I have a weak point for ultra-rugged devices. Sure, it may not always be the best phones when it comes to things like cameras or sharp screens, but they're a fascinating example of what happens when you take a multipurpose device like a smartphone and turn it into a device that's designed to only one thing. In this case, that is pure and almost ridiculously overestimated robustness. Joining the ring as a new contender for the most difficult phone yet is the Sonim XP8, which recently went on sale at AT & T, through Android Police.
As an Android phone, there is not much to see here. It still runs Android Nougat, instead of the newer Oreo, and internally, there is a Snapdragon 630 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage (which can be expanded by microSD), which is quite standard. The cameras are a 12 megapixel rear trigger and an 8 megapixel front lens, but if you buy the Sonim XP8, it probably is not for taking photos. The highlight here is a massive 4,900 mAh battery that, according to Sonim, is valid for 30 hours of talk time or 30 days of waiting, which is more in line with the robust purpose of the XP8.
The screen is a 5-inch 1080p panel (quite common specifications for a phone) and is also puncture-resistant and can be used with gloves and wet fingers (less common). It also highlights something that has become rare today: Android physical buttons for home, back and multitasking, instead of the almost ubiquitous icons on the screen.
Much of the feature set is dedicated to more demanding use cases
But the Sonim XP8 is designed for military or emergency users, and many of the functions are dedicated to those types of demanding use cases. The phone is classified according to MIL-STD-810G standards for things like dust, shock, rain and temperature, and is also rated for IP68 (immersion in water) and IP69K (direct spray for water). There are a pair of 100dB front speakers that should be loud enough to listen in noisy conditions (for example, a construction site), and a pair of dedicated buttons on the side of the XP8, one for push-to-talk communication and a red SOS button to make emergency calls to response personnel in case of an accident. There is also support for the FirstNet public safety wireless network with AT & T engine, and to top it off, Sonim offers a three-year warranty that covers even accidental damage, which indicates a certain level of confidence in the final product here.
Is the XP8 the best smartphone you can buy for $ 699.99? Probably not, if we go for specifications. You can buy any number of more powerful phones with better hardware, better screens and a better camera for that price. But if you are someone who needs this type of resistant features and do not want to give up the comfort of a smartphone, the Sonim XP8 may be the solution.
That said, while the XP8 can be designed for more demanding jobs, such as emergency workers, AT & T sells it as a normal phone on its website. There really is nothing stopping you from choosing one if you're tired of replacing broken screens on your iPhone X or Galaxy S9.