The Best Rugged Smartphones of 2023

These devices are sure to hold up under the toughest conditions

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Whether you're active outside or work in an environment that isn't phone-friendly, durability is an essential factor to consider when buying a new smartphone. Some traits include Gorilla Glass, an IP rating for water and dust resistance, and build materials. A glass sandwich won't hold up like a rubberized plastic phone.

Best Compact

Unihertz Atom XL

4.2
Atom XL

Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewirea 

What We Like
  • Walkie Talkie functionality

What We Don't Like
  • Helio P60 is not a champ

  • Small screen

This smartphone is packed full of surprises. In addition to being built tough, which we'll get to, this phone has accessories that make it much more exciting, especially if you're an outdoors person. The 48-megapixel camera, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of onboard storage are all respectable. The Helio P60 processor and four-inch screen are not the greatest by today's standards, but they are still enough to complete everyday tasks. Plus, the XL version of this phone comes with a removable antenna which allows you to turn your smartphone into a walkie-talkie.

You can tell this phone is durable just by looking at it. You'll first notice the rubberized grip around the top, bottom, and back. Add to that the grippy backplate and aluminum side rails, and this is a phone you can carry in your nail apron. The exposed screw heads add to the toughness surrounding this fierce phone.

Most Durable

Sonim XP8

Sonim XP8

Amazon

What We Like
  • Loud Front firing speakers

  • Access to Public Safety Network

What We Don't Like
  • Gorilla Glass 3 is a bit dated.


Of course, when you're a first responder, you need a rugged phone because you never know what situation you'll find yourself in. Sonim made the XP8 with those people in mind. It's one of the only phones that can connect to the United States dedicated public safety network. It also includes programmable buttons when using your phone with a gloved or wet hand. Front-firing speakers make this phone very loud so it can be used under almost any condition.

The phone has both IP68 and IP69 dust and water resistance. The entire phone is covered in a shell of rubber and plastic, which keeps it safe from drops and scrapes. The 5-inch screen is covered only in Gorilla Glass 3, but the phone is just a beast. Outside buttons are rugged, including physical navigation multitasking and home buttons across the bottom in between the speaker grills. 

Best Updated Phone

CAT S42

4.2
CAT S42

Amazon

What We Like
  • Rugged, durable design

  • Water resistant

  • Two-day battery

  • Decent daytime photos

What We Don't Like
  • Sluggish performance

  • No biometric sensor

  • Poor low-light photos

  • Washed out, low-res screen

  • Limited internal storage

The CAT S42 is an impressively rugged phone, packing a bulky, hearty plastic exterior with covered ports and enhanced water, drop, and thermal shock resistance. It’s so well-protected that CAT advertises it as a phone you can wash with soap and water.


On the other hand, the CAT S42 features entry-level components akin to a much cheaper budget phone. It delivers sluggish performance, has a low-quality screen, and only takes decent photos in strong lighting conditions. It’s usable, however, and the battery can provide two days of solid usage. Still, given the $300 price, the CAT S42 is only really ideal for those who require such extreme protection. Otherwise, you’re better off buying a more powerful phone for around the same price and snagging a durable case.

About Our Experts

Adam Doud has been writing and podcasting about mobile technology since 2013. He's used every phone platform since then, including some that are no longer around. When he's not obsessing over the latest smartphone from Apple, LG, Samsung, and others, he can be found behind the microphone on his podcast, the Benefit of the Doud.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer and reviewer covering technology and games since 2006. He's previously been published in TechRadar, Stuff, Polygon, and Macworld. Throughout his career, he's covered hundreds of gadgets, including smartphones, wearables, smart home devices, video games, and more.

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