Rugged Smartphones Are Built to Last, Experts Say

Drop it on the pavement, no problem

Key Takeaways

  • Rugged smartphones can offer more protection to users who tend to drop their devices.
  • Samsung’s new Galaxy XCover 5 is designed to withstand drops up to 1.5 meters, and can be submerged in over a meter of water for over 30 minutes.
  • According to one survey, smartphone owners accidentally broke more than 50 million phone screens in a single year.
Woman's phone falling out of train window
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If you’re the kind of person who often drops their phone, you might want to consider something a little more rugged than an iPhone.

Samsung is releasing a new rugged smartphone for its European customers. It’s one of a wide range of rugged phones marketed to the military and the construction industry, but that also are available to everyday users. 

"People who have complaints about the durability of their smartphones can benefit from a more rugged model," Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review, said in an email interview. "Especially Apple customers who are used to having to replace their screen often."

Designed to Take a Beating

Samsung’s new Galaxy XCover 5 is designed to survive a very bad day. Enhanced shock absorption enables it to withstand drops up to 1.5 meters, and IP68-rated dust and water resistance means it can be submerged in over a meter of water for longer than 30 minutes. But, for now, the XCover 5 won’t be sold in the United States.

For US users who need a rugged phone, Freiberger recommends the Samsung Galaxy XCover Field Pro, which is advertised as being able to "survive almost anything, from water, drops, shocks and vibrations to extreme temps and humidity," according to the company’s website. 

"Anyone who is notorious for repeatedly destroying expensive iPhone and Android devices should look into rugged technology."

If you're comfortable straying from the major manufacturers, there are a lot of rugged smartphones available, Freiberger said, adding that the BlackView BV9900 is "waterproof, shock-proof, and all-around one of the most durable phones on the market."

Motorola is also stepping back into the rugged phone market. The company announced a partnership with rugged phone manufacturer Bullitt Group to develop and market rugged mobile phones bearing the Motorola brand.

"Bullitt has distinguished itself as a leader in rugged mobile," Dave Carroll, executive director of strategic brand partnerships at Motorola, said in a news release. "These devices have broad appeal, from outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers to consumers who just want an ultra-durable phone. We look forward to working with Bullitt to ruggedize our products, allowing the Motorola brand to be present in a new and growing segment of Mobile phone users."

Tough Phones for Ordinary People

Construction workers aren’t the only ones who should consider a rugged smartphone, experts say. 

"Anyone who is notorious for repeatedly destroying expensive iPhone and Android devices should look into rugged technology," John Graff, chief marketing officer of rugged smartphone manufacturer Sonim Technologies, said in an email interview. 

Sonim’s top-of-the-line smartphone, the XP8, is designed to stand "up to extreme weather and work environments, pretty much anything you can think of," Graff said. 

"People who have complaints about the durability of their smartphones can benefit from a more rugged model."

In a study, SquareTrade, a provider of phone protection plans, found smartphone owners accidentally broke more than 50 million phone screens in a single year, and replacing those screens cost them $3.4 billion. The survey also found that 66% of smartphone owners damaged their phones in the past year, with cracked screens leading the way as the most common type of damage (29%). Scratched screens (27%) and non-working batteries (22%) took second and third place, respectively, with touchscreen issues and chipped corners and sides tying at 16% each.

Clumsiness was the most common cause of smartphone damage, according to the research. Users reported that dropping a phone on the ground was the single most significant cause of breakage. Other causes included: the phone falling out of a pocket, being dropped in water, being knocked off a table or counter, being dropped in the toilet, or falling out of a bag.

Young man looking at smartphone in public house
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"Today's smartphones have all-glass designs that look sleek but aren't reliable when it comes to everyday drops. It can cost hundreds of dollars to repair even the smallest crack or damage," said Jason Siciliano, vice president and global creative director at SquareTrade, in a news release.

"Our survey showed that most phone owners truly underestimate the amount it will cost to fix their device," Siciliano continued, "with 61% admitting they would wait to repair a cracked screen for a longer period of time because the cost of repairs has gone up."

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