If you work in an office and live in a house with Axminster carpets, you might be tempted not to diminish your smartphone’s tactile appeal by wrapping it in a protective case.
However, some people lead more active and eventful lives than others.
Many jobs involve regular exposure to dust, water, smoke and other pollutants. Environments with rough surfaces, vibrations or long drops could also be problematic for a normal phone.
An unprotected iPhone won’t enjoy outdoor sports like mountain biking or hill-climbing, conducted in all weathers with a high chance of being dropped or shaken around.
In such circumstances, it may be worth considering one of the best rugged smartphones on the market, as an alternative to a conventional phone from a mainstream manufacturer.
That’s not to say that these hardwearing devices involve significant sacrifices from the consumer’s perspective.
Indeed, many of the best rugged smartphones offer specifications to rival high-end Android units, while delivering considerably more protection and durability.
You might even get much-missed features like 3.5mm headphone jacks, alongside contemporary specifications such as Full HD screens and biometric security.
School of hard knocks
Rugged smartphones tend to be rigorously destruction tested before going on sale, to ensure they can withstand the sort of abuse that would cause a mass-produced phone to disintegrate.
IP68 resistance is increasingly mainstream now, protecting against water, dust and dirt. IP69 represents a far higher standard, and can even resist a direct jet of water.
And while rugged phones are usually bigger, heavier and less attractive than the latest Apple and Samsung products, that’s a small price to pay for greater durability and peace of mind.
As of March 2020, these are our picks for some of the best rugged smartphones currently on the market:
The Cat S61 comes from the legendary construction brand, blending an industry-best IP69 rating with a 5.1-inch 1080p screen and 4GB of RAM.
It offers advanced features like dual SIM cards and a 16MP rear camera, alongside less conventional attributes including a laser tape measure and an indoor air quality sensor.
If you don’t want an overtly rugged phone, the 200g AGM X3 is suitably discreet. Its six-inch 18:9 Full HD screen is powered by a rapid Snapdragon 845 processor.
Its Gorilla Glass 5 screen is suitable for use with gloves, and a tough metal frame has discreet rubber corner protectors. Wireless charging and twin JBL speakers add practicality.
Doogee’s S95 Pro is less subtle, wrapped in a metal and rubber frame. It has everything from a fingerprint sensor to an SOS button, a barometer and a plumb line.
An impressive 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage ensures it runs Android (9.0 Pie) smoothly. Packing a 6.3-inch screen and a triple-lens camera, it also accepts two SIM cards.
Exposed screws and an integral compass make the Elephone Soldier the Land Rover Defender of its class. It also contains a flashlight and a durable Pogo connector.
You’ll have to accept a few ‘retro’ elements like the presence of a microUSB port, but its sheer versatility makes this affordable dual-SIM handset worth of consideration.
If old-fashioned tech specs are a turn-off, the Blackview BV9800 delivers a contemporary 6GB of RAM and a 48MP rear camera, plus wireless device charging.
It excels at maintaining charge throughout the working day, and it even has a thermal imaging camera which could eliminate the need to carry a separate IR device around.