Here are the best rugged phones you can buy right now

rugged phones waterproof design

Owning a smartphone is almost a requirement for most folks these days. Unfortunately for those that work in more intense environments like construction, most ordinary smartphones aren’t exactly built for the job. Their phone needs to work in the pouring rain, or places with lots of dust and or other threats. That’s where a good rugged phone comes in.

Today’s rugged phones come equipped with military specs for surviving more extreme water, dust, and drop situations. A few such rugged phones on the market right now fulfill those requirements. Many may not have the most current version of Android or the highest specs, but they have been mostly designed for business and enterprise customers, rather than targeting the average consumer.


Caterpillar Cat S61

Caterpillar, best known for its huge construction vehicles and machines, also sells a series of rugged phones. The Caterpillar Cat S61 is the most recent release, a successor to the earlier S60. Like the S60, the S61 has a feature not found on any smartphone, rugged or not. The phone sports an FLIR thermal imaging camera, designed to show heat normally invisible to the naked eye.

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Building inspectors can use the camera on the Cat S61 to find any heat being lost around windows and doors. The camera can also discover if an appliance like a washing machine or oven is overheating. It can also find if any moisture is building up in a house where it is not supposed to be. Think of the Predator’s heat vision, but real.

The FLIR camera on the Cat S61 has some improvements compared to the version on the S60. It offers greater image contrast and a larger temperature range, which goes from -21 to 400 degrees Celsius. It can also take HD images from its regular 16MP rear camera to enhance the thermal images. The S61 can also livestream the thermal images it captures.

The Cat S61 also has a 5.2-inch display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of onboard storage, an 8MP front-facing camera, and a 4,500mAh battery. It comes with Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box and a promise to update it to Android 9 Pie at some point.

When it comes to rugged phone specifications, the Cat S61 can work in up to 3 meters of water for up to 60 minutes if its Lockdown Switch is turned on. It can also survive a fall from up to 1.8 meters (about 6 feet) and is reportedly impervious to dust, thanks to its strengthened die cast frame. Be aware it only works on GSM-based cellular networks such as the ones provided by T-Mobile and AT&T.

Amazon currently sells the Cat S61 for the very high price of $999.99, but its high degree of ruggedness, plus its thermal camera, make it unlike any smartphone on the market.

Specs

  • 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution
  • 2.2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor
  • Adreno 508 GPU
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB built-in storage, further expandable via microSD up to 256GB
  • 16MP rear camera, 8MP front-facing camera
  • 4,500mAh battery
  • Android 8.1 Oreo (planned upgrade to Android 9.0 Pie)
  • 150 x 76 x 13mm

Caterpillar Cat S41

Caterpillar Cat S41

The Cat S41 phone is extremely rugged. It can drop from as high as 1.8 meters onto a concrete floor and still operate. It can go down as far as 2 meters in water, and work for up to one full hour at that depth. The phone itself has a 5-inch Full HD “Super Bright” display with Gorilla Glass 5 protecting it, and it even works with wet or gloved fingers.

Inside, it has a MediaTek Helio P20 processor, along with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 13MP rear camera and an 8 MP front facing camera. Finally, it has a huge 5,000mAh battery that’s so big, it can even be used to power up other devices with its Battery Share feature. Amazon in the U.S. is currently selling the UK/EU model of the Cat S41 for $507.

Specs

  • 5-inch Super Bright Full HD display
  • MediaTek Helio P20 processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • 13MP rear camera
  • 8MP front camera
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Size: 152 x 75 x 12.85mm, 216g

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Caterpillar Cat S31

Caterpillar Cat S31
 
The cheaper of the two most recent Caterpillar rugged phones is the S31, and it can take a beating. Like the S41, the S31 is supposedly usable even if it falls from 1.8 meters down to concrete. Its water resistance is a bit less impressive than that of its big brother, but it’s still impressive; the S31 can operate in up to 1.2 meters of water for up to 35 minutes. The 4.7-inch phone’s screen can also be handled by a person with wet or gloved hands.
 
Inside it is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. It also has an 8MP rear camera, a 2MP front camera and a large 4,000mAh battery. You can get it on Amazon for $289.98.

Specs

  • 4.7-inch IPS 720p display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • 8MP rear camera
  • 2MP front camera
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 4,000mAh battery
  • Size: 146 x 74.42 x12.6mm, 200g

Kyocera DualForce Pro 2

Well-known rugged phone brand Kyocera just recently launched its latest model, the DualForce Pro 2. It’s an exclusive in the U.S. via Verizon Wireless, with an average sized 5-inch display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of onboard storage. It also has a dual rear camera setup with a 13MP main sensor and a 5MP ultra-wide sensor, along with an 8MP front-facing camera and a 3240mAh battery.

As with the other phones in this article, the Kyocera has an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance and is up to MIL-STD-810G specs for surviving drops. Finally, the phone’s screen is protected with a Sapphire Shield Display, which should prevent scratches. You can get it at Verizon for $444 without a contract, or for $18.50 a month for 24 months.

Specs

  • 5-inch Full HD display with 1,080 x 1,920 resolution
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage
  • 13MP and 5MP rear cameras
  • 5MP front camera
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 3240mAh battery
  • 150.2 x 73.4 x 13.5 mm, 243g

 

 

Land Rover Explore

Land Rover Explore

Land Rover is mostly known as a car company, but it also sells a rugged smartphone to go along with the lifestyle of its customers. The Land Rover Explore even resembles one of its cars, from its grill-like front design to its back, which looks a bit like a car mat.

The Land Rover Explore has an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance. With a screen protector, the phone can survive drops from up to six feet, and can even work submerged for up to 30 minutes underwater, including in salt water. The display can also work even if your fingers are wet or are inside gloves.

The hardware specs for the phone include a 5-inch Full HD display, a 2.6GHz deca-core Helio X27 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of expandable storage. There’s also a 16MP rear camera, an 8MP front-facing camera, and a large 4,000mAh battery the company says should last up to two days. The phone also has special apps, such as an Outdoor Dashboard that offers quick access to current weather information, and the phone even has an SOS flashlight in case you need it.

Each Land Rover Explore phone is sold with an “Adventure Pack” that connects to the back of the device with a series of magnets, similar to a Moto Mod. The pack adds an additional 3,600mAh battery, which should nearly double the phone’s battery life. It also comes with an 22mm ceramic patch GPS antenna, which offers a better GPS experience than most smartphones. Land Rover is also selling additional packs for the Explore, including a Battery Pack which throws in an even bigger 4,370mAh battery, and a Bike Pack that lets you mount the phone on a bike.

At the moment, the Land Rover Explore is sold mainly in Europe, for the price of 649 euros (~$739), or 599 pounds (~$765) in the U.K. You can purchase it in the US, via Amazon, but only from third-party sellers.

Specs

  • 5-inch Full HD display
  • Deca-core Helio X27 processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage
  • 16MP rear camera
  • 8MP front camera
  • Android 7.0 Nougat (Android 8.0 Oreo update coming soon)
  • 4,000mAh battery, with additional 3,600mAh Adventure Pack battery

Nomu S50 Pro

Nomu S50 Pro

The Nomu S50 Pro definitely qualifies as a rugged smartphone. It has an IP68 rating, which means it can survive being submerged in up to three meters of water for an hour. It also is MIL-STD-810G certified which means it will keep working after a drop from 1.8 meters high.

The phone is also much cheaper than most rugged phones, at just $229.99. For that price, you also get a 5.72-inch display with an 18:9 aspect ratio and a 720 x 1,440 resolution, a MediaTek MTK6763 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of onboard storage, a 16MP rear camera, an 8MP front-facing camera, and a huge 5,000mAh battery. You can buy it directly from the company below.

Specs

  • 5.72-inch display, 720 x 1,440 resolution
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • MediaTek MTK6763 processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 64GB of storage, 
  • 16MP rear camera, 8MP front-facing camera
  • 5,000mAh battery

Unihertz Atom

Unihertz AtomUnihertz

If you want a rugged phone that’s also really, really small, take a look at the Unihertz Atom, currently available to purchase via Kickstarter. A follow up to the company’s earlier Jelly phone, the Atom is designed to be thicker and more rugged.

It only has a 2.45 inch display, but the Atom has an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance. That means not only will this phone fit nearly anywhere, it can handle a lot of abuse. You could even wear it comfortably on your arm as you run. In fact, Unihertz is selling optional running, biking, and body clips for the Atom so it can sit securely on your body or bike.

The phone uses an unnamed octa-core 2Ghz processor, and the Atom still crams in 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage. It also has a 16MP rear camera, an 8MP front-facing camera, and a 2,000mAh battery. It even has a USB Type-C port, a headphone jack, and a fingerprint scanner, along with a programmable key on the side that can be set to quickly launch an app, take a quick picture and more. You can now purchase the Atom at Unihertz’s website for $259.99

Specs

  • 2.45-inch display, 432 x 240
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • Octa-core 2Ghz processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 64GB of storage, 
  • 16MP rear camera, 8MP front-facing camera
  • 2,000mAh battery
  • 96 x 45 x 18mm, 106g

Doogee S70

Doogee S70.Doogee

In the recent trend of launching smartphones targeting hardcore gamers, the China-based Doogee has thrown its hat in the ring with the Doogee S70. This is indeed a rugged phone, with an IP68 water and dust resistance rating and a MIL-STD-810G certification. What makes it a gaming phone is that it has an optional add-on controller that connects to the back of the device. It has a trigger button, D-pad and analog stick, and generally should make it easier to play games, especially racing and first person shooter titles.

It also has a 6-inch full HD+ screen, a MediaTek Helio P23 chipset, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of onboard storage. It has two rear cameras (12MP and 5MP), a 16MP front-facing camera and a truly massive 5,500mAh battery. You can get it now for $299.99.

Specs

  • 5.99-inch display, 2,160 x 1,080 resolution
  • Android 8.1 Oreo
  • MediaTek Helio P23
  • 6GB of RAM
  • 64GB of storage, 
  • 12MP and 5MP rear cameras, 16 MP front-facing camera
  • 5,500mAh battery

Samsung Galaxy S8 Active

Samsung Galaxy S8 Active rugged phone

The Samsung Galaxy S8 Active is the more rugged version of the company’s older flagship phone, the Galaxy S8. The phone, which has a metal frame and bumper, meets with MIL-STD-810G military specifications, which means that the S8 Active is supposed to be shatter-resistant, as well as dust and water resistant. In the latter case, the phone can still work even when it is submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.

Because of its rugged frame, the Galaxy S8 Active does not have the nearly bezel-free “Infinity Display” of the standard Galaxy S8, but it still has a 5.8 inch Super AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass 5, with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440. It comes in meteor gray or titanium gold.

Inside, the S8 Active has a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of onboard storage, a 12MP rear camera ,and an 8MP front-facing camera. The biggest hardware difference is the battery. The S8 Active has a 4,000mAh battery, compared to the 3,000mAh battery of the standard Galaxy S8.

The Galaxy S8 Active works on GSM networks and is currently on sale unlocked at Amazon, which has priced it at $389.99. Samsung has not announced plans to release a rugged version of its most recent flagship phone, the Galaxy S9.

Specs

  • 5.8-inch Super AMOLED screen, 2,560 x 1,440 resolution
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage
  • 12MP rear storage
  • 8MP front camera
  • 4,000mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 5.98 x 2.95 x 0.39 inches, 7.34 ounces
 
While the audience for rugged phones is relatively small, we’re slowly seeing more offerings. It’s likely that more rugged phone features will creep into standard phones in the future as well.
 

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