Sure you can throw a heavy case on almost any phone and get it reasonably well protected, 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. CAT S61
CAT is the definitive name in rugged smartphones and the S61 is the top of the line if you are looking for rugged without sacrificing too much in the specs department. The CAT S61 even has a couple of unique tricks up its certified waterproof sleeves with the FLIR camera that lets you capture thermal imaging and the air quality sensor. The thermal imaging camera in particular is applicable across a number of industries. The Cat S61 isn’t cheap at just under $800 normally, but unlike most smartphones in that price range this thing is virtually indestructible so your investment is pretty safe.
- MIL-STD 810G
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 offers some welcome competition in this market. The latest incarnation of the companies higher-end line is the BV9700 Pro which has an optional night vision camera add on to go with the built-in air quality detector and heart rate monitor. The BV9700 Pro comes with Android 9.0 Pie, a pretty big deal in the rugged smartphone world where you can often find yourself a year or two behind.
- MIL-STD 810G
03. Cat S48c
The Cat S48c is the newest addition to the company’s lineup and can be typically found at just under $500. 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.
- MIL-STD 810G
04. Moto Z2 Force
Now to be clear the Moto Z2 Force isn’t going to survive the kind of smartphone torture that the rest of the devices on our list will, see the durability rating below, but it does feature a virtually indestructible screen so paired with the proper case it can come close and at right around $400 it delivers superior performance for the price to most rugged smartphones. If drops are your main concern this phone can get the job done and provides a better camera, screen and overall user experience than some of its tougher competition.
05. 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.
- MIL-STD 810