iMAN i3 Rugged Smartphone – full review and hands on

June 23, 2014
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iMAN i3It is an almost inevitable fact that if you own a smartphone you are going to drop it, and if you are like me when I drop my phone it normally lands in the worst possible place. One of the new features that has started to appear in flagship devices is a level of water resistance. This is a great feature which adds an extra level of reassurance, especially if you are prone to dropping your phone in the toilet!

iMAN i3 in Toilet

But what if you need more? What if you spend much of your time outdoors? You might need something more rugged. There are quite a few different rugged smartphones on the market including the iMAN i3. The iMAN i3 is a 4.3 inch, quad-core device with an IP68 waterproof rating.

Specification

Beneath the ruggedized exterior of the i3 you get a quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage along with a 4.3 inch qHD display (960×540). Here is a look at the rest of the specs:

Display4.3-inch IPS qHD (960 x 540)
Processor1.5GHz MT6589 Quad Core
GPUPowerVR SGX 544MP
RAM1GB
Storage16GB, microSD card slot, up to 32GB
Camera13 Megapixel Rear Camera & 2 Megapixel Front-Facing Camera
Battery2000 mAh
ConnectivityGPS, microUSB 2.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth
Networks3G/WCDMA: 900/2100 MHz
SoftwareAndroid 4.2 with Google Play
Dimensions138x 72x 13 mm
199 grams
ColorsBlack
SIM slots1x WCDM/GSM, 1x GSM

Design

The i3 is all about its rugged design. Everything else is secondary. The phone doesn’t try to be elegant, but rather chooses to show off its hardened exterior. The case is made of a combination of hard rubber and thick plastic.

The phone has capacitive keys just below the display and above the prominent iMAN logo. Just above the display is a fairly standard arrangement for the front facing camera, notification LED and ear piece. All the buttons around the side are completely sealed by a rubber skin, obviously for waterproofing. On the left-hand side are the volume controls, the power button and the micro USB port. The latter has a stiff plug/cover which pops into the port to protect it from water. The port seems to be a little deeper than on other phones and when I tried a normal USB cable the connector didn’t fully make contact. The supplied cable works fine but to my eyes it looks a bit longer. This isn’t a problem, but something worth noting if you ever need to buy a replace lead.

On the right-hand side are two extra buttons. One is the torch button which switches on the camera’s LED. The other is a SOS button which can be configured in software to either send a text message to an emergency contact, or flash a Morse-code message on the LED.

At the very top is the 3.5 headphone jack which is protected by a plug like the micro USB port. The battery cover on the back is secured in place using two screws which allows the device to remain water tight. Under the cover you will find the battery, two SIM slots and the micro SD card slot. All are easily accessible once you take the battery cover off with the supplied mini-screwdriver.

Another interesting feature of the i3 is that it has built-in wireless charging capabilities and the phone ships with its own charging pad. The idea is that you won’t need to keep unstopping the micro USB port to charge the device, instead you just pop it onto the mat and  let the wireless charging tech work its magic.

Rugged

The iMAN i3 sports IP68 water resistance. IP68 means complete protection against dust and water resistance beyond 1m.

As you can see from the photos below I submerged, buried and generally tortured the device. Some of the shots are simulations (I didn’t roll over the device with my car), but all the water and mud is real.

After all this meanness, I am happy to report that the device continued functioning normally. However at some point a little bit of muddy water did get into the display. As a result when the phone is held in direct sunlight the water vaporizes and leaves a muddy mist on the screen. The amount of water is probably minuscule and if I were to partially disassemble the phone it could probably be cleaned off the glass. Another minor wound from my maltreatment of the device was a small scratch on the screen. It was probably the sand that did it!

It is likely that I pushed the device too far in my photo shoot, hence its minor injuries. In terms of protection against the accidental exposure to water and mud, the i3 will probably resist like a champ.

Performance

The iMAN i3 uses a quad-core MediaTek MTK6589T processor with a PowerVR SGX544 GPU. It scores 17,785 on AnTuTu. Putting that into some context, it means that AnTuTu ranks this handset as just slightly slower than a Samsung Galaxy S3. More than sufficient for a phone that you would buy primarily for its hardened shell.

A quick test using Epic Citadel showed that the iMAN i3 can manage an average of 42.5 frames per second at 960 x 544 in high performance mode, 42.1 in high quality mode, and 35.6 in ultra high quality mode. These aren’t the best numbers around, but sufficient to get the job done.

iMAN i3 epic citadel

As for the Wi-Fi and GPS performance. The Wi-Fi worked very well and I had no trouble getting a signal even in the partially dead spots around my house. The GPS works OK, but it did take a couple of minutes for the phone to make get its initial lock.

Battery

The battery in the iMAN i3 is a 2000mAh unit. I ran a few battery tests and the results seem on-par with other quad-core devices with a similar sized battery. For 3D gaming I used Epic Citadel to discover that the i3 can handle about 3 hours of intensive 3D graphics on one charge. You can watch locally stored MP4 videos for around 5.5 hours on one charge, while YouTube streaming over Wi-Fi lasts about 4 hours.

Camera

The device has a 13MP camera which, if megapixels are anything to go by, should yield some nice results. However using the camera was a bit of mixed bag. In bright light the photos can become washed out and sometimes it seemed that the camera had trouble focusing. But having said that, if you are careful you can take some reasonable shots.

Here are a few shots from the camera, judge for yourself:

 

Connectivity

The iMAN i3 isn’t designed to be flagship phone, however it does have all the connectivity options you would expect from a 3G device. There is Wi-Fi ( 802.11 b/g/n), Bluetooth, 2G GSM and 3G. The device is dual SIM and supports 3G on 900 and 2100MHz. This means that the 3G won’t work in the USA, however standard GSM calls should work. 2100 Mhz is the most common 3G frequency and should work in most places around the world, however a lot of carriers also use a secondary 3G frequency range. In Asia and South America this is often 850MHz, but in Europe it tends to be 900MHz. This means that this device offers European users better connectivity than many other Chinese devices which often support 850/2100 rather than 900/2100.

You need to check with your carrier to ensure compatibility or if you trust Wikipedia then this UMTS networks page could have the information you need.

Software

The phone runs Android 4.2.2. The launcher has been customized to include stylized icons that match the rugged design of the phone. All the icons appear in metal boxes, even non-system apps that are installed from the Play Store. Since Google Play is pre-installed there is full access to all of Google’s apps including Gmail, YouTube and Google Keyboard etc.

iMAN i3 software

 

Pricing and conclusion

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, either for work or pleasure, then the iMAN i3 could be just the phone you need. Although the specifications aren’t high, the device has more than enough processing power for every day usage, but the real charm is its rugged design. Water, mud, sand, I tried them all and basically the phone survived its mistreatment. As for the price, the iMAN i3 starts at $337 and you can get one from Chinavasion.

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