and a rugged handset?
Yes. With giffgaff, it is easy to switch your SIM cards between handsets at any time, providing both of your handsets are unlocked. This means you could use your normal smartphone in the office during the week and switch to a rugged handset when visiting music festivals or taking part in sports at the weekend. If both of your handsets run on the Android operating system, it is simple to keep your phone book, calendar and e-mail synchronised between your two devices through your Google account. For a basic non-Android rugged handset, you must copy your phone book between handsets manually.
In this article, we’ve looked at mobile phones which are designed for the outdoors and provide greater protection against the elements. For people who regularly spend time outdoors, rugged smartphones provide most of the features of standard smartphones whilst providing greater protection against drops, dust and water damage. For people who only occasionally spend time outdoors and are looking for a second handset, a range of basic rugged handsets are available for around £80.
Have you ever had an unfortunate accident with your mobile phone? Have you broken a mobile phone by dropping it on the pavement or flushing it down the toilet? Do you think a rugged handset would come in handy or would you prefer the technology to be built in to mainstream smartphones? We’d love to hear your thoughts: drop us a comment below.