Mountain climbing! Off-road biking! Skiing! Climbing trees! All of these activities are simply too extreme for your current smartphone, or so Cat (nee Caterpillar, the bulldozer people) would have you believe. Their latest Android-powered rugged phone is the S50, announced today at IFA in Berlin and boasting mid-range specs with a body that looks like it's designed to shrug off shrapnel. It's the follow-up to Cat's B15, a phone durable enough to survive an encounter with a front-end loader.
So far Samsung's "Active" mini-series has exactly two devices, the Galaxy S4 Active and the Galaxy S5 Active. (Three, if you count Sprint's S5 Sport variant.) At IFA 2014, the company is expanding its ruggedized horizons into the tablet world with the Galaxy Tab Active, an 8-inch device with the same IP67 water and dust protection, plus a chunky body that can resist drops of up to 1.2 meters (four feet).
Update: Verizon's specification page has been changed to indicate that the LG G Vista has an "HD" screen. It looks like there was an error in the original spec list. We're going to assume that means that it's a 1280x720 screen.
Looking for a mid-range phone on Verizon? Then you've got two more choices starting today. The LG G Vista, an enormous "phablet" device, and the Kyocera Brigadier, the latest in the company's line of "tough" phones, are both on sale now at Verizon's website.
Most mobile devices will run out of juice before you do after heavy use, so external battery packs are sometimes a necessity. New Trent sells many such devices and has just announced a new one. The PowerPak Xtreme is a gigantic battery that's built to last. If only your phone was that rugged.
This device quietly went on sale a few weeks ago, but is only being made official today.
The Huawei Honor smartphones have been straightforward affairs, with the original being nothing to get excited about unless you were shopping on a budget and wanted something functional enough to do more than check Facebook (though considering how bloated the Facebook app is, even doing that is no small feat). However, we did consider it an example of what a budget phone should be, and the sequel was an improvement in every area - except for price.
Samsung's tougher brother to the flagship Galaxy S4 is a pretty poorly-kept secret, with multiple leaked photos, videos, and different sets of specifications coming out weeks before its announcement. Samsung confirmed the device today in a press release coinciding with Computex, painting a picture of the S4 Active as a device that mostly matches the Galaxy S4 for power and capability, with the ruggedized design seen on some of Samsung's Rugby smartphones.
The ruggedized smartphone market is small, but not so small that it's ignored. Admirable entries like the Samsung Rugby Smart and the Casio Commando might not have all the bells and whistles of their flagship contemporaries, but they take a licking and keep on ticking. Phone retailer Wirefly decided to put Sprint's Kyocera Torque (Bear Grylls approved!) through its paces via some decidedly extreme tests: a drop from two stories, hibernation in a block of ice, and most dramatically, a trip through a 30-minute washing machine cycle.
Who wants a new "lifestyle device?" You know, those phones and tablets that cater to a very niche, and usually pretty small, market. Like Samsung's new Galaxy Xcover 2, for example. This ultra-ruggedized device is made for extreme conditions. It's waterproof for up to 30 minutes at a meter deep, dust/sand-proof, and crazy-durable. It can even take pictures under water! Seriously, that's pretty cool.
Aside from the ruggedized shell, the Xcover 2 also features an "enhanced GPS + GLONASS which shortens the satellite signal detection by up to 20% to tracks your location more accurately," along with a "massive 1,700mAh battery" (really, Samsung, we need to talk about what 'massive' actually means).
Although I've dropped a phone a total of about three times in my life, and although manufacturers are continually touting more and more durable glass, polycarbonate plastic, and even metal that's 3x stronger than stainless steel, there lingers in the back of my mind the question of what may happen if and when that fateful day comes – the day when I finally drop my phone onto an unforgiving concrete, asphalt, or otherwise hard surface.
Sony loves making stuff that's hard to break. The Xperia Active was probably the pinnacle of this obsession (see: hilariously awesome video), but now that Sony has decided to make pretty much all of its phones look exactly the same, it's out with the old, in with the new.
The Go and Acro S are the newest additions to Sony's rugged family, and for rugged phones, they don't look nearly as god-awful ugly as almost everything else in that segment of the market.