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To help you find the best rugged smartphone to take with you on a job, we spent several hours identifying the top options available today and then ranked them according to their level of durability, overall performance, and battery power. We also recommend purchasing a rugged smartphone that includes additional functionality like thermal imaging, wireless power-sharing, and expandable storage options. To determine the best amount of durability, look for MIL-STD-861G certification and IP68/69 water resistance.
With these considerations in mind, we chose the Ulefone Armor 7 as the best rugged smartphone available this year. Keep reading to learn more about this extra-durable device and the other top picks for the best smartphone we identified.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: This tough phone is built to last with its MIL-STD-810G certification, four rubberized edges, and extra-durable display. It also performs well with its Helio P90 processor and features an impressively large 5500 mAh battery for long-lasting life.
The Ulefone Armor 7 gives durability and ruggedness a new name and face with this extra-tough smartphone. Let’s get right down to brass tacks and discuss what durability features this phone has to offer. For starters, its outer casing mirrors a tried-and-true rugged design, with four long sides lined with rubberized plastic. This allows the phone to handle drops and hits with ease. Next, the display is covered in an oleophobic screen protector straight out of the box. The Armor 7 meets MIL-STD-810G specifications and features an IP69K rating, which means it can handle high-pressure sprays of water without getting ruined. In fact, Ulefone the manufacturer even states that the entire phone is held together by waterproof glue to keep water out even more effectively. It’s safe to say that this is one of the most durable smartphones available today.
Related: For those who like selfies, we’ve compiled a guide on the best selfie camera phones available today!
When it comes to performance, you can expect snappy response times and minimal lagging here. The phone features a powerful Helio P90 processor, which keeps up with most modern flagship phones. The Ulefone Armor 7 also features a 6.3-inch display with FHD+ resolution. It looks good in most situations but could use a little more brightness and color. Better than all this, though, is the Armor 7’s incredible battery. Rated at 5500 mAh, this phone battery will last you for hours on end before you need to charge it again. The battery is also capable of wireless charging, which is a nice touch. No need to carry around the best portable chargers with this model.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: Affordable toughness and dual SIM functionality are hallmarks of this rugged smartphone. It also features a responsive Helio P90 processor and long-lasting performance with its stellar 5150 mAh battery.
The DooGee S95 Pro rugged smartphone earns the Honorable Mention in this buying guide because of the affordability it brings to the table while remaining one of the toughest phones we’ve ever seen. Every aspect of the phone is designed to take a hit with ease, and it even meets MIL-STD-810G standards. It’s much thicker than your average smartphone, but that’s only because it has added thick rubberized plastic to its other casing – especially around the corners – for added drop protection. The phone is also IP69K water-resistant. All of the ports on the DooGee S95 Pro also feature rubberized covers to keep the dust out.
When it comes to performance and general usability, you’ll be pleased to find that the DooGee S95 Pro houses a snappy Helio P90 chipset. This keeps everything running smoothly without overheating the phone or causing any lag. You’ll also get a powerful quad-camera array on this rugged smartphone, with the main sensor of 48 megapixels on the rear camera and an 18-megapixel selfie camera on the front. We were also impressed by the S95 Pro’s display. While it doesn’t feature any kind of oleophobic coating, it is made from Corning Gorilla Glass 5 for added durability. Plus, it offers a 2160 x 1080 pixel resolution. The phone’s impressive battery features 5150 mAh of power. The DooGee S95 Pro also features an interesting modular attachment design that allows you to easily add and remove add-ons (sold separately) like a 3500mAh battery pack or powerful speakers. Toss this phone into the best tactical backpack and your devices and equipment will stay secure.
Award: Best Quality
WHY WE LIKE IT: This top-tier rugged smartphone is built extremely well, with MIL-STD-810G certification, waterproof casing, and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 for the display. It also features a compact, utilitarian design with a metal frame for added sturdiness.
The BlackView BV9900 Pro rugged phone improves on many of the features that made its predecessor, the BlackView BV9800 Pro rugged smartphone, so great. However, this version feels more compact, more utilitarian, and more professional overall. The BlackView BV9900 Pro still features the intense durability features as before, namely MIL-STD-810G certification and IP68 water resistance, but you’ll also get tough rubberized corners, edges, and even back cover. The display is made from strong Corning Gorilla Glass 5, as well. These rubberized edges make for improved grips and the overall simple design makes this phone look great, even for professional settings.
The BlackView BV9900 Pro rugged phone also functions really well as a standard smartphone. It’s got a large 5.84-inch display with a 2080 x 1080 pixel resolution and bright, vivid colors. The front-facing camera notch is minimal and unobtrusive. Speaking of cameras, you’ll also get a solid rear-facing camera array with 48 megapixels of resolution. Underneath the camera, you’ll also find a powerful FLIR thermal imaging sensor and heart rate sensor. These added features propel the BlackView BV9900 Pro higher in our rankings because they add a ton of versatility to the phone. Unfortunately, all of these added features can drain your battery life faster than usual. This doesn’t bode well for the disappointing battery on the BlackView BV990 Pro rugged phone, which comes in at a mere 4380 mAh rating. However, you should still get a full day’s worth of use out of this rugged BlackView BV9900 Pro rugged phone. You might also like our best rugged tablets buying guide for even more options.
Award: BEST FOR BUSINESS APPLICATIONS
WHY WE LIKE IT: This rugged smartphone was made specifically with frontline workers in mind. From its slim, durable design to its advanced walkie talkie functionality and mobile POS compatibility, this phone is perfect for business applications.
If you’re a business owner looking to purchase a rugged phone for your front line employees, then you’ve come to the right spot. The Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro is packed to the brim with features that are tailored specifically to business settings. For starters, the phone’s design screams durability and customizability. It features a tough, rubberized casing and MIL-STD-810G certification, so you know this can handle anything daily hard work can throw at it. The Galaxy XCover Pro also features a decent processor to keep everything running smoothly in the background.
However, where the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro really shines is in the business-specific functionality. This phone is extra secure with both facial recognition and a fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone. Next, you’ll get a refined push-to-talk functionality with this phone. This helps your employees stay in touch more easily when they’re spread throughout the store or worksite. This function is also enabled by programmable buttons on the side of the phone. You can even program these buttons to carry out complicated workflows to improve your employees’ overall efficiency. Finally, you’ll also be able to use the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro as a mobile point-of-sale (POS) system, which is incredibly helpful, especially for retail businesses, making this one of the best phones for business on our list.
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Award: BEST FOR ATTACHMENTS
WHY WE LIKE IT: This powerful option was the first to bring modularized attachments to the rugged phone industry, and it does so incredibly well. You can pick from a huge variety of clip-on attachments to improve the already-good performance and functionality of this option.
The DooGee S90 Pro rugged smartphone is perhaps one of the most unique options you can find available today. The idea for this phone originated on Kickstarter and was funded very quickly. The DooGee S90’s unique modular design is what made it so popular from the beginning. The back of the DooGee S90 features a connector that allows you to connect a wide variety of attachments, called mods to enhance the phone’s overall functionality. Choose from battery packs, night vision cameras, walkie talkies, and more.
Fortunately, the DooGee S90 features a powerful enough process to make all of this happen. With a Helio P70 chipset, you’ll get smooth, reliable performance no matter what mod you have attached. It’s not the fastest processor on the block, but it’s good enough. The DooGee S90 is also incredibly durable. It’s rated at IP69K for water and dust resistance, plus it features MIL-STD-810G certification. This DooGee S90 phone can take a beating with ease and still keep functioning. You’ll also get fast wireless charging on the DooGee S90 phone, which is a nice touch. If you’ll be out in the elements and want added protection from rain, check out our best dry bags buying guide.
Award: BEST COMPACT DESIGN
WHY WE LIKE IT: If you need an extra-compact rugged smartphone, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this option. It’s the smallest rugged phone available today, and it still features a long-lasting battery and lots of internal storage options.
The Unihertz Atom rugged smartphone is the best option for you if you need the absolute smallest possible option. Measuring in at an impressive 3.8 x 1.77 x 0.74 inches total, this phone can go anywhere with you without any worry of breaking in your pocket or bag. The screen size is a mere 2.45 inches Even though it’s not of the highest resolution, it works well enough for such a compact phone. You’ll also get surprisingly smooth performance with the Unihertz Atom smartphone even in spite of its lackluster chipset.
Of course, the Unihertz Atom is also built with durability in mind. It features a thick, rubberized external casing and Gorilla Glass 3 on the display. The phone is also IP68 water and dust resistant. The Unihertz Atom also features a surprising amount of internal storage for its extra-small screen size. It’s built with 64GB of internal storage. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to expand the storage at all, since the phone is missing a microSD card slot. All in all, though, 64GB should be more than enough since the Atom doesn’t do incredibly well with photography or playing movies. It’s one of the best small phones on this list for sure.
Award: BEST BATTERY
WHY WE LIKE IT: This rugged smartphone focuses on comprehensive battery functionality and durability over all else. It can act as an emergency power bank and features an extra-large 5000 mAh battery for long-lasting performance.
The Caterpillar CAT S41 rugged smartphone focuses on two features and functionalities over all else: durability and battery performance. The CAT S41 is bulkier and thicker than other rugged smartphones, but that can also be a good thing in this category. The casing is reminiscent of Otterbox Defender phone cases, making it extra durable. If you value durability over performance, then this is the perfect phone for you. The thick rubberized material protects the phone from drops from high falls. Plus, the CAT S41 is rated for IP68 water and dust resistance, meaning it can be submerged in up to two meters for at least 30 minutes and up to 60 minutes.
The CAT S41 rugged smartphone also features a ton of excellent functionality. It offers a wide variety of different ports, including a microUSB charging port, 3.5mm audio jack, microSD card slot, and SIM card tray. Each port is covered by a rubberized flap to keep dust and water out. We were also impressed by this phone’s push-to-talk functionality. Simply press the bright orange button and the phone will act as a walkie-talkie. The CAT S41 rugged smartphone also features an incredibly powerful battery, rated at 5000 mAh. This rugged smartphone can even act as an emergency power bank to charge other devices through the use of Cat’s proprietary Battery Share cable. Add this to the list of best outdoor gear.
Award: BEST SPECIALIZED TOOLS
WHY WE LIKE IT: This rugged smartphone is extra specialized with dual SIM functionality, tons of durability, and plenty of unique features like a thermal camera and air quality monitor. This phone also features a responsive octa-core processor, which creates a smooth user experience.
The Caterpillar CAT S61 is another excellent option in Caterpillar’s stellar rugged smartphone lineup. It improves upon previous CAT phones, including the addition of some extra-specialized tools and functionalities. For starters, you’ll get dual SIM functionality for added versatility when it comes to phone calls and text messaging. However, you’ll be even more impressed by Caterpillar’s decision to include some unique features on top of the standard smartphone functionality. You’ll get a FLIR thermal camera, measurement tool, and air quality monitor. While these aren’t as good as their dedicated, professional counterparts, they still work well in a pinch.
The CAT S61 is also a pretty solid smartphone for casual users. While the phone has a somewhat smaller display than we’d like to see on modern options at 5.2 inches, it features a reliable internal chipset that keeps things running smoothly in the background. You’ll also get good durability features, like extra-comprehensive protection from high-pressure water blasts with the phone’s IP69 rating and Gorilla Glass 5 for the display. Plus, with the rubberized external casing, the CAT S61 rugged smartphone can handle drops from tall heights with ease. For everyday use with better camera options, you’ll want to check out our best phones for vlogging buying guide.
Award: BEST FOR THERMAL IMAGING
WHY WE LIKE IT: This rugged smartphone is the best option for anyone who needs thermal imaging capabilities. It’s also incredibly tough with a rubberized casing and long-lasting with a 4000 mAh battery.
The Caterpillar CAT S62 rugged smartphone is the best option with a thermal camera that your money can buy today. There are plenty of rugged smartphones out there that offer similar functionality, but the CAT S62 is the one that does it the best. The thermal camera can produce high-resolution thermal images that are also incredibly accurate. You’ll even get tons of customization options in the thermal camera settings, as well as options for analysis software.
For the more standard smartphone features, the CAT S62 also does surprisingly well, although it doesn’t hold up nearly as well when compared to modern flagship smartphones. The Snapdragon 660 chipset is powerful enough to run most applications and functions on this phone, but it won’t do well with gaming or other resource-heavy applications. You’ll need the best gaming phones for that. This rugged smartphone also features a large 4000 mAh battery for long-lasting performance that’s hard to beat, especially with the added power draw that the thermal camera requires.
Award: BEST ON A BUDGET
WHY WE LIKE IT: If you’re on a tight budget, but still need rugged, long-lasting performance, then this is the best smartphone for you. It features a ton of high-tech features at an affordable price, including wireless charging and expandable storage for greater flexibility.
The Kyocera DuraForce Pro 2 is the best budget rugged smartphone in this guide, and it earns that distinction by combining affordability with high-tech performance. For starters, you’d do well to not assume that the Kyocera’s budget price point diminishes its overall durability. It features plenty of high-quality rugged design quality, including a shatter-resistant Sapphire Shield display and rubberized external casing. The Sapphire Shield display is actually scratch proof, even against sharp objects like knives, which is a surprising thing to find. You’ll even get an IP68 rating for water resistance, which is a nice bonus.
The Kyocera DuraForce phone also performs well overall, even in spite of its sluggish Snapdragon 617 chipset. You shouldn’t expect flagship phone performance from this option, but it does well to keep most applications lag and stutter-free. This rugged smartphone also features excellent wireless connectivity options like dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC functionality for mobile payment options. For greater connectivity, check out our best 5G phones buying guide.
Durability means something different in the rugged smartphone category, which is why we spent a long time analyzing each phone’s true toughness. Customers who purchase the best rugged smartphone want more than just simple water and dust resistance. They also want comprehensive protection against drops and hits. This is why we rated phones with MIL-STD-810G certification much higher on our list. This military-standard rating identifies phones that can be used even in combat situations. They’re extra tough, with shatter-resistant screens and extensive waterproofing capabilities. Not every phone in our guide features this durability certification, but those that do earn all the bonus points.
Next, we looked at each rugged smartphone’s performance as it compares to its durability. We preferred phones that didn’t sacrifice processing power or display quality to implement more toughness. You should still be able to get a rugged smartphone that performs well with streaming movies, multitasking, and playing games. We ranked phones higher if they provided user-friendly, responsive operating systems.
Finally, we looked at each phone’s battery life and camera performance. The best rugged smartphones include big batteries that keep the phone powered for at least a full day. We awarded more points for bigger batteries. We also scored phones higher if they included additional features like thermal imaging cameras, heart rate sensors, and measuring tools.