Samsung Rugby Smart Review: Tough Outside, Soft Inside
Want a phone that can withstand a kick into roiling hot water? If you said yes, the Rugby Smart is one of the best rugged phones built for endurance. Why? It doesn't sacrifice style and performance for toughness.
The Rugby Smart wasn't made for Justin Bieber. No, this is a Schwarzenegger-opening-up-a-can-of-whoopass device. It meets Military 810F standards for extreme conditions, so it's dustproof, shockproof and extremely water-resistant -- don't believe me? There's even a lock in the back to keep the battery safely sealed. That means you can dunk it in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. Drop it in the toilet? No problem. It's far from the sleekest device I've seen, but it's better than the bulky bricks that promise toughness. When you compare it to other military-grade phones, like the G'zOne Commando, the Smart looks positively petite. The shape is squat, but remarkably, it's lighter than the iPhone. It won't win any awards for style, but the grippy plastic body and rubberized sides make it easy to hold.
The 3.7-inch screen, meanwhile, delivers a decent viewing experience. If you're considering the Smart, it's safe to say you're not using it to watch movies -- but if you do, you'll be glad to know the 800-by-480 pixel resolution is clear enough to see Schwarzenegger light up in "Kindergarten Cop." At 252-ppi pixel density, you can see every crease in Arnold's brow. Believe me, I counted it. The details are defined, so no matter which action hero you watch, you'll enjoy the show.
But outdoors, the clarity isn't so great. You can blame the scratch-resistant coating. If you work under a harsh summer glare, or on a tropical island, the display will transform into a mirror. If you like bright screens, steer clear -- the 209-lux rating is depressingly dim. In addition, if you plan to do a lot of reading or browsing the Web, text looks slightly jagged due to the PenTile layout -- but I'm just nit-picking. Overall, as long as the screen is properly shaded, for a rugged phone, you can't do any better.
You know you a phone is a workhorse when the camera flash doubles as a flashlight. But aside from that, the 5-megapixel lens is actually pretty fast, so you can snap a photo in less than a second. That's important if you want to capture worksite photos, that remarkable bass fishing tussle or your kid's soccer tournaments. For the most part, I didn't see a problem with the colors, but there's one odd thing: I noticed a whitish cloudiness in some photos. I wasn't sure if it was the ghost of Schwarzenegger's respectability or a coloration problem, but I'm guessing it's the latter. Aside from that, photos are detailed. The video is a different matter: there are noise problems -- not graininess noise, but videos end up blaringly loud. If you have a hard-of-hearing aunt, it's okay, but otherwise, it's annoying. For Skype or video chat, the 1.3-megapixel lens is fine, but for don't anything more -- you'll get grainy photos at best.
Many rugged phones boast superior hardiness and durability, but they run on proprietary, and worthless, software. Not here -- the Smart runs on Android 2.3. Get it? Smartphone -- smart? Ah, forget it. Samsung added its TouchWiz interface, so you'll get seven customizable homescreens. I like the access to notifications from the lock screen -- it's helpful if you want to quickly check that nobody contacted you, and saves you a few seconds from digging through the menu -- those seconds add up over a year. But I had a problem with the small display and cramped onscreen keyboard -- if you have large hands, you'll be in agony. And heaven forbid you work with gloves on. You get to pick your poison: Swype predictive text, Samsung's standard keyboard or the Android one. I recommend Swype for bigger hands and Samsung's version for e-mail, because it has a dedicated @ button.
As an AT&T phone, the Smart comes with some bloatware, but you can uninstall some of it -- only some. Hate shopping? Too bad. You'll have to live with Code Scanner for the next two years. AT&T is to blame for most of it, but Samsung isn't guilt-free either. You'll find some useful apps like AllShare, which lets you transfer multimedia like movies and music, but for the most part, you'll be annoyed. Why? Because you get all that bloatware and only a measly 4-gigabytes of memory. Fortunately, you can add 32-gigabytes with a microSD card, which is a bit hard to get to behind the locked-in battery.
Samsung didn't have to go for style points, so it added a beefy 1,650 mAh battery. I got around eight hours of talk time, which is remarkable in this day and age, and well over a day's worth of standby. That means you won't need to stand near a charger all day. So if you're out and about, you'll be powered and happy. The 1.4-gigahertz chip isn't that fast, since most devices run on dual-core processors, but I didn't notice lag or hiccups. Anyways, you're not buying this for speed. You can, however, jump on AT&T's 3.5G network. Despite what AT&T tells you, HSPA-plus is not 4G, that's LTE. Still for Web browsing and e-mail, it's plenty fast. And you can share the connection with eight other Wi-Fi-enabled devices.
The Rugby Smart is a rough and tumble phone with decent smartphone features. You can take a look at the Motorola Admiral for Sprint or the pricier Droid Razr Maxx for Verizon -- but, frankly, there aren't that many rugged smartphones at this price. If you need a tough gadget for your wild life, it's a good choice, just as long as you don't expect a premium screen. It's a middle-of-the-road phone with souped-up protection at a fair price. And that's better than most tough phones. ♦
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Super AMOLED (Gyroscope / Accelerometer / Compass / Proximity Sensor / Ambient Light Sensor)
May 29, 2012
A Work Smartphone
The Rugby Smart is a good-sized phone. The rubber edge is nice and you feel like you always have a good grip on it, so it won't accidentally slip out if someone bumps you. The phone is tested to withstand rain, wind, dust and shock. It also comes with two cameras, which is great. The main one shoots 720p high-definition video. And the speaker picks up sounds decently.
It looks like any other rugged phone, until you realize it runs Android, and is actually a smartphone. So you can install all the apps from the marketplace. Not only do you get form but function too. The screen is bright and clear, and there's Swype so you don't have to tap away on a display. One nice thing is the built-in flashlight. Comes in handy when you least suspect.
The battery drains out pretty quickly. I get around four hours of talk time with conservative use -- I check a few emails, maybe browse for weather, and run a couple apps. 4G will sap it rather quickly, especially if you're in a spotty area. Overall, this is a work phone. But it gives you the features you expect from a smartphone too -- all wrapped in a rugged case. It's not bulletproof, but it takes a beating.Was this review helpful to you?
39 out of 44 people found this review helpful.
July 12, 2012
Great rugged phone!
I love that it's a rugged, sturdy phone and it also holds up to all the videos about it. My Samsung Rugby Smart was accidently thrown into a pool, in six feet of water and was in there for about 40 to 45 minutes before it was found. Kids are so wonderful... I drove in and the phone still works great. It has been eight days since that happen and it's still running fast, and stood up to by submerged in six feet of water for over 30 minutes. The phone is also very easy to use, everything a person could want. I would recommend this phone to everyone.
There's nothing that I dislike about this phone. I put it through all the tests myself and it passed with flying colors. No scratches, still works from water, and being dropped.Was this review helpful to you?
27 out of 31 people found this review helpful.
July 03, 2012
Works Underwater Too!
I got the Rugby Smart because I needed a phone that could withstand the bumps and bruises. I use it for work, but on a family trip to the beach, I thought I'd try to take underwater photos with it. I know this isn't "waterproof" but rather "water-resistant," but my contract was coming up and I was due for a new phone.
Guess what? It worked! I took over 500 photos with this thing while snorkeling. I recorded around 50 video as well. The salt from the ocean water didn't affect the phone, and it still works like it was new. The Rugby really exceeded all my expectations. The durability is phenomenal. Highly-recommended!
Not much to gripe about. Maybe the battery life. But that's not a big concern.Was this review helpful to you?
22 out of 26 people found this review helpful.
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