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These are the best rugged phones you can buy right now
Smartphones are more refined than they’ve ever been, with glass builds, tiny bezels, and large displays. They’re great for life in an office, but most mainstream phones come up short in harsh environments. If you work in construction, for example, you’re probably looking for a phone that you can use as a trusty, durable tool. With that in mind, here are the best rugged phones you can buy.
You won’t find all-glass designs on this list, but you will find plenty of durable MIL-STD and IP ratings to go around. A few of our picks even have unique features like thermal cameras and walkie-talkie features to help you through your shift. Let’s get to it.
Buying the right rugged phone for your needs
There are plenty of rugged phones on the market right now, which can make choosing the right one a challenge. However, it’s not that much different from buying an everyday phone. You’ll have to decide which features to want most, and it’s essential to see what extras are available. Here are just a few of the questions to ask while you research:
- How large is the battery? You probably don’t want to spend much time attached to a charger if you’re working a long shift. Some of our picks, like the Ulefone Armor 11, offer huge 5,200mAh batteries, while others, like Samsung’s Galaxy XCover Pro, let you swap the battery for an instant charge.
- Does the phone offer durability ratings? Rugged conditions often require a phone that can stand up to some water and dust. It’s important to check if your phone carries the latest IP68/IP69K ratings, though IP67 may also be enough. If you’re worried about dropping your rugged phone, you’ll want to find a device with a MIL-STD 810H certification, too.
- Is the camera any good? What about extra features? While none of these rugged phones are bound to end up among our best camera phones, it’s crucial to have a capable shooter. Accuracy is key if you have to document anything at work, and a few of our picks offer underwater cameras or even a thermal lens on the Cat S62 Pro.
- What is the phone made of? Glass-bodied phones may look and feel good, but the chances are that you want metal and rubber for your rugged phone. That way, you can feel a bit safer if it takes a tumble. It may come at the cost of wireless charging, but tougher materials should last through even the longest shifts.
Cat S62 Pro: The best rugged phone you can buy
If you’ve spent any time on a construction site, then you’ve no doubt seen one of Caterpillar’s yellow vehicles. They’re a mainstay for their power and durability, and now Cat is in on the rugged phone market as well. The Cat S62 Pro is the best of the bunch, and it’s currently our pick for the best rugged phone at $649.
The Flir Lepton thermal sensor is the standout camera feature in tough work environments.
One of Cat’s standout features is the Flir Lepton 3.5 sensor which allows for thermal imaging on top of the 12MP Sony camera. That means you can check the temperature of a tool or machine before you use it. Unfortunately, the thermal system does replace the laser-assisted measurement feature from the Cat S61, so you’ll have to weigh which element you need more.
As for durability, Cat crafted its S62 Pro with an aluminum frame and a TPU back panel. It comes ready with IP68 and IP69 ratings and a MIL-STD 810H rating to handle dust, water, and drops up to 1.8 meters. The Cat S62 Pro even features a crisp 5.7-inch Full HD+ display made of Gorilla Glass 6. It packs 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which is solid for a rugged phone. Under the hood, you’ll find a Snapdragon 660 SoC powering all of Cat’s tough features.
- Excellent thermal camera
- Glove mode
- IP68/69 and MIL-STD 810H certified
- No 5G support
- No face unlock
Check out our full review to learn more about the Cat S62 Pro.
Looking for other recommendations? While the Cat S62 Pro is our top recommendation, keep reading below for other choices worth considering.
Other products worth considering
The best rugged phones
- Nokia XR20: Nokia found a way to mix strength and style on the XR20. It looks like a phone you can use in everyday life, and it offers good update support for the future.
- Doogee S97 Pro: The S97 Pro may be larger and heavier than most rugged phones, but it packs solid features like an IR laser rangefinder and a battery that lasts for days.
- Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro: The XCover Pro is one of the few phones to offer a removable battery, and it packs a crisp Full HD panel that’s easily the best on this list.
- Kyocera Duraforce Ultra: If you want the fastest Verizon speeds, the Duraforce Ultra is the way to go, thanks to 5G mmWave support.
- Unihertz Atom XL: The walkie-talkie feature makes the Atom XL an excellent choice for close-range communication, and the underwater camera is a great touch.
- Ulefone Armor 11: The Armor 11 offers a huge 5,200mAh battery and a 5G-ready Dimensity 800 processor, so you should have no problems staying up to speed.
Nokia XR20: Rugged but stylish
Nokia’s brick may have been the original rugged phone, but the XR20 brings the OEM into 2021 as one of the best rugged phones around. The XR20 is one of the most stylish options, too, with slimmer bezels and an eye-catching blue finish for just $549. It comes in two configurations — one with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for Europe, and another with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for the US and UK.
See also: The best Nokia phones
As far as Nokia’s hardware goes, we described the phone as a thin device with a tight case preinstalled in our review. It packs aluminum side rails and a rubber coating across the aluminum body, as well as a MIL-STD 810H rating against drops. The display is formidable, too, with a Gorilla Glass Victus panel to keep everything together. You get creature comforts like a fingerprint reader, a headphone jack, extra-loud speakers, and a Full HD+ display that makes the XR20 feel like an everyday option.
- Great battery life
- Solid update support
- Appealing, yet durable, design
- Average cameras
- Weak processor
- No 5G with AT&T
Check out our full review to learn more about the Nokia XR20.
Doogee S97 Pro: The best budget rugged phone
Doogee may not have the name recognition of either Nokia or Cat, but it knows how to make durable devices. The S97 Pro is the latest offering, and it replaces the still-solid Doogee S96 Pro. It’s large and in charge with a hefty rubber and metal construction that comes in three colors — Orange Tiger, Red Lava, and Silver Black. Unlike a few of these rugged phones, the Doogee S97 Pro arrives with Android 11 straight from the box. Unfortunately, there’s no mention or promise of an Android 12 update yet.
You shouldn’t find yourself hurting for power at any point with the S97 Pro, thanks to its Helio G95 chipset and unbelievable 8,500mAh battery. That behemoth of a battery charges at 33W as well, so you should only have to spend about 75 minutes to get back to full strength.
There's no way you can burn through this beastly 8,500mAh battery in a hurry.
Doogee bid farewell to the 3.5mm headphone jack this time around, though the pair of customizable smart keys on the side should make navigation easier. The phone itself is IP68 and IP69K certified, and we put it through splashes and drops from up to five feet without any damage.
- Fast and wireless charging
- IR rangefinder
- IP68/IP69K rating
- Large and heavy
- Questionable software support
- Not the latest MIL-STD rating
Check out our full review to learn more about the Doogee S97 Pro.
Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro: Samsung’s most durable device
Samsung offers some of the best glass-bodied smartphones around, but the Galaxy XCover Pro shows that it has a few extra tricks up its sleeves. This is one of the very few phones that offer removable batteries in 2021, which means that you can refill the 4,050mAh capacity in just seconds. It also runs on Samsung’s own Exynos 9611 processor to offer mid-range performance and keep the price in check.
See also: The best Samsung phones you can buy
There’s only one version of the Galaxy XCover Pro to pick up, and it comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage onboard. You get the benefit of Samsung’s generous update policy, too, as the Galaxy XCover Pro is already running Android 11 with Samsung’s OneUI 3.0. The Gorilla Glass 5 display and MIL-STD 810G rating aren’t the toughest around, though we didn’t pick up on any damage in our testing.
- Great Full HD display
- Removable battery
- Competitive price
- Slow charging
- Less durable than some
- Weak processor
Check out our full review to learn more about the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro.
Kyocera Duraforce Ultra: The toughest Verizon phone
Most of our rugged phones rely on 4G LTE for the bulk of their service, but the Kyocera Duraforce Ultra is the way to go if you need top-end speeds. It’s the only entry to support Verizon’s mmWave 5G network, even if it does come at a cost. This device will set you back $899, and it comes with mid-range internals, including a Snapdragon 765G SoC, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
See also: The best Verizon phones for every budget
Kyocera’s main selling point is the connection speed, as we found that the 4,500mAh battery life and the camera array were not the best. You won’t find any extra camera features like night vision or thermal support, and the images themselves tend to come out soft. However, the phone is tough as nails with an IP68 rating and MIL-STD 810H certification. The Duraforce Ultra should eventually see an Android 11 update, though Kyocera hasn’t released a definitive timetable.
- Bright IPS display
- Verizon’s 5G mmWave support
- MIL-STD 810H rated
- Average cameras
- Middling performance
Check out our full review to learn more about the Kyocera Duraforce Ultra.
Unihertz Atom XL: A rugged phone with walkie-talkie features
The Unihertz Atom XL follows the well-established footprint of the Atom L, with one key change — an antenna for walkie-talkie functionality. It’s one of the smallest devices on our list, with just a 4-inch Gorilla Glass 3 display. While that may not be the toughest glass around, Unihertz does include a pair of plastic screen protectors right in the box. The Atom XL is also working with a Helio P60 CPU, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of expandable storage.
A single press of the Atom XL's red button gives you up to 8km of walkie-talkie range.
Unihertz added a red button to the side of the Atom XL, which is the easiest way to activate Push To Talk when the antenna is installed. The button becomes a hotkey with short press, long press, and double-tap functions when the antenna is inactive. The 4,300mAh battery isn’t the largest on the list, though the smaller phone requires less power to keep the lights on. It also carries the most considerable bezels of any device on our list.
- Underwater camera mode
- DMR walkie-talkie antenna
- Great battery life
- Small screen with big bezels
- Not the latest MIL-STD rating
Check out our full review to learn more about the Unihertz Atom XL.
Ulefone Armor 11: Huge battery, high speeds
The Ulefone Armor 11 is the last rugged phone on our list, and it comes with a few hits and misses. It offers a great 5,200mAh battery with a solid MediaTek Dimensity 800 CPU to power through your day. However, we found a few build quality issues and some odd artifacts in the display during our testing. At $579, it’s nice to see 5G connectivity, though there are plenty of refinements to be made.
The battery and processor give the Armor 11 plenty of promise, but the build quality doesn't always keep up.
Ulefone’s Armor 11 ships with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, which you can not expand. You won’t find a headphone jack, either, but Ulefone did include a 3.5mm to USB-C dongle in the box. The Armor 11 does come with a rugged IP69K rating and a MIL-STD 810G certification, though the design itself doesn’t always feel up to the task with plastic elements and a traditional glass display.
- Huge 5,200mAh battery
- Good 5G-ready CPU
- Cheap build quality
- Difficult night vision camera
- Too expensive
Check out our full review to learn more about the Ulefone Armor 11.