- Our choice for the #1 Best Overall rugged smartphone for most users is the Samsung Galaxy XCover 6.
- Just because a phone is advertised as “rugged” doesn’t mean it is.
- Most rugged smartphones have protection additional protection against water and dust.
- Durable smartphones are typically cheaper than regular ones.
- Consider usage, durability, hardware, and features when looking for a rugged smartphone.
If your smartphone hits the floor on a daily basis, durability is key. The best rugged smartphones will outlast flagships from top brands and are ideal for extreme environments. Unfortunately, durable Android smartphones have fallen by the wayside as companies focus on slim designs and screen-to-body ratios.
You’ll find hundreds of options online if you search for durable or rugged smartphones. Less than half are actually in that category, however. While dozens of smartphones are fully waterproof, many of those same devices can withstand temperature swings or a tumble down stairs. Rugged smartphones that meet certain criteria fit that bill, and we found a handful of models that stand out when it comes to durability, features, and pricing. The phones below can handle the extremes better than your average handset, making them ideal for work or play outdoors. Here are our choices for the top five rugged smartphones:
- Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy XCover6 Pro
- Best Flip Phone: Cat S22 Flip
- Most Secure: Motorola ThinkPhone
- Best CAT Smartphone: CAT S62 Pro
- Best on a Budget: Blackview BV7100
Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy XCover6 Pro
The #1 Best Overall rugged smartphone for the average user is the Samsung Galaxy XCover6 Pro. Samsung’s handset has a design reminiscent of the early Galaxy line, but with a design built to withstand dirt, water, and drops.
The Galaxy XCover6 Pro doesn’t have a QHD display, but the large 6.6-inch panel is bright and easy to use. Wet screens won’t be a problem thanks to the IP68 rating, and the touchscreen works with gloves. It meets the latest military-grade standard MIL-STD-810H. That means the phone has been tested to handle a fall of 1.5 meters, along with resistance to dirt, dust, and grime.
Samsung’s design ensures this handset will work in the elements, but it also has fantastic specifications. The XCover Pro 6 has a 2.4GHz octa-core processor under the hood, which is backed by 6GB of RAM. The cameras are more than respectable, with a 50MP rear sensor and a 13MP front-facing camera. It has 128GB of expandable storage out of the box and a large 4,050mAh removable battery.
The Galaxy XCover6 Pro has expandable storage and a removable battery, which is a huge selling point for many consumers — not just those looking for a rugged phone. The MIL-STD rating is the icing on the cake, along with features like action buttons, a headphone jack, and a fingerprint scanner. This 5G handset is unlocked and compatible with the big three carriers in the United States.
|The phone is waterproof, dustproof, and can handle drops with ease.||The phone could be a bit too large for some users.|
|It’s a glove-friendly smartphone.||The charging times could be better.|
|The XCover6 has premium specifications.|
|It has a removable battery and microSD card slot.|
Check out the Samsung Galaxy XCover6 Pro on Amazon.
Best Flip Phone: Cat S22 Flip
Consumers interested in something small and rugged with an old-school design will love the Cat S22 Flip. It’s our favorite flip phone for people who work outdoors, but it is a great all-around device for anyone concerned about durability.
Caterpillar is a well-known name in the construction world, and Cat Phones are designed to match the company’s equipment. The S22 Flip is thicker than most phones on our list, but it folds to keep the display and keypad safe. It won’t take up as much space in a pocket and has a 1.4-inch external screen to provide important information.
The displays are bright, and the navigational keys are large and easy to use. The CAT S22 has MIL-STD-810H protection, but the specifications are dated compared to other devices on our list. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 215 and 2GB of RAM. There’s 16GB of storage to go along with a 5MP rear camera and 2MP front-facing camera. The phone still runs Android, although it’s a streamlined version of Android 11 Go Edition.
CAT’s classic flip phone won’t be for everyone due to the specifications and the fact it’s a 4G handset. It’s durable, however, and its price tag makes it attractive as a secondary device as well. Keep in mind this version of the S22 Flip is for GSM networks, so it won’t work through CDMA carriers, including Verizon.
|It’s a durable phone with MIL-STD-810H protection.||The phone’s specifications are serviceable but outdated.|
|The phone doesn’t take up much space.||It’s only compatible with GSM carriers.|
|It has a 2,000mAh removable battery.|
|The phone uses Android 11 GO and has Play Store access.|
Take a look at the Cat S22 Flip on Amazon today.
Most Secure: Motorola ThinkPhone
The Motorola ThinkPhone is the perfect companion for consumers who own ThinkPads or need a modern, durable device. This handset has some interesting specifications and is the most secure device on our list from top to bottom.
Cybersecurity is important online whether you’re running your business from a mobile or are just a casual user. If an issue arises, that won’t be a concern with the ThinkPhone. The phone is protected by Think Shield and a dedicated response team. MotoSafe encrypts important data like passwords and works seamlessly alongside a ThinkPad.
The ThinkPhone is secure, but it’s also powerful. The phone has a Snapdragon 8 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of onboard storage. The large display is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus, and it has an IP68 rating and an aircraft-grade aluminum frame. Battery life is solid, and TurboPower charging can give the phone a full day’s worth of juice in around 15 minutes.
Consumers who need to keep their data safe online will appreciate the security features on the ThinkPhone, but it’s a handset anyone can benefit from. It has flagship features without the same price tag, and it is MIL-STD-810H certified as well. The only downside is the rear camera, which is adequate, but lacks a telephoto lens.
|The phone is IP68 and MIL-STD-810H certified.||It has a mediocre camera array.|
|It has a durable aircraft-grade aluminum frame.||There is no telephoto lens.|
|The ThinkPhone utilizes Motorola’s array of security features.|
|The phone is powerful, with a Snapdragon 8 and 8GB of RAM.|
Check out the Motorola ThinkPhone on Amazon.
Best CAT Smartphone: CAT S62 Pro
The CAT S62 Pro is one of the best rugged smartphones and the top option from CAT overall. While not as powerful as the company’s latest model, this handset has plenty of pop, dual-SIM capabilities, and a unique camera module.
This phone has a modern design compared to the Cat S22 Flip but is just as durable. It’s also MIL-STD-810H certified and can handle a dunk in water up to five feet deep for as long as 35 minutes. This device can deal with ocean mist and thermal shocks with ease. It can also take thermal photos through the Lepton 3.5 FLIR camera sensor.
Thermal imaging and its general durability are major selling points of this phone. The specifications are nothing to scoff at, however. You’ll get 6GB of RAM, 128GB of expandable storage, and the Snapdragon 660 octa-core processor. The Cat S22 Pro has a programmable action key, fingerprint scanner, and a large 4,000mAh battery.
The FLIR camera on this phone grabbed people’s attention when the S62 Pro hit the streets, but the device quickly found a home with consumers who needed a tough smartphone. While only a 4G LTE handset, the Cat S62 Pro does have dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 5, and a fingerprint scanner.
|Cat’s FLIR thermal imaging camera is excellent.||It’s not a 5G smartphone.|
|The phone has a large 4,000mAh battery.||The dual 12MP rear cameras could be better.|
|The CAT S62 Pro has dual SIM capabilities.|
|It has a 5.7-inch 2,040 x 1,080 display.|
Take a look at the CAT S62 Pro on Amazon.
Best Budget Phone: Blackview BV7100
When you want to test out a durable smartphone without breaking the bank, the Blackview BV7100 is an excellent choice. It’s half the price of other devices on our list and has an unusual mix of features and specifications.
This phone has a massive 13,000mAh battery. The Hong Kong-based rugged smartphone manufacturer promises around 50 hours of battery life, and it’s listed with a MIL-STD-810G rating. It’s durable and dunk-proof, thanks to the IP69 tag. The Blackview BV7100 gets power from an octa-core Helio G85 and 6GB of RAM. It comes with 128GB of storage out of the box, but you can kick that number up considerably through the microSD slot.
Blackview’s phone is in the phablet class at 6.5 inches and has an FHD display. The touchscreen is glove-friendly, but the camera system is underwhelming. This smartphone has three sensors on the rear at 12MP, 8MP, and 2MP. The front-facing camera utilizes an 8MP sensor, and while the phone is dual-SIM, you’ll have to make do with 4G networks.
This budget-friendly phone is affordable compared to other rugged options, but you’ll want to keep branding in mind. Blackview isn’t Samsung or OnePlus, so you may experience issues with the software or hardware. The company provides a two-year warranty with the phone, just keep customer service in mind.
|A 13,000mAh battery provides up to 50 hours of power.||It’s only a 4G smartphone.|
|It has MIL-STD-810G certification.||The company is not well-known and customer support may be difficult to come by.|
|The phone is waterproof with an IP69 rating.|
|It has an octa-core processor with 6GB of RAM.|
Check out the Blackview BV7100 on Amazon today.
How to Pick the Best Rugged Smartphone: Step by Step
Any company can claim their phone is rugged, but the fine details tell the true story. When shopping for the best rugged smartphone, consider where you’ll use it, then think about areas like durability, specifications, and features.
- Durability Ratings
Are you purchasing a rugged smartphone to use at work or for casual use? That’s the first step in narrowing the field, even if you can use some devices for both purposes. The difference comes into play if you work outdoors where the elements can be a concern.
While extreme swings in heat or cold can damage tech, moisture is the biggest problem for most gadgets outdoors. If you work near bodies of water, you’ll want a completely waterproof phone. Many mid-range smartphones are water-resistant, but they may not be able to withstand heavy downpours or falling into a puddle.
Alternatively, drop protection is more important in areas with concrete flooring. Phone cases can provide some protection, but it all starts with the phone’s build quality. Consumers who want a smartphone that can handle more than the average device should look for a handset that can withstand falls or an accidental drop into a tub or pool.
When you know where you plan to use your rugged phone the most, it’s time to dig into what makes a phone durable. Currently, the highest form of protection outside of a case is the MIL-STD standard.
MIL-STD refers to the standard the United States Department of Defense sets for testing equipment under environmental conditions. That includes electronics, so you’ll see some smartphones with these ratings. The tests include protection against dust, fluids, and shocks, whether they come from a drop or the recoil of a heavy rifle.
The highest current standard is MIL-STD-810H, although there are currently more handsets with the older 810G standard. You can read more about some of those changes here, but an IP rating is another “durable” specification you’re more likely to encounter. This metric doesn’t consider the shock/drop factor, but it lets you know how well a device deals with dust and water.
The International Electrotechnical Commission developed the IP rating system to measure the resistance of enclosures against dust or liquid. It’s a two-digit system where the first number covers solids and the second liquids. An IPx3 device would have no protection against dust but could handle the rain. A rugged phone with an IP69 rating is completely sealed from dust and waterproof to a certain depth.
A rugged smartphone is fantastic if you’re rough on a device but pointless if it’s too underpowered for your needs. There’s no shortage of waterproof smartphones, but the selection dries up considerably with MIL-STD certification. That means it’s harder to find a phone with premium specs unless you want one of the best rugged smartphones.
With power, pay attention to the processor and memory. Phones with a lot of RAM are great if you plan to game on your rugged smartphone. You don’t need 6GB of RAM or a Snapdragon G1 processor if you’re just using it for making calls and texting. You can’t upgrade either of those areas, but you may be able to boost the storage with a microSD card.
Displays on tough smartphones should have a measure of protection through Gorilla Glass. Many have phones you can use with gloves, but buttons are also an option with this class of phones. While most specifications vary wildly from one company to the next, many rugged smartphones have excellent battery life. They also have some surprising features not found on today’s phones.
Consumers looking for a phone that’s built for texting or social media will be disappointed with the features on most rugged smartphones. The main feature of these devices is their durability, but there are some surprising additions as well.
While you may not find a 4K smartphone in this class, you will find microSD card slots. That’s something most manufacturers took away, but it’s common with rugged phones. You’ll also find 3.5 headphone jacks in place of USB-C ports on many devices, along with features like programmable hot keys and dual SIM card slots.
Fingerprint scanners are hit or miss depending on the style of the phone. The same goes for the cameras. Every rugged smartphone has a rear and front-facing camera, but the quality of those sensors varies. The cameras are what we would consider respectable, whereas battery life is usually better compared to traditional handsets.
What to Know Before Buying a Rugged Smartphone
Before purchasing a rugged smartphone online, make sure it’s compatible with your cellular provider. Just because a phone is advertised as unlocked doesn’t mean it’s ready to go with your network or even compatible.
Many smartphones from this category work with T-Mobile and AT&T, but Verizon can be challenging due to their network. You can purchase some models from your carrier, but for the most part, you’ll find budget-friendly offerings and flagship devices.
Using Rugged Smartphones: What It’s Like
Using a rugged smartphone is different than using a regular one in a number of ways. How different largely depends on the design, which can affect features and the device’s durability.
Rugged smartphones are thicker and heavier than most phones by design. They typically don’t have the latest specifications, but they will perform like most Android phones. You may not have access to the same applications, however, if the manufacturer relies heavily on their own operating system.
|Best Overall||Samsung Galaxy XCover6 Pro||6.6-inch panel, IP68 rating, 2.4GHz octa-core processor, 6GB of RAM, 50MP rear sensor, 13MP front-facing camera, 128GB of expandable storage, 4,050mAh removable battery, 5G compatible.|
|Best Flip Phone||Cat S22 Flip||1.4-inch external screen, MIL-STD-810H protection, Snapdragon 215, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 5MP rear camera, 2MP front-facing camera, Android 11 Go Edition.|
|Most Secure||Motorola ThinkPhone||Snapdragon 8 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of onboard storage, Gorilla Glass Victus, IP68 rating, aircraft-grade aluminum frame, Think Shield protection, MotoSafe encryption.|
|Best CAT Smartphone||CAT S62 Pro||MIL-STD-810H certified, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of expandable storage, Snapdragon 660 octa-core processor, 4,000mAh battery, FLIR thermal imaging camera.|
|Best Budget||Blackview BV7100||13,000mAh battery, MIL-STD-810G certification, IP69 rating, octa-core Helio G85, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage.|
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