Rugged smartphones

Rugged mobile phones are intended for users who work in demanding conditions or who spend their time outdoors in pursuit of extreme sports. These mobile phones excel by their reinforced design, glass protection, and waterproofness.  Sometimes they are called unbreakable, which however does not mean that they can withstand everything. Their design provides them with a higher resistance compared to general-purpose mobile phones, but there are certain limits.


Basic classification of rugged mobile phones

Customers who want to buy a rugged mobile phone can be usually divided into three groups based on their requirements. Generally, such customers look for one of the following types of outdoor mobile phones


  • a rugged touch mobile phone with superior parameters
    • Only for those who look for a rugged touch mobile phone with high performance, a large display and a high-capacity battery. In addition, applications, such as WhatsApp,, YouTube, etc. should be available on the mobile phone. The customers usually do not mind a larger size and weight of the mobile phone. Superior parameters refer to the following:
      • 6“ and larger display
      • octa-core processor
      • 64 GB and more inner memory
      • 4 GB and more operating memory
      • 6,000 mAh and more battery capacity
      • fingerprint reader
      • wireless charging
      • SOS key
      • indicative LED
    • a rugged touch mobile phone with standard features
      • Intended for users who wish to use also application, such as WhatsApp,, YouTube, etc. on their rugged mobile phone and request a larger display. On the other hand, they want to carry their mobile phone in the pocket, meaning that the mobile phone size and weight are limited
    • rugged push-button mobile phone
      • The mobile phone is intended for users who wish to use their rugged mobile phone only for calling and SMS or who often use protective gloves when working with the mobile phone


Below, you will find the main features mostly sought-after by users of rugged mobile phones


Degree of protection and military standards

The ingress protection code (IP) classifies the resistance of the mobile phone to the ingress of a foreign body and liquids. Currently, the most common degree of protection for rugged mobile phones is IP68, or IP69. Where the manufacturer failed to perform tests for any part of ingress protection, only letter X is provided instead of the certification degree, e.g. IPX9. The most commonly used certifications


Degree                 against dangerous contact              by the ingress of foreign objects

IP 5x                      by any aid                   dust, partly

IP 6x                      by any aid                   dust, fully


Degree                 by ingress of water (IPX specification)

IP x7                      Protection against immersion in water for 30 minutes to a depth of 1 meter

IP x8                      Protection against constant immersion in water under conditions specified by the manufacturer

IP x9                      Protection against high-pressure high-temperature water jets


Some waterproof mobile phones also comply with the military standard MIL-STD-810G. The difference between the degree of protection rests in the fact that the military standard MIL-STD-810G specifies the methods of testing rugged mobile phones in various conditions. It is specified how many times or how long the rugged mobile phone will resist to the conditions of a very high atmospheric pressure, low as well as high temperatures, including exposure to thermal shocks while in operation and in the off state. It is specified how long the outdoor mobile phone with resist to rain, including freezing rain; the effect of salt air, sand, dustiness, fast acceleration and deceleration, shock, and transport shock, and the effect of controlled and random vibrations are tested. The purpose of the tests is the simulation of natural conditions.


Display protection

A majority of outdoor mobile phones use the Gorilla Glass protective glasses. These types of glass have been developed by Corning Inc. They are manufactured from the material called alkali aluminosilicate that is formed by a mixture of aluminum, silicone, and oxygen. The protection of the glass has been developed for two main methods of destruction. Resistance to falls and resistance to scratching. These two properties however compete with one another. To withstand a fall, the glass must be soft. On the other hand, soft glass can be easily scratched. Harder glass is more resistant to scratching but its is more fragile. The technology of glass protection is improving. Following the Gorilla Glass up to Gorilla Glass 6 models, the latest model of the protective glass that was put on the market in 2020, Gorilla Glass Victus, has the best performing protection of both types. Below, you will find properties for the two latest models of the protective glass: 

Gorilla Glass 6 – withstands up to 15 falls from a height of 1 meter

Gorilla Glass Victus – withstands falls to hard ground from a height of up to two meters; its resistance to damage by scratching is doubled compared to Gorilla Glass 6



Development of Outdoor mobile phones used to lag behind that of general-purpose ones. Today, the rugged smartphones are equipped with a majority of commonly used sensors as well. This means that they are fitted with accelerometer, G-sensor, gyroscope, proximity sensor, and NFC. Some of the rugged mobile phones are also fitted with a barometer that allows the measuring of atmospheric pressure within the GPS system. The barometer makes it possible to measure the altitude where the user is found, thus allowing the position of the device and the person as well to be localized more accurately and faster.


Mobile phone design

For even better protection, some manufacturers use a magnesium metal frame integrated inside the phone’s circumference. The frame gives the outdoor mobile superior resilience and protection to the inner components.

A massive rubber frame ensures protection for the outside. Its quality is often key to a rugged phone’s durability.

When choosing a rugged phone, pay attention to the protection of the receptacles (sockets) against the ingress of impurities and liquids, usually provided by a removable rubber cover. The USB-C connector itself is waterproof and does not require any cover.


For additional information on rugged mobile phones, see our articles How to choose a rugged mobile phone, Five reasons for buying a rugged mobile phone.

You can follow the news concerning rugged mobile phones via the following link News.

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