The Toughest Smartphones For 2020 Tested For You

Submitted by News Desk on

So you work in an industrial workplace, or are part of a fleet of mobile employees, or maybe you are just plain clumsy?  Do you live in fear of constantly damaging your smartphone?  If so, rest easy, we tested the six most durable smartphones on the market for you.  Which one will prove to be Texas Tough?  

We gathered six smartphones that, on paper, have the toughest specs available in the United States.  The Samsung XCover Pro, Cat S52, Cat S61, Sonim XP8, Kyocera DuroForce Pro 2, and the UniHertz AtomXL.

Each of these phones have PTT (Push-to-Talk) and can function as a network radio to use the ever popular Zello, an app that is increasingly being used by police departments as their radios, first responders, volunteer groups, and private citizen talk channels.  In fact, as of March 2020, 389 police departments in the United States now use a network radio and Zello as the issued radios for officers on patrol.  Elements of the U.S. Government, and numerous businesses also make use of Zello as an effective way to stay in touch with their employees out in the field.

To test the phones we did an entirely unscientific yet harsh set of tests and repeated the test 5 times for each smartphone.  Each of the smartphones were dropped from progressively higher elevations, driven over with a pickup truck, submerged to progressively deeper depths, and left on to test battery time while in use with its PTT feature.

The Drop test.

Each phone was dropped at 5 feet onto concrete.  All passed each of the 5 drops.  Next we dropped the phones from 10 feet.  All passed, however the Cat S52 did have a cracked screen but was still completely usable.  Next we dropped the smartphones from 20 feet.  Amazingly the Samsung XCover Pro, Sonim XP8 and the Kyocera DuroForce Pro 2 survived without damage.  Sadly the others had enough damage that they were no longer usable.  So we had to unpack another set so we could continue the water testing with all of them.  Of the remaining ones, we went up to 30 feet and let gravity prove it’s still reliably working.  Only the Sonim XP8 survived, though there was very noticeable scratched and scuffs.

Lost In The Lake.

Dropping your phone in the water is probably the most dreaded fear many of us have, each of these phones are at least IP68 rated, which means they are protected from dust and can survive under water in 15 feet for 30 minutes.  Since they are all rated for 15 feet, we started out at 20 feet for 30 minutes.  The Cat S52 and Samsung XCover Pro freaked out and the screens seem to have gone into limp mode but otherwise work fine.  The others did great with no issues.  Next we went to 25 feet for 60 minutes.  The UniHertz AtomXL fried itself due to water ingestion.  The Cat S61 suffered water damage and was no longer usable.  Interestingly, we heard that the Sonim XP8’s screen could still be used while underwater, so we tried that on all the phones at a depth of 1 foot.  Only the Sonim XP8’s screen worked while submerged.  Both the Kyocera and the Sonim continued to remain water tight and functioning after 75 minutes at 25 feet.

Dessert Winds.

Next up, we unwrapped six more brand new test phones and put all of them standing upright in a glass box with 1 foot of sand at the bottom and a blower hose constantly blowing sand.  We’re happy to say all of them remained on and functioning after 2 hours of dirt and dust testing.  But if you’re lost in the dessert for more than 2 hours, we can’t say what will happen to any of the phones.

Out The Window.

So you’ve made a fast right turn and your phone was on your dash, but now its on the left lane of a busy street with cars and trucks driving over it, what do you do?  We drove over each phone repeatedly with a Ford F-350 at 25 mph until they broke.  The first to give up the fight was the Samsung XCover Pro after 3 wheel crushings.  Next was the UniHertz Atom XL with 8 wheel crushings.  The Cat S52 and Cat S612 both went lights out on the 9th wheel crushing.  The Kyocera said goodby after 11 wheel crushings.  Lastly the Sonim gave up after 14 wheel crushings.

Next, this is Texas, so we had to do the Longhorn stampede test.  

We went out to Texas A&M’s agriculture school and convinced them to have one of their Texas Longhorn cows walk on the phones.  The Samsung XCover Pro, Cat S52, Cat S61 and the UniHertz AtomXL all failed after 2 hooves, so not much of a stampede.  The Kyocera DuroForce Pro 2 survived a mini-stampede with 9 hooves.  The Sonim XP8 withstood an amazing 23 hooves.

 

Lastly, Houston is home to NASA’s Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center.  So we wanted to know how well each phone could get a phone signal when surrounded by lots of interference like metal walls.  After enclosing each phone in a metal and concrete box, we discovered none had a signal, so we had to ease up on the test.  But to sum up which one you should have if you’re going into space?  Take the Kyocera DuroForce Pro 2 or the Sonim XP8 if you want to be able to still communicate on a very weak signal.  As a side note, the Sonim XP8 has the Xpand 900 MHz ISM band add-on that attaches to the top of the smartphone and allows you to use it as a walkie-talkie without any cell service or wifi coverage.  While the range is advertised at 7 miles, we found it was effective at only 2 miles on flat level ground without any large obstacles.

Oh, and the battery.

Real quick, the Kyocera and the Sonim lasted the longest.  We zip tied the PTT button and waited.  Both lasted more than 12 hours of transmitting before we gave up.  All the others ones lasted no more than 7 hours except the Cat S52 and the Samsung XCover Pro which went silent after just 4 hours on constant PTT Transmission.

Our vote, the Kyocera DuroForce Pro 2 because for the price, it did very well, and the Sonim XP8 because it held up too everything we could throw at it, it’s packed full of other handy features and has an amazing front set of speakers plus it has tons of durable, useful and cool accessories.

We didn’t bother to do a camera test, as none of these are going to make you the next Ansel Adams, but a couple do have honorable mentions like the Samsung Cover Pro and the Sonim XP8.

So which one is best for you?  Each come with a different price point and set of features.  Here’s a summary of each smartphone.  All prices vary depending on where you buy yours.

 

Samsung XCover Pro

Mil-Spec 810-G

IP68

PTT, 2 buttons, 1 programmable

Dual SIM, Yes

Swappable Battery, Yes

Front Speaker, No

Display, 6.3” Gorilla Glass 5

Thickness 9.9mm

Weight, 6.3 oz

Price: $500

 

Cat S52

Mil-Spec 810-G

IP68

PTT, 0 programmable buttons

Dual SIM, Yes

Swappable battery, No

Front Speaker, No

Display, 5.2” Gorilla Glass 6

Thickness, 13mm

Weight, 8.8 oz.

Thinnest rugged phone in the world

Price: $450

 

Cat S61

MilSpec-810-G

IP68

PTT, 3 buttons, 1 programmable button

Dual SIM, No

Swappable battery, No

Front Speaker, No

Display 5.2” Gorilla Glass 6

Thickness 13mm

Weight 8.8 oz.

FLIR and distance measurement sensor

$1,000

 

 

 

Sonim XP8

Mil-Spec 810-G

IP69

PTT, 3 buttons, 2 programmable

Dual SIM, Yes

Swappable Battery, Yes

Front Speaker, Yes

Display, 5” Gorilla Glass 3

Thickness 18mm

Weight 11.8 oz.

Xpand 900MHz ISM band

FirstNET

HDR Camera

Google Fi compatible

International Bands

$700-900

 

Kyocera DuroForce Pro 2

Mil-Spec 810-G

IP68

PTT, 2 buttons

Dual SIM, No

Swappable Battery, No

Front Speaker, Yes

Display 5” Kyocera Sapphire Shield

Thickness, 13.4mm

Weight, 8.3 oz.

QI Wireless Charging

$500

 

UniHertz AtomXL

Mil-Spec 810-G

IP68

PTT, 1 button

FCC Part 90 Business Radio

GMRS, FRS, both at 1.5-watt output, capable but not legally allowed

Dual SIM, Yes

No Front Speaker

4” Display, Gorilla Glass 3

Swappable Battery, Yes

17.5mm Thick

7.9 oz.

Price: $300-$400 depending on where you buy it.