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What Does “Rugged” Mean?
Smartphones, as great as they are, have one great drawback – their fragility. The nature of any full screen design means that the display will always be open to damage, especially from drops. If you work in an industry in which smartphones are likely to be dead within days, the alternative is to look for devices which are designed to withstand various traumas. These are things like water and dust ingress, drops, thermal shock and more. Phones which have these protections built in are usually described as “rugged”.
Some smartphones have some rugged components, but these tend to be limited to water and dust protection. Yes, the displays are often protected to an extent by the use of Corning Gorilla Glass, but this still won’t usually withstand an impact with a hard floor.
And so, some manufacturers went all in on the rugged. We started to see phones with real durability and features designed for incredibly tough environments. The Sonim XP6 and Cat S60 fall into that category and are just about as tough as it gets.
How They Compare
|Sonim XP6||CAT S60|
Yes – Up to 128GB
Impact (from height)
|Use With Gloves||Yes|
Battery Life (Talk/Standby)
|Oil and Chemicals|
Max. Audio Level (db)
We should probably mention a few things that aren’t included in the table above. Both devices have Wi-Fi up to 802.00 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.x and GPS. In essence, both will behave as any decent smartphone will.
We mentioned above that the weakest part of any smartphone is the glass display, and yet making a tough display isn’t impossible. The S60 manages to do this whilst also making it impact proof from a height of over 6 feet. The more compact display size of the XP6 will usually mean it is even less prone to damage, as less glass equals more strength.
If a decent camera is important to you, then the S60 wins hands down. As well as having a much better rear camera, the S60 also has a 5MP front camera, whilst the XP6 lacks any kind of front camera at all. This might be a deal breaker for some. The S60 rear camera is also capable of thermal imaging. If you have a job where this is important, then the S60 is your only readily available option.
Quite why Sonim chose not to include a MicroSD Card slot on the XP6 isn’t clear. It might be that they thought the specialist needs of their potential user base wouldn’t need more storage, but 5MP images will still fill up the available internal space pretty quickly.
So Which Should You Buy?
If you look at raw stats in the table above, then the S60 is a clear winner, but there are a couple of things that make it a much closer contest than it first appears. The S60 is an extremely well-equipped and capable smartphone, no question, but the XP6 looks like it might be slightly better equipped for extreme work environments. The S60 provides no figures for how much pressure weight it can withstand, or how loud the speaker is, leading to the conclusion that these don’t form part of the rugged.. The XP6 can withstand 1 ton of downward pressure and has a very loud speakerphone, making it ideal for construction or other heavy industries.
Also, having Push-To-Talk available on the XP6 is also a massive boost in the workplace. Being able to act like a walkie-talkies is very useful in some situations, and is an odd omission for the S60.
In many ways, the Cat S60 straddles the regular/rugged fence. It’s much, much tougher than a regular smartphone such as the Galaxy S series or the latest iPhones, but lacks one or two features which would make it a truly specialist phone for specialist environments. The Sonim XP6 steps firmly into specialist territory, though, by including features which are very situation-specific. For some, though, the other limitations of the camera hardware and lack of storage might just be too big a deal.
If you don’t need the specialist features of the XP6, the the S60 is a fantastic choice. It does everything a regular, high-end smartphone will do, but much tougher. Don’t rule out the XP6, however. It’s as tough as old boots and is currently available at a lower price than its rival.