We've seen a few rugged phones over the last six months, and it seems to be a niche that does well here in New Zealand. That's possibly in part because of our dramatic and technology-destroying scenery. Another factor is that rugged phones have a tendency to assume you're out in the wilds and boost signal reception to cope. Kiwis wanting good phone signal strength seems like a no-brainer.
REVIEW: Samsung's entrant into this arena is the Galaxy Xcover - I think it might be intended to sound a bit like 'discover', though I'm not sure how. It's an IP67-certified smartphone, meaning that it is dustproof and waterproof for up to one metre for 30 minutes. The concession to this in the design is a textured rear panel that has a large lock to prevent ingress of dust or water. Beyond that, it's a fairly standard mid-range smartphone both in its uninspiring plasticky surround and overall shape. At 12mm thick and 100g, with a 3.7-inch screen, it fits snugly into hand or pocket without being too hefty. As you might expect from a rugged phone, it has a Gorilla Glass screen.
An 800mhz Marvell processor powers the Xcover, which places it alongside the also IP67-rated Motorola Defy for comparative purposes, rather than the more powerful Defy+. Given that the Xcover retails for $599 compared to the Defy's current $399, this already puts the Xcover at a disadvantage. Sadly for the Xcover, it doesn't have very much in the way of specs to pip the Defy, let alone the Defy's superior sibling, the $499 Defy+.
Screen resolution on the Xcover is a disappointing 320 x 480 pixels, meaning that the Touchwiz UI and Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) at times appear blocky, with visible pixelation. When compared to the Defy's 480 x 854 screen, it looks far less appealing. Having said that, the Touchwiz features, which include fast access to most commonly used apps, are as functional and intuitive as ever, and responsiveness is good. We found it simple and fast to access the browser, contacts, email and maps, for example.
There's just 150MB of onboard storage, compared to the Defy's 1GB, and our review model came with just 2GB of external storage on microSD card, though it accepts cards of up to 32GB. The small onboard capacity means apps have to be mostly installed to a card.
The Xcover's 3MP camera produced acceptable stills and video, but the autofocus was a little slower than we'd like. It's another area where the Defy has the edge, thanks to its 5MP camera.
Sound quality was excellent on the Vodafone network during testing, handling even international calls without 'spaceyness' or unintelligibility.
Similarly good was the battery life of the Xcover, which managed a day and a half easily during light use. The battery handled long stretches of internet use or Kindle book reading without dropping precipitously.
Overall, it's got some nice features, but there's not enough to make it stand out. It's not often that Samsung misses the mark, but the Xcover is a definite misstep. It's mostly a case of too little, too late for this rugged phone that doesn't stack up against its cheaper competitors.
AT A GLANCE
IP67 rated rugged phone
Low resolution screen for the price point
Touchwiz UI is intuitive and usefulRRP incl GST: $599