publishUpdated   Mar 22, 2020, 4:58 pm

You can put an OtterBox case on almost any phone these days and it’ll be pretty safe, but some users need to really put their smartphone through the wringer on a daily basis and if that’s you then a rugged smartphone is probably the answer you are looking for.

These phones are designed to shrug off the kind of damage that would have most modern smartphones shattered or dead and in many cases even offer some unique features that could come in handy on the job. If your phone is as likely to end up in a toolbox as a pocket, one of these rugged smartphones could be right for you.

Note: Durability ratings are listed for each device. Be sure to check out our clear explanation of what each IP rating means.

For an explanation on the military-used MIL-STD-810 standard, head here.

01. Blackview BV9800 Pro

For the first time Blackview is claiming the top spot on our rugged smartphones list thanks to the impressive specs list on the Blackview 9800 Pro. This is the first smartphone since the CAT S61 to offer a FLIR camera allowing for thermal imaging and unlike the CAT S61 there’s also a solid 48MP Sony primary lens on board as well. The 6.3-inch FHD+ screen is also a standout in this category along with the 6GB of onboard RAM and 128GB of storage. While the rubberized casing of the device isn’t exactly tiny, it’s a far cry from the bulky rugged devices of previous years and will fit easily in most pockets. The Blackview BV9800 Pro also offers a headphone jack and an IR sensor. Charging is via USB-C or Qi wireless charging for the massive 6,580 mAh battery. The two primary knocks against the BV9800 Pro are going to be the processor, which is a Helio P70 and that it launched with Android 9.0 in late 2019. The pricing is another win for the device thought as it comes in at just under $550, which is hundreds less than the previous FLIR camera champ the CAT S61.

Durability Ratings:

  • IP68/IP69
  • MIL-STD 810G

Buy Blackview BV9800 Pro

02. CAT S61

CAT has some big updates coming to its smartphone lineup this year, but for now the CAT S61 is still the top of the line for them. The FLIR thermal camera isn’t entirely unique to the line now, but it is still a rare offering that is applicable across a number of industries. The physical buttons on the CAT S61 are even more of a standout feature now than when it launched, which depending on your use case could be a difference-maker. Throw in the air quality sensor and the laser-assisted distance measurement and the CAT S61 still can hold its own against most of the rugged smartphone market. While CAT S61 still isn’t cheap, the pricing has come down considerably in the last few months settling at around $660 normally, but unlike most smartphones in that price range, this thing is virtually indestructible so your investment is pretty safe.

Durability Ratings:

  • IP68/IP69
  • MIL-STD 810G

Buy Cat S61

03. Blackview BV9700 Pro 

Blackview may not as familiar a name as CAT, but the company has been churning out its own rugged smartphones for several years now and its previous top of the line smartphone the BV9700 Pro is the company’s second on our list. The BV9700 Pro has an optional night vision camera add on to go with the built-in air quality detector and heart rate monitor. You can find it for under $500 which given the 16MP Sony sensor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and FHD+ display is a solid value in the rugged smartphone space.

Durability Ratings:

  • IP68/IP69
  • MIL-STD 810G

Buy Cat S61

04. Ulefone Armor 7

The Ulefone Armor 7 is the latest flagship for the company and while it lacks some of the unique extras offered by others, from a pure smartphone specs standpoint it is the top option on this list. It packs a triple rear camera with a 48MP primary lens, 8GB of RAM, and a 5500 mAh battery. Those are pretty respectable flagship specs and not what you would expect from a smartphone with this level of durability. The processor is a Helio P90, which certainly isn’t going to hold up to current flagships, but it is still a respectable processor and a significant upgrade from the rest of the options on this list. If you are just looking for a rugged smartphone with the best specs possible then the Ulefone Armor 7 is the best choice for you.

Durability Ratings:

  • IP68/IP69K
  • MIL-STD 810G

Buy Ulefone Armor 7

05. Cat S48c

The Cat S48c is still the newest addition to the company’s lineup and can be typically found at just under $460. The phone is only available to Sprint consumer customers or business and enterprise customers on Verizon. It offers push-to-talk functionality over LTE, a popular feature among some users. The phone offers three physical navigation keys on the front, CAT tries to make it as easy as possible to use these devices wearing gloves or with dirty hands. They are buried below thick rubberized covers to maintain the IP68 rating, but a microSD slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, and of course USB-C port are all present.

Durability Ratings:

  • IP68
  • MIL-STD 810G

Buy CAT S48C

06. Blackview BV5900

While the Blackview BV5900 may lack the truly unique extras of the company’s other offerings on this list, it is just as rugged and comes in at an affordable $170. It still offers some other solid specs list as well with a 5,580 mAh battery, dual-rear cameras and both a fingerprint sensor and facial unlock. The internals are a step down with a Mediatek 6761 processor and 3GB of RAM, but given the cost and the durability of this device that is to be expected. Most people probably wouldn’t want to use this a daily driver, but for a work device that just needs to cover the basics, it will be plenty powerful and won’t break the first time it hits the floor.

Durability Ratings:

  • IP68/IP69K
  • MIL-STD 810

Buy Blackview BV5900

07. Cat S41

While it’s not quite the powerhouse of its larger and newer siblings, the CAT S41 has a lot going for it as well. The 5,000 mAh battery should keep you charged up on the job site all day and even offers battery sharing so you can plug in another device to charge off the S41. The main trade-off versus the S61 is the loss of the FLIR camera system and its ability to handle extreme temperature changes, but it’s still unbelievably tough and will survive up to an hour in 2 meters of water.

Durability Ratings:

  • IP68
  • MIL-STD 810

Buy CAT S41 on Amazon

Buy CAT S41