The market’s best-rugged smartphones feature extreme durability, massive batteries, and an abundance of outdoor-specific features. We’ve evaluated the best handsets designed for heavy use and selected the best options.
The following rugged smartphones are dust- and water-resistant and, in some cases, completely waterproof, with cases or shells that are durable enough to withstand drops onto hard surfaces. Some of these devices can withstand any impact, bump, or drop without sustaining a scratch, making them ideal for use in hazardous environments or outdoors.
Some phones on this list have even been subjected to rigorous testing to ensure they meet military specifications and can withstand extreme temperatures, shocks, and more.
Our Top Picks
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What’s the meaning of Rugged Phones?
The rugged phones have a unique design and have been subjected to rigorous testing to ensure they meet military standards and can withstand extreme temperatures, submersion, shocks, and more. It comes with cases or shells that are sufficiently durable to withstand drops onto hard surfaces.
They have excellent ratings for protection against drops, dust, and water, and their battery life is exceptional. They are suitable for those who work in harsh environments, such as construction sites, road sites, coal sites, wood factories, farms, outdoor sites, and long-distance transportation.
These devices are MIL-STD-810G or MIL-STD-810H military-grade certified and have the highest IP rating – IP68 & IP69K – to ensure they are ready for a variety of rough use.
In addition, they come with various useful features and small tools, such as a night-vision camera, thermal imaging camera, heart rate monitoring, reverse-charge, spirit level, plumb line, and air pressure sensor, among others.
It is the best phone for heavy usage, clumsiness, farmers, hiking, camping, etc. Whether your hobby or profession takes you to wild or dangerous places, you need the most rugged smartphone available.
Who Should Buy a Rugged Cell Phone Or Rugged Smart Phone?
Everyone who leads an active lifestyle understands the necessity of a durable phone. From mountain biking and hiking to kayaking and skiing, there are innumerable opportunities for your phone to sustain damage. A standard telephone may be able to withstand a few bumps and bruises, but it is not designed to withstand the elements like a rugged phone. Water-resistant, dust-proof, and shockproof, rugged phones are ideal for outdoor activities. In addition, they typically have a longer battery life than standard phones, allowing you to remain connected even when there is no outlet available. If you lead an active lifestyle or travel frequently, investing in a rugged cell phone is prudent.
How to evaluate a rugged phone
If you are shopping for a rugged phone, you may not know what to look for. The most obvious factor to consider is waterproofing; however, if you’re looking for a waterproof phone rather than a rugged device, you should refer to our list of these devices.
All the phones we’ve compared in this article are rated IP68, which means they can withstand up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes – potentially more profound and more prolonged, but this is not guaranteed; use at your own risk.
IP refers to the sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures against intrusion by foreign bodies and moisture.
The first number indicates how well the device is sealed against solid particles such as dust, with ‘6’ representing total protection.
According to the original IEC standard 60529, the second digit is for water protection, and the highest number you’ll find is 8. (6K and 9K are not part of this).
A waterproof smartphone will either use a rubber flap to protect its ports, which would otherwise allow water access to its internal components, or it will waterproof the port itself. The latter is preferable, as it prevents accidents and makes charging the phone much less cumbersome.
Next is the phone’s physical design. The top surface of the phone will likely have a raised edge to protect it if it falls face down, but sharp stones and corners can still cause damage. Therefore, you’ll need something durable to protect the screen glass, preferably Gorilla Glass 5 or 6, but depending on your budget, you may have to settle for Gorilla Glass 3.
Remember that the bezels of a rugged phone will be larger than those of a standard telephone, as most damage occurs at the edges. Larger bezels allow you to continue using the display even if an edge cracks.
The phone itself will be larger and heavier than average, with a larger battery that won’t leave you stranded in a pinch and a rubberized exterior to protect it from drops and shock. Positively, you will not need to add a case.
Look at the sides of the phone: the best-rugged phones have dedicated SOS and PTT buttons, allowing you to quickly call for assistance in an emergency or communicate with your team members while on an expedition.
The 8 Best Rugged Phones Of 2022
Whether your hobby or profession takes you to wild or dangerous places where you need a device that will last a long time and has many features, or you prefer hardy phones over fashionable but fragile standard smartphones, you need the best-rugged smartphone.
Not all waterproof phones will be ruggedized. Therefore, when shopping for the most suitable rugged smartphone for your needs, you should exercise caution and investigate each handset’s feature set.
So, please continue reading to discover our top picks for the best-rugged phones currently on the market.
1. Best for security: Nokia XR20 rugged smartphone
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The Nokia XR20 is the first rugged smartphone to be released under the Nokia brand with the assistance of HMD Global, the company that now owns the Nokia name. The Nokia XR20 is designed to blend in with its slim profile and sleek appearance, unlike other rugged smartphones that stand out due to their designs.
The XR20 is the first rugged smartphone to feature Corning Gorilla Glass Victus and is IP68 certified, and MIL-STD-810 rated for durability. In addition to a red emergency button and a non-customizable Google Assistant button, the device includes a red emergency button.
HMD Global has guaranteed that the XR20 will receive four years of security updates and three years of operating system updates, distinguishing the device from the competition. In addition, the company provides free screen replacement for one year.
- Android OS upgrades until 2024 and a 2-year warranty
- 6GB RAM / 128GB internal memory and MicroSD card support up to 512 GB
- Designed with durability in mind the XR20 withstands drops from up to 2 meters and provides the security of IP68 – the highest rating for both dust and water resistance
- Rear 48MP dual camera with 13MP ultrawide lens and 8MP front-facing camera
- Advanced biometrics allow easy access to your device with a side Fingerprint sensor and biometric face unlock
- Extremely resilient
- Long warranty
- Battery life
- Wireless charging
- Limited performance
- 60Hz refresh rate
- No charging brick
2. Best for a wide range of tasks: Ulefone Armor 9 Rugged Phones
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With its integrated thermal camera and endoscope support, the Ulefone Armor 9 is an incredibly durable smartphone that can become an indispensable all-in-one tool for construction workers, mountaineers, and even first responders. The phone is dropped-, shock-, water-, dust-, pressure-, temperature-, and solar radiation-resistant, and it appears to be clad in heavy armor.
Armor 9 is a mid-range smartphone, evidenced by its 6.3-inch, 1080p LCD display and Helio P90 chipset with 8GB of RAM. It has a 64MP+2MP dual camera on the rear and a single front-facing camera. It has a powerful 6,600 mAh battery that should last for days on a single charge. The thermal FLIR camera on the back of the new Armor 9 is the most intriguing aspect of this vehicle.
The Ulefone Armor 9 is one of the most resistant smartphones to the elements available on the market. It also includes an incredibly effective FLIR thermal camera and an endoscope mount.
The Armor 9 is not a particularly impressive smartphone; while it has excellent software features, its processor and camera will not win over many fans.
If you are willing to accept average specifications and camera quality in exchange for rugged features and an abundance of professional tools, then the Armor 9 is ideal.
- 64MP Ultra High-Resolution Primary Camera
- SAMSUNG ISOCELL Bright GW1
- ƒ/1.89 large aperture, 6 piece lens
- supports 4-in-1 Super Pixel (16MP, 1.6μm)
- ISOCELL Plus Technology
- Support Super-PD ultra-fast focusing
- 2MP Depth Sensor
- Photo resolution: up to 9280×6944 pixels
- Video resolution: up to 1920×1080 pixels
- Quad-LED Flash
- Extremely durable smartphone, IP69K-rated, drop-resistant
- Thoughtful design with hook and endoscope mount
- Reasonable Android specs - 6.3" display, Helio P90 chip
- Enormous battery with impressive endurance
- Thermal camera (mixed picture) and optional endoscope
- Useful apps in the Toolbox, clean Android 10
- Sealed 3.5mm jack, sealed microSD slot, NFC
- Bulky and heavy
- Uninspiring regular photos, awful videos
- Accidental touches on the fingerprint sensor often led to feature blocking due to "Too many attempts"
- Speaker position is not ideal
3. Best for speed: DOOGEE S97 Pro Rugged Smartphone
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The Doogee S97 Pro may have a lower screen resolution than the Doogee S95 Pro from the previous year. Still, the company made up for this by including a laser rangefinder for calculating volumes, surface areas, and angles and a massive 8,500 mAh battery.
The device’s utilitarian appearance is achieved through a combination of black plastic and gray metal. It weighs 350g, making it one of the heaviest rugged smartphones. Despite this, the S97 Pro is manageable due to its rounded edges and surprisingly bright screen. There are also two customizable buttons, a fingerprint reader, and four camera sensors on the device’s rear.
While the Doogee S97 Pro lacks 5G connectivity, it is one of the fastest rugged smartphones on the market based on our tests, in which it scored the highest PCMark score to date and delivered solid overall performance. If you seek a rugged smartphone with a powerful battery, multiple cameras, and a laser rangefinder, the S97 Pro may be for you.
- 48MP Five Camera + 40m Laser Rangefinder
- MTK Helio G95 Chipset, 8GB + 128GB, Android 11
- IP68/IP69K Waterproof Phone + Underwater Mode + Dual Custom Button
- Professional Laser Rangefinder
- Supports 4 Measurement Modes
- 8500mAh Big Battery, 33W Fast Charging, 10W Wireless Charging
- Dual SIM 4G US Network & One Year Warranty
- Accurate laser range finder
- 6.39 inch Gorilla Glass screen
- Supports 33W fast charging
- Low screen resolution
4. Best for 5G connectivity: Ulefone Armor 10 rugged smartphone
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The Ulefone Armor X10 Pro is, as Ulefone has trained us to expect a rugged smartphone. It has a medium 5.45-inch screen on the front and a high-quality synthetic rubber layer on the back, along with dimensions of 158mm in length, 77mm in width, and a substantial thickness of 14.6mm due to its metal frame. It feels great in hand despite its 256g weight, which is significantly lighter than other competitors in the same category, such as the Oukitel WP18. I hope it performs similarly. I have no complaints regarding the manufacturing quality, and the price is reasonable.
We desire both resistance and quality; the smartphone’s specifications are adequate to fulfill most of its features. The Ulefone Armor X10 Pro provides excellent performance for most of its primary and entertainment uses, such as web browsing, YouTube video viewing, social media application used, and even gaming, as everything works efficiently and without issues with crashing applications or high degrees.
This smartphone is unquestionably not for everyone. The Ulefone Armor X10 Pro is intended for the professional market, willing to sacrifice ergonomics and aesthetics for increased durability and battery life. This is precisely what the Armor X10 Pro from Ulefone offers.
In 2022, I consider the WP16 an excellent Rugged smartphone with an exemplary screen, camera, and battery specifications. Despite this, it is not flawless, as Netflix cannot be streamed in HD resolution. Nevertheless, this phone will not disappoint you.
- 20MP Night Vision Camera
- Support 5G network
- 48MP Penta AI Camera
- IP68/IP69K Ratings & Certified By MIL-STD-810G
- MediaTek Dimensity 800 5G chipset
- 8GB + 256GB
- 5200mAh Battery & 10W wireless charging
- Great cameras
- Excellent build quality
- It offers a robust design and a wraparound rubber layout.
- 15 W fast charging and 15W wireless charging.
- A large 5800 mAh battery can last two days in normal use.
- 5G costly
- Camera bump protrudes
5. Best all-rounder: Unihertz Atom XL rugged smartphone
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Unihertz consistently has at least one device on our list of the best-rugged phones, and the Atom XL is currently the best phone we’ve tested from the company.
Even with a 4-inch display, this extra-large version of the Atom phone is still relatively compact. Including a 4,300mAh battery, 48MP camera, and 6GB RAM, most of which would be found in a non-rugged 6-inch smartphone, is, therefore, quite impressive.
The USB port and headphone jack lacked a cover, which was a security flaw. Additionally, the phone’s processor is a little outdated (Mediatek has an Helio P90 in some phones.
- 20MP Night Vision Camera
- Support 5G network
- 48MP Penta AI Camera
- IP68/IP69K Ratings & Certified By MIL-STD-810G
- 8GB + 256GB
- 5200mAh Battery & 10W wireless charging
- Oleophobic screen
- 48MP main camera
- Old CPU
- No cover for ports
6. Best improvements on its predecessors: Cat S62 Pro rugged smartphone
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This is CAT’s most advanced rugged phone, though it may not appear so. CAT has done wonders with this smartphone’s design; it may be a bit heavier and bulkier, but it seems identical to any other modern smartphone.
The S62 Pro, which meets MIL-STD-810H, and IP68, is one of only two phones (both from CAT) to meet IP69 standards and is well-suited for use in extreme environments. The 5.7-inch Full-HD display is protected by Gorilla Glass 6, and the aluminum chassis with non-slip TPU rubber on the back makes the phone easy to grip, even with wet hands or gloves. The rounded edges are also made of aluminum and are secured with three screws per side.
It lacks the laser distance measurement and air quality monitoring of the CAT S61 but retains the better-integrated thermal-imaging camera. However, the cameras still protrude somewhat from the back, and the battery capacity has decreased from 4500mAh to 4000mAh.
The show is powered by a 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 octa-core processor with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage via microSD card.
We were somewhat dissatisfied with the performance in comparison to the Chinese competition. The S62 Pro is an excellent example of a rugged phone, except for the lack of wireless charging support.
- OS: Android 10
- Screen size: 5.6-inch
- Resolution: 2160 x 1080 pixels
- CPU: Snapdragon 660
- RAM: 6GB
- Storage: 128GB
- Battery: 4000mAh
- Rear camera: 12MP
- Front camera: 8MP
- Absolutely fantastic hardware design
- Back cover has excellent texture and a snappy fingerprint sensor
- Excellent weight distribution and in-hand ergonomics
- Buttons have texture and provide good tactile feedback
- FLIR camera works as advertised
- It has VoLTE, NFC, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
- Programmable key is quite useful for professionals
- Battery life is quite decent and an 18W charging brick comes in the box
- Single bottom firing speaker
- Low light photography results are quite poor
- Chunky bezels and only a 5.7" LCD display are a bit outdated in 2022
- No wide-angle camera on the rear
7. Best phablet option: Oukitel WP8 Pro rugged smartphone
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The Oukitel WP8 Pro is a low-end rugged smartphone that offers a durable design and new software for a low price, albeit with a few cost-cutting compromises.
A micro-USB port, resulting in slower charging than the current standard USB-C, a low-end processor for limited performance, and a screen with a lower resolution than many competitors are the device’s shortcomings.
If you overlook these issues and are looking for an entry-level or low-end ruggedized smartphone, this could be a good option.
- IP68/IP69K Military Grade Standard
- 4GB RAM 64GB ROM & 6.49-inch Display
- 5000mAh Battery
- 16MP Triple Rear Camera & Dual SIM 4G
- Custom Button & Other Outdoor Functions
- Large 6.49-inch screen
- Configurable custom button
- SOS and Warning features
- Poorly situated fingerprint device.
8. Best for thermal imaging: DOOGEE S98 PRO Rugged Smartphone
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The Doogee S98 Pro provides excellent value for its price. It is the first smartphone to feature an Infiray thermal imaging camera sensor instead of the more prevalent FLIR sensor. This sensor features a 25Hz refresh rate and wide thermal coverage (up to 550 degrees) with a two-degree accuracy. This makes it a handy instrument for any tradesperson who uses noninvasive/remote thermal imaging. In addition, it is a cool pub trick.
This Android 12 rugged smartphone features a full HD+ display, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of internal storage, a 6Ah battery, a 16-megapixel front-facing camera, and a 20-megapixel IR/Night vision camera. However, the MediaTek system-on-chip will not set the world on fire with its performance.
- 3-In-1 Camera and Advanced Thermal Imaging
- Android 12 OS and MediaTek Helio G96
- 8GB+256GB & Android 12 OS
- 6000mAh Battery, 15W wireless& 33W Fast Charging
- IP68/IP69K Waterproof & Shockproof & Dustproof
- FaceID Fingerprint NFC& Rugged Outdoor Smartphone
- Dual 4G SIM US Network& Two Year Warranty
- Corning Gorilla glass
- Infrared and Thermal camera
- Superb value for money
- No 5G
- The free case doesn’t inspire confidence
The Essential Aspects To Consider
If you’re purchasing a rugged smartphone, you’ll need to consider the device’s durability before making a purchase. What you require in terms of durability and ruggedness depends on your circumstances. If you work in a harsh environment, you should prioritize something that can withstand bumps and drops. If you work near water, you will undoubtedly need a water-resistant phone. For the best experience, it is recommended that you purchase a smartphone with all these durability features.
Duration of Battery Life
When you’re on a hunt or in the middle of a project, the last thing you want is for your phone’s batteries to die. Therefore, acquiring a rugged smartphone with a long battery life and rapid charging capabilities is essential. You may also want to consider purchasing a device that supports wireless charging. With this, you can charge your phone without requiring a cable.
There is nothing better than having a dependable and powerful smartphone for multitasking, web browsing, and even playing mobile games. The same holds for rugged mobile devices. Consider options with powerful processors capable of powering the phone without lagging or delayed response. Thus, you can use your durable phone anytime without fear of freezing.
Additional Work-Centric Features
Numerous rugged smartphones include additional functions for the working individual. This could include thermal cameras, laser-assisted measurement instruments, heart rate sensors, and pedometers. Consider the other features you’d like to see on your rugged smartphone, and then search for them among the available options.
In addition to performance and speed, the best-rugged phone offers increased durability. You won’t want to purchase a smartphone that sacrifices processing power or display quality to be extra-rugged, so you’ll want to look for something that combines the two for a complete solution.
MIL-STD-810G certification, the military-approved standard for toughness in mobile devices, identifies the most durable smartphone on the market today. If you purchase a product with this rating, you can rest assured that it will last for an extended period.
The most rigid cell phone screens are made from shatter-resistant glass that can withstand ballistic shock, drops, and even explosions. Consider options with Ceramic Shield glass, sapphire glass, or Gorilla Glass for optimal performance.
Apple has not yet announced any plans to launch a rugged smartphone. This does not, however, imply that they will never do so. In recent years, Apple has expanded the iPhone lineup to include standard, extra-large, and mini sizes. If Apple determines a market for rugged iPhones, it will create one.
Several cell phones are marketed as being rugged and able to withstand harsh conditions. However, the Nokia XR20 stands alone when it comes to true ruggedness. This phone’s metal frame and reinforced corners make it resistant to drops and other impacts. The keypad is sealed against dust and water, and the phone’s display is scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass. In addition, the Nokia XR20 includes several features designed for use in challenging environments, such as an emergency flashlight and an outdoor recreation application. Whether hiking in the mountains or working on a construction site, the Nokia XR20 is the ideal cell phone for those requiring durability and dependability.
Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR is one of the most rugged smartphones in the world. It is intended for individuals who work in harsh environments or lead an active lifestyle. The Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR is resistant to water, dust, and shock. It is equipped with a FLIR Lepton thermal imaging sensor capable of detecting heat sources up to 100 yards away. The Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR also features a night vision mode that lets you see in the dark. The Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR is the ideal phone for those who require a rugged device resistant to the elements.
Now that you know the rugged phones we recommend, which one is the best fit for you? All listed smartphones are excellent options for those interested in the rugged niche. However, if we had to choose a victory, it would be the Nokia XR20. It has all the durability features you would expect from a phone in this category, impressive specifications, and a good battery. Even when compared side by side with something like the Pixel 6a, it holds it’s own surprisingly well.
The Nokia XR20 can be unlocked using either facial recognition or a physical fingerprint scanner. Nokia has confirmed that it will continue to receive Android OS updates until 2024, which distinguishes this phone from the competition. That means Android 15 could potentially arrive on this rugged phone.