Best rugged smartphones (2016)


Generally speaking, rugged smartphones need to be tough (as in: not to break when you drop them), but they don't necessarily have to be water-resistant. As long as a handset is compliant with the MIL-STD-810 standard (which may, or may not include protection against water), it's considered rugged. With that in mind, allow us to present a list of 5 devices that you should check out if ruggedness is a must when it comes to your next smartphone. Only three of the handsets listed below have bee introduced in 2016, but the other two are still good enough (they're not older than 1 year anyway). The phones are listed from the most expensive to the cheapest one.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active

Buy from AT&T ($794.99)


Display5.1 inches Super AMOLED, 1440 x 2560 pixels, 576 ppi
HardwareSnapdragon 820 CPU, Adreno 530 GPU, 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal memory (expandable)
CamerasRear: 12 MP with OIS, phase detection auto focus, f/1.7 aperture. Front: 5 MP
Battery4000 mAh with wireless charging, fast charging

Pros

  • High end processor and lots of RAM
  • Excellent cameras
  • Good, sharp display
  • Long battery life
  • Fingerprint scanner

Cons

  • AT&T exclusive
  • At $794.99 off contract, it's quite expensive

While it may not be as pretty as the Galaxy S7, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active does everything that the regular S7 does, and it's by far the most powerful handset on our list. Compared to the S7, the S7 Active has the added benefit of being a tough device: it can survive drops from up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) on a flat surface. Moreover, the rugged S7 Active comes with a larger battery that provides significantly longer usage times than the 3,000 mAh battery of the S7. 


LG V10


No images

DisplayMain: 5.7 inches IPS, 1440 x 2560 pixels, 515 ppi. Secondary: 2.1 inches, 1040 x 160 pixels
HardwareSnapdragon 808 CPU, Adreno 418 GPU, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of internal memory (expandable)
CamerasRear: 16 MP with OIS, RAW capture, laser auto focus. Front: dual 5 MP
Battery3000 mAh, wireless charging, fast charging (user replaceable)

Pros

  • Large, sharp display
  • Good cameras (the dual front-facing shooter is great for wide-angle selfies)
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Lots of RAM
  • 64 GB of expandable storage space

Cons

  • Not dust- and water-resistant
  • Rather poor battrey life

The LG V10 is the only handset on our list that doesn't offer protection against dust and water. And yet this is a MIL-STD-810 certified device that's protected against shock, vibration, and drops from up to 4 feet (1.2 meters). The LG V10 is notable for offering a secondary ticker display above the normal 5.7-inch screen, though we weren't convinced about its usability.


Cat S60 

Register to buy in the US (probable price: $599)


Display4.7 inches, 720 x 1280 pixels, 312 ppi
HardwareSnapdragon 617 CPU, Adreno 405 GPU, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal memory (expandable)
CamerasRear: 13 MP with thermal imaging. Front: 5 MP
Battery3800 mAh, user replaceable

Pros

  • The toughest smartphone on the list
  • Can survive under water up to 16 feet (5 meters) for up to 1 hour
  • Thermal camera

Cons

  • Not yet available to buy in the US
  • Bulky

Do you need a smartphone that's tougher than most other rugged handsets out there? Then you should check out the Cat S60, an Android Marshmallow-based phone that can survive drops on concrete from up to 6 feet (1.8 meters), while also offering extended protection against water. In addition, the Cat S60 is the world's first smartphone to feature a thermal camera (powered by FLIR), which lets you visualize heat that isn't visible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, the Cat S60 is currently not available in the US, but it should be released in the coming months.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Active

Buy from AT&T ($594.99)

No images

Display5.1 inches Super AMOLED, 1440 x 2560 pixels, 576 ppi
HardwareExynos 7 Octa CPU, Mali-T760 MP8 GPU, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of internal memory (not expandable)
CamerasRear: 16 MP with OIS, laser auto focus. Front: 5 MP
Battery3500 mAh, wireless charging, fast charging (not replaceable)

Pros

  • Impressive battery life
  • Good, sharp display
  • Powerful processor and plenty of RAM
  • Good cameras

Cons

  • No microSD card support
  • AT&T exclusive

Yes, we know, the Galaxy S6 Active is 1 year older than the S7 Active, but it remains a very good rugged smartphone (plus, following a recent software update, it's running Android Marshmallow - just like the S7). While it has some drawbacks compared to the S7 Active (including and older, but still powerful processor, no fingerprint scanner, and non-expandable internal memory), the S6 Active is just as tough and protected against water as its new sibling, while being cheaper and offering superior battery life.

Kyocera DuraForce XD



Display5.7 inches IPS, 720 x 1280 pixels, 258 ppi
HardwareSnapdragon 400 CPU, Adreno 305 GPU, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal memory (expandable)
CamerasRear: 8 MP. Front: 2 MP
Battery3700 mAh (user replaceable)

Pros

  • Good battery life; the battery is removable
  • Loud speaker
  • Cheaper than other rugged smartphones

Cons

  • Still runs Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • Screen isn't too sharp
  • Mediocre processor
  • Thick; too large and too heavy for the 5.7-inch class

If you want a rugged smartphone, but you're not ready to splash out more than $500 for it, the Kyocera DuraForce XD may be exactly what you need. Granted, this handset won't impress you with its features (which look like those of a mid- to low-end device), but it's protected against shock, drops, dust, and water, and includes a generous battery.

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