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What does MIL-STD-810G mean? Combat ready phones explained

Is your phone tough enough for the prestigious rating?
May 31, 2022
Doogee S96 Pro 12
Luke Pollack / Android Authority

MIL-STD-810G is a US military specification that guarantees a level of durability for a piece of technology. Specifically, it means the equipment has gone through a series of 29 tests. These put the phone up against shock, vibration, heat, cold, gunfire shock, humidity, and more. Any MIL-STD-810G device should be field-ready or even “combat-ready” in principle. A lot of technology sold to the US military must be MIL-STD-810G compliant. To win contracts, manufacturers will likely need to demonstrate that this is the case.

Now, more and more consumer manufacturers are using the rating as a way to market their devices. Devices like the Doogee S90 modular phone began life on Kickstarter, targeting manual workers and those that spend a lot of time hiking and climbing outdoors.

Also: The best rugged phones you can buy

MIL-STD-810G compliance: What does it mean?

If a device boasts MIL-STD-810G compliance, it should, in theory, be durable. It will be far more likely to survive drops and harsh environmental conditions. MIL-STD-810G devices have gone through a series of 29 tests to prove their high level of resistance. These tests include resistance to a bevy of things that can hurt a device in hostile or harsh environments.

MIL-STD-810G devices are tested against:

  • Low pressure
  • High temperature
  • Low temperature
  • Temperature shock
  • Fluid contamination
  • Solar radiation
  • Rain
  • Humidity
  • Fungus
  • Salt fog
  • Sand and dust
  • Explosive atmosphere
  • Immersion
  • Acceleration
  • Vibration
  • Acoustic noise
  • Shock
  • Pyroshock
  • Acidic atmosphere
  • Gunfire shock
  • Temperature, humidity, vibration, and altitude
  • Icing/freezing rain
  • Ballistic shock
  • Vibro-acoustic/temperature
  • Freeze/thaw
  • Time waveform replication
  • Rail impact
  • Multi-exciter
  • Mechanical vibrations of shipboard equipment

What about MIL-STD-810H?

While MIL-STD-810G is a much more common standard among smartphones, there’s a newer standard that succeeds it. The list of tests is actually the same (listed in the previous section), but tests have been updated with newer standards for better accuracy and ruggedness. That said, the difference between MIL-STD-810G and MIL-STD-810H might be minuscule for most users, but it’s important to keep it in mind if you absolutely want the latest military standard revision.

Related: How to safely clean your smartphone

Which phones have MIL-STD-810G or MIL-STD-810H?

Rugged Phone MIL-STD-810G

If you work on a building site, are constantly dropping your phone, or enjoy hiking and rock climbing, you might want to consider a MIL-STD-810G-rated phone.

The best phones with MIL-STD-810 compliance:

If your phone doesn’t have a MIL-STD-810G rating, you can buy a protective case for your phone that’s rated to the MIL-STD-810G standard.

Additionally, many smartwatches, fitness trackers, and other wearables also carry MIL-STD-810G/H ratings.

More: The best smartphone case manufacturers

The limitations

Doogee S90 Review - James Bone phone

While MIL-STD-810G is useful, it is not a bulletproof standard. When testing the aforementioned Doogee S90, I dropped it from a small height into a puddle (it also boasted IP69K water resistance). The device should easily have stood up to this mild test, yet it lost functionality in one of the buttons immediately.

How can that happen? Quality control issues and bad luck aside, it comes down to a lack of strict regulation.

For a smartphone to claim MIL-STD-810G, manufacturers must meet several stringent guidelines set out in official documentation. Ideally, this means sending a device to external testing laboratories that can emulate the same 29 tests used by the military. Unfortunately, there is nothing to stop a manufacturer from running the tests in-house and without external verification.

The company does not need to provide proof that any of these tests were actually carried out.

While in-house testing is perfectly fine on paper, the issue is that the company does not need to prove that the tests were actually carried out. Therefore, a company can claim that its device complies with this standard having “fudged” or entirely omitted certain parts!

Also important: Everything you need to know about IP and ATM ratings

Buying MIL-STD-810G compliant smartphones

Shock Resistant MIL-STD-810G

What is a consumer to do?

The best strategy is to apply a little common sense and a “wait and see” attitude. While LG made some solid phones with MIL-STD-810G ratings, their design sensibilities alone mean they’re unlikely to be as durable as something built specifically as a “rugged phone” with rubber corners and a protective screen. It might well be MIL-STD-810G compliant, but I find it hard to think that this phone is truly “combat ready” with its almost completely glass design.

With something like the Doogee S90, the design screams durability. The thing looks like a brick! The problem is that the device doesn’t quite live up to its own hype. The only way you could know this as a consumer would be to wait and see what other users experience.

MIL-STD-810G is certainly a very encouraging thing to look out for.

In short: the MIL-STD-810G and MIL-STD-810H standards are certainly very encouraging things to look out for, but it’s still worth doing a little of your own research too.