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How to Choose a More Rugged Cell Phone For Work or Outdoors

Updated on February 18, 2018
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Live a More Rugged Life?

Any electronic device is susceptible to damage when dropped, exposed to excessive heat, cold, or moisture. Dust and dirt can also work to destroy such devices. If you're an individual who works or plays in an environment where such hazards are nearly always present, you know that having a cell phone that's resistant to such threats is important.

There are a number of rugged cell phone models that are designed to survive frequent contact with water, dust, smoke, shock, extreme temperatures, and more. Some of them are designed with difficult work environments like construction sites in mind, while others are more for active people who are more likely to expose their phones to the elements.

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Tips for Getting the Right Phone

When choosing a rugged cell phone there are a few things to think about.

  • The primary things to consider initially are the same things that should be examined before purchasing any cell phone. Coverage and the carrier (cell phone company) are important considerations of course. So too, are the various features you need the phone to have. Things like a web browser, built-in camera, GPS functions, and so forth are useful for nearly any user and certainly also for those who work or play outdoors.
  • Whether on a noisy work site or simply outdoors, having good noise suppression or cancellation can make voice communication easier as well. An extra loud speaker can also come in handy. A walk talkie function can be good if multiple users will have a similar phone, and voice activated dialing can also be useful when your hands are busy. A large keypad, simple controls and overall navigation, can also be a plus, especially if gloves are involved.
  • When you're outdoors having a screen that is easy to read, even in bright sunlight also matters.
  • Other basic functions like a timer, alarm clock, flashlight and so forth should also be considered depending upon the conditions of use. Some users may even benefit from a compass, altimeter, or similar functions.
  • A dedicated button for emergency call could be life saving when things go wrong.
  • While all of these phones may be tough, they may not all be equal. For instance, while one phone may tolerate being splashed, another might tolerate being submerged 6 feet in water for 30 minutes. Comparing specifications is a good idea. Many of these rugged cell phones are described as meeting military specifications. This refers to Military Specifications- MIL STD 810F.
  • If you are out in the wilderness, fallen of your bike, or alone on a work site, you don't need a dead battery.
  • A final critical consideration for some users will be the talk time and stand-by time. (battery life) If you are out in the wilderness, have fallen of your bike and perhaps broken something, or are alone on a work site, a non-functioning phone will do you no good.

The Advantages and Disadvantages

A rugged cell phone is ideal on a work site, out in the field, or anywhere in the great outdoors. They are often waterproof and won't flinch if dunked in stream, can tolerate being dropped, and in some cases, even being run over by a pickup truck. They also tend to be less temperature sensitive and won't be bothered by dust, dirt, and sand. This durability makes them very reliable in nearly any condition.

While many of these phones offered only basic functions for some years, their capabilities have expanded making them a better option for many users. Still, they aren't going to offer the high resolution multi-touch interface and all of the entertainment features that the most recent, higher end smartphones offer. The only other potential disadvantage is that these phone are often a bit bulkier than some of the other options. While this can be an advantage in a number of situations, if a user prefers the sleekest model, these phones won't be the right choice.

So What Are Some of the Current Options?

At this time some of the most popular rugged cell phones are the Cat S60 and Sonim XP7 as far as work sites.

For slightly more casual use, and a somewhat sleeker build, the Kyocera Brigadier and DuraForce Pro seem to be well liked. Samsung's S8 Active is also a popular choice.

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