Samsung, if we’re honest, are the genuine kings of smartphones. But it’s easy to forget how many models they actually produce. Aside for the Galaxy S and associated models like the J, the company actually release all kinds of phones to suit all budgets.
Among the wider range, is the Rugby series. Acknowledging that mobile phones are, let’s face it, fragile things, the Rugby range is a beefier, better protected device.
When any cell phone is toughened up, it is said to be rugged. Hence Samsung’s naming of their version as Rugby. Right from the time of the original Rugby 1, the range has been a massive success. Suddenly, phones could go into situations in which they would previously have been likely to suffer damage. Environments which would routinely destroy cell phones suddenly stopped being no-go areas.
What the Rugby did, was bring safety and security to mobile devices. But is that enough? Did Samsung sacrifice features for being rugged? Basically, is the Rugby 4 any good?
If you’ve been paying attention in the last 3 or 4 years, you’ll have noticed something. More and more phones, and smartphones in particular have been boasting about being IP67 or IP68 compliant. What they don’t do is tell you what those mean. In a nut shell, the IP stands for “Ingress Protection” or, in plain language, how protected the phone is from dust and water getting inside. The 6 indicates that it has maximum protection from dust, down to very fine particles. Finally, the 7 and 8 show how good it is at keeping water out. 7 means it will survive 3 feet of water for 30 minutes, and 8 means 6 feet of water for the same period.
The Rugby 4 is IP67, so it has decent protection. But it has more. It also boasts MIL-STD 810G compliance. The MIL-STD stands for Military Standard, and the 810G is the level of testing the device has withstood. As you might expect, all products used by the US military have to achieve a standard of workmanship and suitability for purpose. These would include everything from waterproofing up to withstanding a direct hit from a bullet.
The Rugby 4 hasn’t been tested to that level, of course, but it has been tested on a lot of things. Chemical and shock resistance, thermal shock, fungus, humidity, salt, extreme vibration and more. Crucially, and probably one of the most important things from a cell phone point of view, it can withstand drops from 6 feet onto hard surfaces. Try dropping an iPhone from that height, and you’ll almost certainly be writing it off. Does that mean the Rugby 4 is indestructible? Not exactly, but it does offer a massive upgrade in confidence that it can survive normal life and lots more.
Okay, so we can see that the Rugby 4 is tough, but that’s no good if it’s a terrible cell phone. So let’s take a closer look to see where it stands up and where it might fall down.
If we start with the design, what we have is a flip phone, or clamshell design. This automatically offers more protection to various elements, not least the display. The Rugby 4 feels solid in the hand, whether open or closed, and yet doesn’t feel especially heavy, considering its tough credentials. In fact, at 5oz, it’s nearly an ounce lighter than the average smartphone.
We can’t, hand on heart, say it’s a “sexy” looking phone, because it isn’t. It does look pretty smart, though, as flip phones go. The extra padded protection around the edges of the case do add a certain texture that looks and feels pretty good. The back also has a textured finish so it can be easy to grip, even when wearing gloves.
Open the phone up and you will see big, clear number keys, and a Home button which can easily be found blind. This is thanks to the large, again textured, direction pad which surrounds it.
So far, so good, but let’s see what the Rugby 4 can actually do.
The 2.4″ display of the Rugby 4 is small by the standards of full screen smartphones, but is quite adequate by flip phone standards. The secondary display, which remains visible when the phone is closed, is 1.3″. Again, this is pretty standard for the format. Resolution isn’t the best at 240px x 320px, but it still looks bright and clear, with good colors on show.
The 3MP camera can also record video @15fps. Again, this will not compete with modern smartphones but then it probably isn’t meant to. The point of the Rugby 4 is that it is for people who really need a phone, and a tough one at that. It’s also for those who need a phone, but would find a camera useful from time to time. It’s also, of course, for those who risk a broken phone every time they get out of bed.
The keypad feels excellent under use. Gloves are the enemy of the cell phone, and it’s good that Samsung have recognized this. It hasn’t taken huge changes, just some minor but well thought ones.
The battery is a very good 1300mAh and has wireless charging. Given that iPhones didn’t have this until very recently, this is a very big deal in a flip phone. It also has NFC, for moving data to another device or for contactless payments in stores. A Micro SD card slot has also somehow found it’s way into the amazingly compact size, which is a fantastic addition.
All in all, it’s hard to fault the Rugby 4 on build and hardware. Samsung have somehow managed to straddle the simple/smart phone worlds perfectly.
The Rugby 4 runs Samsung’s own proprietary operating system. This means no app store but they have included some essential features. Email and web browsing are here, and the phone is 4G ready. Any browsing or emailing you do will, therefore, be at the best available speeds.
There’s a dedicated GPS button for turn by turn navigation. Bluetooth is present for use with in car systems or external speakers, and wi-fi is here for the first time in the Rugby range.
Because the Rugby 4 is meant for tough work environments, there’s also a Push To Talk button. Push To Talk, or PTT, allows the creation of a small, local wi-fi network. This then lets other PTT devices in range to work like a walkie talkie system. This is an incredibly useful feature, and well done to Samsung for including it.
In all honesty, it’s hard to fault the Rugby 4 for what it is. yes, you can point to it not being Android and not having an available app store, but that would be defeating the object. You can also point to it looking rugged and, therefore, functional. But it really isn’t meant to be in competition with an iPhone or a Galaxy S. It’s a phone that is there to be used and even, on occasion, abused.
With that in mind, and for a price that barely buys a good dinner for two, it’s impossible to fault.