Galaxy XCover: Take a ride down memory lane with Samsung’s rugged phones

Galaxy XCover: Take a ride down memory lane with Samsung’s rugged phones
Did you know that Samsung has a series of rugged phones called Galaxy XCover? Often when we talk about ruggedized phones, we talk about lesser-known brands, but they aren’t the only players in the market.

The Xcover series has been running ever since 2011 with the first Samsung Galaxy ruggedized phone. It was still a time in which smartphones had physical buttons under their touchscreens and allowed users to open them up and swap their batteries out.

The line-up of phones has been every-growing for 11 years now, with the latest installment being the Xcover 6 Pro. And — you might be surprised by this — it is also capable of having its battery taken out and swapped in for a freshly charged one.

How did Samsung rugged phones evolve over the years?

But wait, let’s rewind a bit. What did the first Xcover do, which was different from the Samsung Galaxy SII — the hot Samsung flagship from back then? Well, it had a rating of IP67, which made it impervious to dust and resistant to rain.

Its successor, the Xcover 2, made small improvements like a front-facing selfie camera and the ability to record video at 720p, which was impressive for 2013. Samsung also released its first rugged tablet in the same year – it had an IP67 rating, making it completely ingress proof and capable of resisting splashes.

In 2015, the Xcover 3 brought in a design element which would become a staple of the series going forward — an extra, fully-customizable physical button. Nowadays that might not seem like much, but back in the day it was a novel concept.

The Xcover 4 was the first in the line to have the military-grade MIL-STD-810G certification. This one isn’t typically seen on smartphones, but it basically guarantees that the phone can survive in hot and cold environments, drops from 3ft (~1m) and even heavy impacts. The Tab Active 2 was released alongside the Xcover 4, and while it didn’t have military-level certification, it had a slightly boosted IP68 resistance and support for the S-Pen.

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Slight revisions of these models were released in 2019. The XCover 4s brought in a secondary SIM slot and 32GB of storage, but the Tab Active Pro had more improvements. It had the biggest screen in the series thus far, 10.1” in size, and it supported Samsung Dex, allowing for a desktop experience. Most notably, the tablet finally got a dedicated physical button too, named the Active Key.

2020 saw the introduction of the Xcover Pro: the first in the series to lose the physical interface buttons. Although it was only offered as a business solution, it was certainly the most modern out of the bunch, with a slew of modern features such as a fingerprint sensor and a 1080p selfie camera.

The Tab Active 3 was released the same year and was the first in the series with MIL-STD-810G certification. It also had a No Battery mode, which allowed for the device to be powered directly via cable, eliminating overheating while conserving battery life in the process.

The modernized look of the XCover Pro transferred over to the XCover 5, which was one of the most affordable rugged phones for frontline workers in 2021. It also retained the military grade MIL-STD-810G certification and the customizable physical button.

What is the latest Samsung rugged phone in 2022?

The Samsung Galaxy XCover 6 Pro is the latest phone in the series, still boasting many of the features that became staples. For example, it has not one, but two customizable physical buttons, though one of them can only be used with certain communication apps — you know, like a walkie-talkie.

It is equipped with the biggest screen on an Xcover phone to date, with a 6.6” PLS LCD panel. PLS (plane to line switching) is a Samsung-developed screen technology, which allows for wider viewing angles and a 10% increase in brightness.

While the inclusion of an LCD screen may appear outdated, it is in fact one of the ways by which Samsung shows care for frontline workers. As they often have the need to look at instructions for long periods of time while working, the LCD screen removes the chance of burn-in.

The Xcover 6 Pro also supports Samsung DeX, comes 5G-enabled and has both an IP68 rating and MIL-STD-810H certification. That basically means that only salt water, chlorine and long exposure to hot steam can kill it, and that is if its external shell is cracked, which should be a challenge all by myself, considering its design.

2022 also saw the release of the Active 4 Pro tablet. It still retains physical front-facing buttons (remember: frontline workers often wear protective gloves), supports No Battery mode, and is now enabled to work with Samsung’s POGO dock for easy charging and extra functionality while plugged-in.

And yes, both of Samsung’s rugged smart devices from 2022 have interchangeable batteries.

More than 10 years of advancement for Samsung rugged smartphones have allowed the Galaxy Xcover series to look very much like a regular, modern smartphone, without the need to compromise its unique selling point: durability.

Through the many interpretations that the series has seen, it's clear that Samsung has taken its time to listen to feedback and improve the devices, so they could be a better, safer and more reliable fit for many, many industries.

While you probably won’t start seeing Xcover phones in the pockets of your classmates or neighbors, it isn’t difficult to appreciate the point which the series has reached, and we can only wonder how Samsung will improve on the concept next time around.

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