Today’s mobile phones are feature-packed and stylish. But for all that power and flair, they’re shockingly fragile.
Whether you’re especially clumsy or need a phone built to handle harsh work environments -- such as construction yards or outdoor environments -- rugged phones won’t turn into a paperweight if you drop them on the ground or in a puddle.
But you won’t find many options in retail stores. So where do you find the best rugged phone options? We’ve got you covered. Here are 6 excellent options for anyone looking for a phone that can take a beating.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2019.
Best Rugged Phone for Industrial/Construction Use
Known for their construction equipment, you might not expect to see CAT’s name on a smartphone. But the CAT S61 features several features designed specifically for construction and industrial environments.
The thermal imaging camera, air quality sensor, and laser distance measurement tool will come in handy on-site while the IP68 water- and dust-resistance rating, MIL-STD-810G shock proofing, and the built-in protective shell will ensure the phone survives the inevitable drops and dings of work.
All of that aside, it’s also a very capable smartphone. It includes an octa-core Snapdragon processor and a recent version of Android. The 5.2-inch 1080p will make detailed diagrams or images pop while also providing an immersive experience should you want to unwind with a movie after a day of working or outdoor adventures. There’s even a 16MP camera with dual flash to capture pictures.
What Others Are Saying…
Reviewers have been fans of CAT’s S-series of phones since its initial release years ago. Their latest model keeps this trend going.
MB Reviews says, “In terms of ruggedness, the S61 excels in every aspect, it is waterproof, dustproof and can handle lots of drops and, additionally, you also get the awesome thermal imaging camera, the laser measuring tool and the air quality sensor. This means that it takes the first place in our list.”
Digital Trends praised the phone, saying, “... If you want an exceptionally tough phone with some amazing tools, look no further.”
TechRadar called the CAT S61 “The best rugged smartphone on the market.”
If you’re looking for a smartphone that is as feature-filled as it is durable, the CAT S61 checks all the boxes.
Best Modular Rugged Phone You’ve Never Heard Of
Doogee has been building a reputation for high-quality rugged devices at affordable prices. Their latest release is not only rugged but fully modular.
By sliding modules on to the back of the phone, you can extend battery life, add night vision capabilities, and use your phone like a digital walkie-talkie.
The phone features both IP68 dust- and water-resistance as well as MIL-STD-810G shock resistance. However, it goes a step beyond any other pick in this with IP69K rating. This means it’s also highly resistant to high-pressure liquid exposure and high-temperature liquids.
With a 6.18-inch 1080p display, the phone is as pretty to look at as it is durable. And there’s Corning Gorilla Glass 4 screen protection. There’s even a glove mode for easy operation while you work.
The Helio P60 octa-core processor can handle any work-related tasks with ease while also covering more entertainment-centric tasks -- such as gaming or streaming HD video.
All of this is powered by a 5050mAh battery (with an optional 5000mAh modular battery add-on) making it one of the largest batteries in this lineup if you’re away from charging places for longer stretches.
What Others Are Saying…
Doogee is a relatively new name on the mobile market, but reviewers are impressed with their offerings so far.
Tech Advisor UK says, “[The phone] offers very good value for money and a decent mid-range spec, and it's as tough as phones come in 2019.”
Digital Trends says, “We reckon you could easily take this phone out for longer than a weekend on a single charge and it would probably be alright — and there will be some people who will adore that idea.”
TechRadar praised the phone, saying, “... In our tests the Doogee S90 performed brilliantly, racking up some of the best numbers we’ve seen in our benchmarks.”
With its modular design and IP69K rating, the Doogee S90 features a level of flexibility and protection few phones can touch while its titanium design provides a sturdy, premium feel.
Best Rugged Phone Overall, Most Stylish Rugged Phone
Many rugged phones are hefty, chunky boxes of rubber and metal. While the AGM X3 is still a little more stout than the typical high-end phone, its clean lines and thin outer casing look much more like a consumer phone than many on this list.
Despite the slimmer design, it still comes with plenty of protection. It has both an IP68 dust- and water-resistance rating and MIL-STD-810G shock resistance. It also has a Corning Gorilla Glass 5 treatment around front to keep the screen from cracking and scratching. Best of all, it achieves the IP68 rating with no weird rubber port plugs or flaps -- though it includes an extra charge port plug if you’d like to use it.
The phone includes a Snapdragon 845 processor -- the same used in most top-end 2018 phones and even has a waterproof speaker tuned by JBL to crank out the volume. There are even a dual-lens 12MP and 24MP rear camera for capturing images and a 20MP front-facing lens for video conferences.
A 5.99-inch 1080p also strikes a good balance between easy visibility and portability. There’s plenty of room for complex diagrams or long documents if you need to access information while on-the-go.
The only area where the phone lacks compared to many in this lineup -- and likely the reason the phone is so trim in comparison -- is the battery. However, with a 4,100mAh battery and Quick Charge 3.0 support, it still offers more battery life than the average consumer phone and can charge from empty to full in just over 2 hours.
What Others Are Saying…
AGM is fairly well-known in the UK. However, they’re a newer name on this side of the world.
Tech Radar loved the phone, saying, “Not only is it impressively rugged, but it's also packed with the kind of tech we'd expect to see in flagship phones from the likes of Apple and Samsung…”
Expert Reviews was also pleased, saying, “If you want a phone that’ll survive the elements but don’t want to compromise on power, look no further than the AGM X3.”
Veditto highlights who this phone is perfect for, saying, “If you are an outdoor person who loves hiking an adventure or you work in harsh environment you can surely go for it without giving a second thought.”
Offering the same performance as last year’s best phones, the AGM X3 proves that having a rugged phone doesn’t require lugging around a heavy rubberized brick with poor performance.
Best Rugged Widescreen Phone
If screen real estate is important to you, the 6.2-inch display on the Ulefone Armor 6 is sure to please. It one of the few models in this roundup to use the newer 19:9 aspect ratio found in the latest top-end phones. This means it’s taller than older phones to keep the phone easy to use with one hand while offering more room for you to check out diagrams, images, instructions, messages, or other important content while working or exploring.
While the phone is heavier than your usual phone, this is because it houses a 5,000mAh battery. This means the phone will have zero issues reaching a full day on a single charge -- and might even reach two depending on how much you use your phone.
With an IP68 dust- and water-resistance rating, the phone can take dips and dirt without a problem. The design of the phone also makes it more resilient against the drops and dings of an active lifestyle.
Powering it all, you’ll find an octa-core Helio P60 processor and a massive 128GB of internal storage. You can even expand storage further by up to 256GB with a microSD card.
All of this adds up to a phone ready for anything you might throw at it while looking good doing it.
What Others Are Saying...
Tech Advisor UK featured the phone near the top of their charts, calling it “... as tough as it is good-looking…”
Notebook Check put the phone through its paces and said, “In short, the Ulefone 6 is one of the best outdoor smartphones on the market…”
Tech Radar liked the phone, saying, “The Ulefone Armor 6 is pretty much your best choice right now if you want a powerful IP68-rated smartphone with plenty of character and stock Android.”
Mimicking the latest phone designs with their taller screens, the Ulefone Armor 6 is as well-suited for streaming video and browsing the web as it is braving harsh environments.
Best Rugged Phone for First Responders
Featuring a large display and decent processing power, the Sonim XP8 doesn’t offer any major features that would make it a standout on this list. In fact, it mostly offers what any other pick here does, but at a higher price.
Unless you’re a first responder...
It’s IP69 dust- and water-resistant, features an enhanced loudspeaker, and included a dedicated push-to-talk feature.
With access to AT&T’s exclusive FirstNet network, this rugged phone will have coverage where others don’t. In the case of a congested network, it will also get priority access allowing you to place calls during a crisis when every second counts.
What Others Are Saying...
Reviewer Justin Van Harn at Amazon says, “I've had multiple Sonim products over the past 3 years. I have had the Sonim XP8 for six months. I have not had one issue. The battery lasts for two days under normal use. I've never had it crash, lock up, or malfunction in any way. I've had many phones over the years. This phone by far has been the most durable and reliable.”
The Verge liked the phone, saying, “... If you’re someone who needs these kinds of rugged features and doesn’t want to give up the convenience of a smartphone, the Sonim XP8 might fit the bill.”
Reviewer CaffeinatedFalcon at AT&T says, “It's an obvious choice if you work outdoors, in unforgiving environments, etc. But if you are simply looking for a durable, solid piece of tech and don’t want to give up the convenience of a smartphone, get this phone.”
For the average person, there’s better value in other picks in this roundup. But with access to the AT&T FirstNet network, this rugged phone offers better coverage and priority access for first responders who depend on their phone while saving the day.
Best Rugged Flip Phone
If you’re looking for a phone that will withstand a beating but don’t need all the bells and whistles of a modern smartphone, the Kyocera DuraXE is a great choice.
The flip or clamshell design already lends it a level of durability most smartphones can’t touch. But Kyocera took this a step further and wrapped the shell in a durable rubberized coating. This means you’ll always have a firm grip on your phone and it’ll shrug off drops and dings fairly well.
The phone is IP68 dust- and water-resistant and MIL-STD-810G shock-resistant.
There is a basic camera but it won’t work for much else than the occasional snapshot as a reminder or for notes. There’s also web browsing and Wi-Fi, but you’re limited to the standard number pad and tiny directional arrows for navigation.
One high point of the phone is its loudspeaker. Whether you’re holding to phone to your ear or using the speakerphone, you should have no trouble hearing calls -- even in noisy environments.
What Others Are Saying...
As flip phones aren’t exactly mainstream anymore, reviews for this phone are a little harder to find.
However, PC Magazine reviewed the phone and found it lived up to the marketing hype, saying, “... The DuraXE is a solid choice if you view it strictly as a rugged flip phone, thanks to its good call quality and long battery life.”
Reviewer Technology Rebel at Amazon says, “Take it for what it is. Phone, Email, Text with a small camera. If you're happy with that and a battery life over a week, then this is the phone for you.”
Reviewer Megan Wolfe at Amazons says, “Bought this for my dad who is a tractor mechanic. He loves it because it can handle him dropping it about a dozen times a day. Been 6 months and he still loves it. Also, it’s loud…”
If you’re looking for the latest and great features in a rugged phone, this isn’t it. But if you want a basic phone to handle calls, texts, and emails that can withstand just about anything, the Kyocera DuraXE is a great option.
How We Chose
The picks in this roundup are what we think are the best rugged phones available in 2019.
We selected these models based on analysis of expert reviews from around the web, user feedback on sites like Amazon and carrier stores, forum comments on our site, social media discussions, and more.
When answering the question, “What’s the best tough phone for the average buyer?”, we considered the following primary criteria:
While any phone can claim its durable, IP ratings and MIL-STD ratings ensure a certain level of dependability and performance. Everyone phone in this roundup is at least IP68.
A phone that can survive anything doesn't do much good if you hate using it...
We researched each phone model in this roundup to ensure they offer will offer dependable performance for years to come.
While budgets vary from person to person, we wanted to be sure that all of our picks offer good value compared to competing models. While these might not be the most budget-friendly phones available, they are well-priced for rugged phones in 2019.
The best place to find out about how a phone works is from the people using them every day. If there's a problem, reviewers will usually let you know in a hurry. All of our picks feature a range of reviews across multiple sites to ensure that information is as accurate as possible.
We compared the things most people consider when choosing a rugged phone.
In short, we did the research—so you don’t have to.
Recap: Best Rugged Phones
- CAT S61: Best Rugged Phone for Industrial/Construction Use
- Doogee S90: Best Modular Rugged Phone You’ve Never Heard Of
- AGM X3: Best Rugged Phone Overall, Most Stylish Rugged Phone
- Ulefone Armor 6: Best Rugged Widescreen Phone
- Sonim XP8: Best Rugged Phone for First Responders
- Kyocera DuraXE: Best Rugged Flip Phone
Still Not Sure?
As this roundup shows, having a rugged phone no longer means dealing with poor performance or old hardware.
But there is still not a single pick that will be perfect for everyone.
The models above offer a variety of options across a range of price points to help you find the perfect match for both your needs and budget.
If you’d like to see additional rugged phone options, our phone comparison tool makes exploring the models available
simple. You can even compare up to 5 phones side-by-side to make it easier to see which one is right for you.
P.S. If you already own a phone and want protection from water damage without buying a whole new phone, our roundup of the best waterproof cases provides options to keep your old favorite safe from splashes, dips, and downpours.
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