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These are the best rugged phones you can buy right now
Smartphones are more refined than ever, 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. For example, if you work in construction, you’re probably looking for a phone you can use as a trusty, durable tool. You need to be able to give it hell without risking it getting destroyed. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of 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. Some 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 offer huge batteries, while others let you swap the battery for an instant charge.
- Does the phone offer durability ratings? Rugged conditions often require a phone that can withstand water and dust. It’s essential 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 also want to find a device with a MIL-STD 810H certification. Learn all about IP and MIL-STD ratings in our dedicated posts.
- 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 relatively capable shooter. Accuracy is critical if you have to document anything at work, and a few of our picks offer underwater capabilities or even thermal cameras.
- What is the phone made of? Glass-bodied phones may look and feel good, but chances are you want metal, plastic, 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 more rigid materials should last through even the longest shifts.
Other options: These are the best waterproof phones
Cat S62 Pro: The best rugged phone you can buy
If you’ve spent any time on a construction site, you’ve undoubtedly 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 is currently our pick for the best rugged phone.
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.
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 daily and offers good future update support.
- Doogee S98: Doogee specializes in making rugged devices at very low prices, and this is no disappointment. It can handle its own with fair specs, a rugged body, super-fast charging, and more.
- 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 Power Armor 14 Pro: Are you looking for something even more affordable? Here’s a great option, and it happens to have one of the largest batteries around here.
- Cat S22 Flip: Those looking for a rugged Android device with a unique design will love this one. It’s a flip phone!
Nokia XR20: Rugged but stylish
Nokia’s brick may have been the original rugged phone, but the XR20 brings the OEM into the modern era as one of the best rugged phones around. The XR20 is one of the most stylish options, with slimmer bezels and an eye-catching blue finish. 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, a rubber coating across the aluminum body, and 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 S98: 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 S98 is one of the latest offerings, and it replaces the still-solid Doogee S97 series. It’s large and in charge with a hefty construction that comes in three colors — orange, red, and black.
You shouldn’t find yourself hurting for power at any point with the S98, thanks to its Helio G96 chipset and sizeable 6,000mAh battery. That battery charges at 33W, so you should only have to spend about two hours to get back to full strength. Additionally, it supports 15W wireless charging.
The phone is IP68 and IP69K certified, as well as MIL-STD-810G approved. It can handle its own. We would have recommended the Doogee S98 Pro, but its only improvement is that it comes with a thermal imaging sensor. We feel the rear display is much more helpful for most users.
- Fast and wireless charging
- Handy rear display for quick glancing
- IP68/IP69K/MIL-STD-810G rating
- Large and heavy
- Questionable software support
- Not the latest MIL-STD rating
Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro: Samsung’s most durable device
Samsung offers some of the best glass-bodied smartphones, but the Galaxy XCover Pro shows a few extra tricks up its sleeves. This is one of the very few phones that still offer removable batteries, 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 is pretty expensive, 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 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.
- 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 fundamental 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, Unihertz includes a pair of plastic screen protectors 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. When the antenna is inactive, the button becomes a hotkey with short press, long press, and double-tap functions. 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 Power Armor 14 Pro: Huge battery, great overall experience
The Ulefone Power Armor 14 Pro has one of the biggest batteries around. It has an impressive 10,000mAh battery, which far overshadows most popular phones with the best battery life. Ulefone claims it can handle “several days” on a single charge! It also helps that you get fast 18W charging and 15W wireless charging.
Other specs aren’t as impressive, but they’re pretty good in the world of the best rugged phones. It has a Mediatek Helio G85, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. The 6.52-inch HD+ IPS display is pleasant, and you’ll also get a triple-camera setup. Regarding ruggedness, it comes with IP68/IP69K and MIL-STD-810G ratings. It’s also super affordable, considering all you get. We didn’t label it the best budget rugged phone because the Doogee S98 is a better overall device.
- Large 10,000mAh battery
- Good specs for a rugged phone
- Super affordable
- Lesser-known brand
- No 5G
Cat S22 Flip: It’s a flip phone!
It’s a flip phone! Need we say more? And it actually runs Android 11, but it’s the Go Edition. The only real downside is that it’s exclusive to T-Mobile in the USA, but it’s a good option if you happen to be a Magenta customer.
The phone features IP68 and MIL-STD-810H certifications. Otherwise, it’s a pretty basic phone focusing mainly on design. Specs include a Snapdragon 215 chipset, 2GB of RAM, and a small 2,000mAh battery. The display is also tiny at 2.8 inches.
- Awesome flip phone design
- Super portable
- Very rugged for a flip phone
- T-Mobile exclusivity
- Super basic specs
- Tiny screen
- Runs Android Go
You may not be happy with what the best rugged phones offer in terms of performance, features, and specs. These can be underpowered and have an overall lacking experience in comparison. The best way to get the best of both worlds is to find one of the best Android phones available and throw one of the best rugged cases on it.