Aug 14 AT 2:21 PM Taylor Wimberly 34 Comments

What’s the best Android phone for outdoors enthusiasts?


“Should I bring my smartphone with me?” Chances are you have exposed your smartphone to some extreme conditions if you have an active lifestyle. I have trashed several mobile devices while enjoying some outdoors activities, so I’m always interested in the rugged smartphones that have been growing in numbers.

Most carriers now offer at least one rugged phone so we wanted to round up the best of the best and see how they compare. Read on to see if you need tough Android phone in your pocket.

Verizon – Casio G’zOne Commando

The Good: Built to MIL-STD-810G spec standards – meets military standards for water immersion, rain, shock and dust resistance, vibration, salt fog, humidity, solar radiation, altitude, and high and low temperature storage. Ships with apps for an active lifestyle including Earth Compass, Thermometer, Sunrise Sunset, Tides, Walking Counter, Star Gazer. Other highlights include 5 MP camera, 800 MHz Snapdragon S2 processor, large front-facing speaker, microSD slot, and support for Verizon’s push to talk service.

The Not-so-good: No 4G LTE, and still runs Android 2.3.

Last Amazon Price: $0.01 on contract, $449 off contract

Final Words: Casio is one of the few OEMs really pushing forward with rugged phones. The G’zOne series has been around since 2006, and the Commando is the first Android-powered device in the family. Casio was an official sponsor of X Games Los Angeles 2012 and Red Bull Signature Series, so they are investing in increasing their brand awareness.

We like the tough design of the Commando and think it would be a great rugged phone for an outdoors enthusiast on Verizon. You could easily add a line to your Verizon Share Everything plan and pick up the Commando for free.

Casio recently teamed up with Hypebest to create a series of videos that focused on the extremities of the environments that challenge the unique individuals they are targeting. The latest video features free-climbing, base-jumping group The Skyliners.

AT&T – Samsung Rugby Smart

The Good: Built to 810f military spec standards - waterproof, dust proof, and shock resistant. Device highlights include 3.7 inch Super AMOLED Plus display, 1.4 GHz single-core processor, 5 MP camera, and support for AT&T 4G HSPA+ network.

The Not-so-good: Stuck with Android 2.3, some user reviews say the screen cracked after several drops.

Final Words: The Rugby Smart is a nice pickup for AT&T customers if you can get it free on contract. Otherwise, you are best getting an unlocked rugged phone and just swapping your SIM card over when you want to use it.

Last Amazon Price$0.01 on contract, $349 off contract

Sprint – Motorola Admiral

The Good: Meets the military specifications for dust, shock, solar radiation, and temperature extremes. Corning Gorilla Glass means touchscreen display is scratch-resistant. Highlights of the device include  a 1.2 GHz Snapdragon S2 processor, QWERTY keyboard, 5 MP camera, microSD slot, and push-to-talk (PTT) service over Sprint Direct Connect.

The Not-so-good: Stuck on Android 2.3, no 4G speeds, and display is only 3.1 inches.

Final Words: This is one of the few rugged phones that is designed for a business environment. The QWERTY keyboard is great for email, but the display might be too small for some. This phone can also be found for free on contract, and it has one of the lower prices if you just want to purchase the phone only.

Last Amazon Price$0.01 on contract, $289.99 off contract

T-Mobile / Unlocked – Motorola Defy

The Good: Lowest price for no-contract rugged Android phone, dust-proof as well as water and scratch resistant.

The Not-so-good: Phone is starting to age and newer Motorola Defy XT556 is coming soon. Device is stuck on Android 2.2.

Final Words: Good choice if you are looking for a cheap phone to take out on the weekend and don’t want to damage your primary device.

Last Amazon Price: $169 for unlocked model, $239 for the Defy+ (faster CPU and Android 2.3).

Wrapping Things Up

Looking down the list shows us that rugged phones can’t compete with the flagship devices in terms of specs, but the target customer for these phones isn’t interested in specs. An outdoors enthusiasts just wants a device that can survive the elements and still make calls.

What’s your view on rugged phones? Would you compromise on hardware specs and outdated software to have a mobile device that could survive a swim in the toilet and keep on ticking? Let us know if you would consider purchasing a rugged device as a backup to take on outdoors trips or maybe as a tough phone for a child.

Via: Casio G'zOne

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

    Most Tweeted This Week

  • NeoJesus

    All that ruggedness doesn’t matter if it doesn’t run at least ICS.

    ICS is so much smoother and more stable than all the previous versions of Android.

    • zerosix

      Defy/Defy+ can have CM9.

      Defy+ is the best choice, because of it’s price, 1700 mAh battery (sometimes it’s still alive after 2-3 days), large community and that it can be used not only as a tough phone, but as an everyday device.

  • Alexey Stukalov

    Thanks to Cyanogenmod community, there is Cyanogenmod 7, 9 and 10 for Motorola Defy (although ICS and JB need faster and >1 core CPU). The real advantage of Defy over the other rugged phones is the dimension of the screen.

  • Chris Lewis

    Ahh I that video was sick!

  • Tojen

    I think the rugged smartphone market is horribly underserved. At the very least all phones coming out now should be waterproof. Lackluster hardware/software is the reason ruggedized smartphones dont sell well. In my line of work, a case is a must if you want your phone to last. Make a phone with at least mid-range specs, along with a minimum of 8gb for app storage and ship with ics, and I’ll take it.

  • gmp009

    Xperia GO!

  • PacoBell

    What’s wrong with putting your current phone in an OtterBox or something similar. Does the same thing, no?

    • kirt

      put your galaxy s3 in a OtterBox and submerge it for 10 minutes in water. That’s how long my motorola defy was under water when I jumped off the boat to retrieve my rod & reel & fish jerked into the lake. That was a year ago & I still use the defy. Never had an issue with it. Let me know how the water test does in the otterbox. Never can tell you might drop it in a puddle or something someday.

  • Jack

    Feels like there are some device missing in this review..

  • sikandar hayat

    brilliant specs, Xiaomi has also released Xiaomi one s, an upgraded version of Xiaomi one.. 200,000 units sold in 30 minutes wowwwww…

  • Sharmaine

    Who makes this stuff up. Why in the world would outdoor enthudiasts not be just as interested in cell phone specs as anyone else? I have to pay for the all that oudoor ethusiast gear somehomw so I make a living in IT, where I have to care deeply about all kinds of specs pertaining to really really huge computer systems. I also care about the specs on my bike, my kyack, my hiking boots, my skis. Why would I not care about them on MY CELL PHONE. Its not like I’m unique, a very large ( > 50% ) of science and technology types are also outdoor enthusiasts. Rugged cell phone makers are missing the point – at least for North America and Eurpope. Maybe this misguided perspective is actually applicable in, say, Asia, and maybe thats where it comes from. But I WANT A RUGGED CELL PHONE THAT IS COOL AND FUN AND HAS GREAT SPECS which I can use happily 365 days a year – not just the subset of days when I’m actually off outdoorsing. I mean come on – who can better use a really really decent camera on a cell phone foot print – than someone trying to carry a weeks worth of supplies on their back?????? Not to mention the other group of people who could really use a rugged cell phone with cool spec – ie KIDS? Come on people get with the program. ICS. 1 G RAM. 16 G MEM (expandable for all those adventure pictures and videos) 8 MP camera. Great display. Indestructable. It wil sell like hot cakes.

    • Jason Komut

      There are probably some tough engineering hurdles to overcome in meeting the specs. Make the processor faster causing heat but in a water sealed casing? OK, lets make it huge. But now it is so big and heavy no one can use it as an everyday phone.

      My guess is this is an issue of engineering and not demand for a product.

  • Dave Cawsey

    Check out the Nautiz X1

  • kirt

    I don’t know why all the rugged phones are 800mhz old tech. They must think construction workers are the only people that want them and they don’t care for all the hot stuff inside. Us geeks want a rugged phone designed like the Cat B10 but with a quad-core, rock & roll screen for gaming etc. At least give us a rugged phone with the inards of a galaxy s3 and maybe a tougher screen like gorilla glass or tougher is there is one. I’d pay 600 to $800 for a rock & roll really tough phone.

  • Jason Komut

    If you have reception when you get outdoors, can you really call yourself an “outdoor enthusiast”?

    • Chris Toombs

      If all people cared about with cell phones was cell signals then these phones would be fine..but phones aren’t just about calling people now.. they’re about taking pictures and videos, using them for a compass, gps, using them as a journal, and then easily sharing everything when you get back. As an outdoor enthusiast, that stuff is important to me.

    • Marsha

      There aren’t many places where one can’t get cell phone reception on some network. There are holes, small towns, valleys… The problem I have with the phone I have now is heat. It doesn’t work in the heat of summer. I have a small acreage to maintain so spend long days outside. I also hike and dog train, hunt tests and agility. The phone doesn’t respond to my touch when it’s hot out. Just when I need to reach someone on the other side of a field the phone locks up.

      • Andre Moreno

        Don’t let the phone get so hot.

        You are exposing the phone to radiative heat from the sun, or conductive or convective heating from being inside an environment heated by the Sun. Place the phone in a Mylar foil pouch made from the same material as a space blanket. It will reflect about 98% of the heat away from the phone. That is what NASA wraps around sensitive electronics in space to keep them from being cooked by solar radiation.

  • jaco-louis arlow

    what about the Runbo X3 and Runbo X5?

    • Alvin Zest

      Runbo X5 – great specs but failed my own water proof test – 5 inches of water for 30 minutes and gobs of water in the battery compartment – so not to IP67 standard

      • febs

        Was the battery cover well sealed?

        • Klod

          Im guessing it was not closed properly. i’ve taken my x5 in hot tubs, bath tub, text in shower and other places. The rear compartment screws shut and if not closed with care or you damage a screw you will have a problem.

  • Jeff

    the new 2013 Cat B15 is probably the most rugged out there with good performance

  • Sheree

    I have had my Casio Commando Gz’One going on three years now. It a fantastic ruggedized phone that has survived 5 national forests, 6 state forests, 4 children, 4 horses, 6 dogs, a 2 story fall, 3 swims in 4′ of water, being left in rain and snow, camping, hiking, being stepped on, landing in a lit fire pit for 2:43 (minutes & seconds), falling off a moving truck at 15 miles per hour, and being run over by a steel buick once. The case is slightly nicked but the Commando It is still kickin’ with nothing but a screen protector that I have only replaced once. I don’t know about you, but to me that says a lot for the engineering of the device.

    If you truly want durability, you need to consider how many frills you are willing to sacrifice for a phone you likely will never have to replace. It is a simple choice, for me.
    Put a larger SD card in my phone and I can still make it rock like a tablet or entertain my 8 y/o with netflix or live tv. I also use this phone as a mobile hotspot to power about a half dozen wireless devices while on long trips with my family.

    Sure, it will never be 4g, and the sharing capabilities suck, but the signal strength is insane and when no one else had a working phone, for whatever reason, I do. The only time I lose signal is when it I am in an area that is jammed for national security purposes, and I have been everywhere. How many folks can say that?


    • Marsha

      What network are you on? I’m in Colorado. My life is not as full as yours but it’s still rough on a phone.

  • Lizzie

    I don’t need the rugged phone but hubby/boss/engineer does, and the shockproof, dustproof etc. appeal of these milspec phones has been appealing. Like my Droi4 though, his Commando is aging, and I don’t see appealing replacements for either. We have verizon and don’t want to have to go to a DIY service when it comes time to replace our phones.

  • Geoff

    What about this one…looks to be coming out soon – but I think they only ship to Australia…

  • Jack

    I just wanted to say to the guy that made the review …ya might wanna update ur info….on the verizon website it says it is 4G and it has a 4.0 screen with an 8 mp camera( rear facing) not a 5mp about the commando…this 1 line says enough…..Commando® 4G LTE is a registered trademark of Verizon Wireless.

  • Boatguy

    I’ve had the Casio Commando for nearly 2 years and it still works just like it did when new. I work at a boatyard and am constantly dropping it from ladders, into bilges, etc. It lives in my pocket and in spite of all these drops, dust, water and general abuse it is still going strong. This phone actually exceeds the durability Casio advertises as mine has survived falls in excess of 10 ft onto pavement and has been submerged in salt water much deeper than recommended.

  • troy

    just confused, i just want the best rugged out there but no one can agree. sonim, kyocera, casio they have all been at the top of one list or another!!!

  • Christy Root

    I’m using currently Android Rugged Phone. I was not actually looking for a new handset but when I saw the features of Rugged Android 4.0 V8, and with I think it is impossible to resist yourself from buying this phone. Well, just to let you know the phone didn’t disappoint me at all. I was with my phone all the time no matter whether I was in the middle of the beach or desert. The waterproof and dustproof functionality worked amazingly well. Additionally, the phone is also shockproof.

  • DocSagarat

    What they all lack which is essential in any outdoors activity is BATTERY LIFE. I am talking 2 weeks on a charge at least. 20000-40000 mAh. Solar panels built in to charge them in a survival situation. And a small screen to hog less power. And a powerful antenna to pick up weak signals. That means large batteries. Which is okay in a rugged phone as nobody cares about looking sleek in a survival situation. AND NONE OF THEM HAVE IT. They are basically boring common phones with a bit of rubber and a few water seals tacked on. Useless.

  • Arah Chavez

    very nice! how I wish I can have one, soon!

  • Arah Chavez

    very nice, how I wish I can have one ,soon!