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Here are the best rugged phones you can buy right now

These days, owning a smartphone is almost a requirement for most folks, for both work and leisure reasons. However, there are a few people who also need their phone to work even when its pouring down rain, or if a person finds themselves in a place with lots of dust and other locations that might otherwise cause their handset to stop working — such as construction sites. This is when you might consider getting a rugged phone.

We are talking about rugged phones that can stand up to military specifications for surviving more extreme water, dust, and drop situations. There are a few such rugged phones on the market right now that can fulfill those requirements. Keep in mind that many of these phones may not have the most current version of the Android operating system or the highest specs, but they have been mostly designed for business and enterprise customers, rather than targeting the average consumer.


Caterpillar Cat S60

Here are the best rugged phones you can buy right now

Caterpillar, best known for their huge construction vehicles and machines, also uses its brand for a series of rugged phones.

The Caterpillar Cat S60 is the most recent release, and and has at least one cool feature that you won’t find on any other smartphone, rugged or not. That feature is the FLIR thermal imaging camera. designed to show heat that radiates out from locations that is normally invisible to the naked eye.

The camera on the Cat S60 can be used by building inspectors to find any heat that’s being lost around windows and doors. It can also discover if an appliance like a washing mashing or oven is over-heating. It can also find if any moisture is building up in a house where it is not supposed to be. It’s kind of like the Predator’s heat vision, but in the real world.

Here are the best rugged phones you can buy right now

In terms of hardware specs, the Cat S60 has a  4.7-inch 1,280 x 720 display, and Android 6.0 Marshmallow pre-installed. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor running at 1.5 GHz, along with 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, a standard 13 MP rear camera and a 5 MP front-facing camera. It also has a large 3,800 mAh battery.

When it comes to rugged phone specifications, the Cat S60 is so waterproof it can work in up to 5 meters of water for up to 60 minutes, if its Lockdown Switch is turned on. It can also survive a fall from up to 1.8 meters (about 6 feet) and is reportedly impervious to dust, thanks to its strengthened die cast frame. You can get the Cat S60 from Amazon right now for $625.99. Be aware it only works on GSM-based cellular networks such as the ones provided by T-Mobile and AT&T.

Specs

  • 4.7-inch 1,280 x 720 display
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 1.5 GHz
  • 3 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of storage, microSD slot for expansion up to 128 GB
  • 13 MP rear camera, 5 MP front-facing camera, FLIR thermal imaging camera
  • 3,800 mAh battery
  • 147.9 x 73.4 x 12.66 mm, 223 g

Caterpillar Cat S40

Here are the best rugged phones you can buy right now

The Cat S40 is a rugged phone for people who want to own a Caterpillar device, but is priced less than the S60. The Cat S40 also does not have the fancy FLIR thermal imaging camera on the back like the S60 model does. The S40 phone has a 4.7-inch display, but its resolution is down to just 540 x 960. It also comes with the older Android 5.1 Lollipop pre-installed.

Some of the other hardware specs on the Cat S40 include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor running at 1.1 GHz, along with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of onboard storage. It has an 8 MP rear camera, a 2 MP front facing camera, and a 3,000 mAh battery. Like the S60, the Cat S40 is impervious to dust and is designed to survive falls up to 1.8 meters (about 6 feet). However, the waterproofing features are not quite as strong; it can keep operating in up to 1 meter of water for up to 60 minutes. The price of the Cat S40 is currently listed at $329.99 at Amazon. Again, this phone is limited to the GSM-based cell networks.

Specs

  • 4.7-inch 540 x 960 display
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor, 1.1 GHz
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of storage, microSD slot for expansion up to 64 GB
  • 8 MP rear camera, 2 MP front-facing camera
  • 3,000 mAh battery
  • 144.9 x 74.08 x 12.45 mm, 185 g

Ulefone Armor

Here are the best rugged phones you can buy right now
The Ulefone Armor is a rugged phone that’s priced even less than the Caterpillar phones on this list, at $219.99 on Amazon. It actually has some decent specs for that price, starting with its 4.7-inch screen with a display resolution of 1,280 x 720. It comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box and inside it has an octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor running at 1.3 GHz, along with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of native storage.
It also has a 13 MP rear camera, a 5 MP front-facing camera and a 3,500 mAh battery. In terms of how solid the phone is, the Ulefone Armor is supposed to match up to IP68 water proof standards. which means it should work in up to 1.2 meters in water for up to 30 minutes. In fact, the company claims its own tests show that the phone can go even deeper in water, up to 1.5 meters, and keep working for 30 minutes. As with the Caterpillar phones, the Ulefone Armor only works on GSM-based networks.
Honestly, despite being a brand not everyone will be familiar with, when it comes to specs and pricing, this is easily one of the best rugged phones on the list.

Specs

  • 4.7-inch 1,280 x 720 display
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • MediaTek MT6753 processor, 1.3 GHz
  • 3 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of storage, microSD slot for expansion up to 128 GB
  • 13 MP rear camera, 5 MP front-facing camera
  • 3,500 mAh battery
  • 152 x 81 x 17 mm, 250 g

Kyocera Brigadier for Verizon Wireless

Here are the best rugged phones you can buy right now

The previous three phones on this list cannot work with the biggest US carrier, Verizon Wireless. However, the Kyocera Brigadier is one of the few rugged phones that can access Verizon’s network. If you absolutely need a phone that can take a lot of abuse, and will work on the company’s CDMA towers, this might be worth a look.

You can also get this phone for a cheap price right now at Amazon for $169.95 without a contract. However, be prepared for some lower end hardware and software, starting with Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box (yes, KitKat). It also has a 4.5-inch display and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor running at 1.4 GHz. It has 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of onboard storage, an 8 MP rear camera and a 2 MP front facing camera. The phone also has a 3,100 mAh battery.

The phone can continue operating for up to 30 minutes in 6 feet of water, and is also IP68 certified against drops and dust. While the Kyocera Brigadier lacks in some areas in terms of hardware, it can still take a beating. Best of all, it works on Verizon’s network if you need to use that carrier. Is this the best of the rugged phones on this list? Far from it, but if you’re a Verizon customer, it’s basically one of the few options you have.

Specs

  • 4.5-inch display
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 1.4 GHz
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of storage, microSD slot for expansion up to 32 GB
  • 8 MP rear camera, 2 MP front-facing camera
  • 3,100 mAh battery
  • 2.69 x 0.52 x 5.37 inches, 6.56 ounces

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active for AT&T

Here are the best rugged phones you can buy right now
Most of the major smartphone manufacturers tend to stay away from the smaller audience that needs rugged phones. One of the few exceptions is Samsung. It has released rugged versions of its flagship Galaxy S phones for a little while. The most recent release is the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active, which is technically an exclusive for AT&T.
The hardware specs for this phone are about the same compared to the standard Galaxy S7. Both have a 5.1-inch QHD Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 and both have the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM and either 32 GB or 64 GB of storage. Both also have a 12 MP rear camera and a 5 MP front facing camera. The biggest hardware difference is with each phone’s battery, with the regular Galaxy S7’s 3,600 mAh battery getting a boost to 4,000 mAh for the S7 Active. The phone shipped with Android 6.0 Marshmallow but recently got an update to Android 7.0 Nougat.
Of course, the S7 Active is supposed to be much tougher compared to the regular S7. The display on the Active is shatterproof up to a drop from 5 feet, and it is covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 4 for extra protection. The Active also has a rubberized body that, while more bulky compared to the standard S7, offers much more protection from any accidental falls to the ground. The Active also has physical hardware buttons for the recent apps and back keys on the bottom, compared to the capacitive navigation keys for the regular S7.
You can get an unlocked version of the Galaxy S7 Active on Amazon now for $444.95. However, be aware that Samsung and AT&T are likely to launch the Galaxy S8 Active, the rugged version of the more recent Galaxy S8, in the very near future, so you might want to consider waiting to get that phone instead.

Specs

  • 5.1-inch 2,560 x 1,440 display
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow, update to 7.0 Nougat
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB or 64 GB of storage, microSD slot for expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 5 MP front-facing camera
  • 4,000 mAh battery
  • 148.8 x 75.0 x 9.9 mm, 185 g

Best rugged phones – wrapping up

While the audience for rugged phones is relatively small compared to the large consumer-based smartphone crowd, we have slowly but surely seen more phones made for that audience become tougher and harder to break compared to the phones that were released just a few years ago. It’s likely that more rugged phone features will creep into standard phones in the future as well.

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