Tough Phones : Work or play in harsh environments

9/12/2012 9:04:14 AM

For those who work or play in harsh environments, such as a building site, then you will require a smartphone with a little more robustness...

Smartphones may be getting more powerful but they’re also, it seems, getting more delicate. The combination of the expense of the device and the likelihood of it breaking if you drop it means we’re increasingly inclined to keep our beautifully designed handsets hidden away behind cases.

Description: Tough Phones
Tough Phones

But there’s a new breed of Android phone that doesn’t need a case to get through the day, no matter how or where you use it. If you work in a dusty environment, keep your phone in a pocket while jogging or take it with you on a weekend hike, these hardy smartphones will be able to stand up to anything you can throw at them (or drop them on).

We’ve collected together four of the toughest Android phones currently on the market, ranging from devices that are designed for the toughest outdoor use to those that offer serious protection while still being suitable for use in an office environment.

However, we didn’t just want to test the phone’s overall robustness, as after all the phone still needs to be useful for other tasks that make Android such a great OS. For this reason we will be looking at the performance, design and battery life as well.

So over the next five pages we will see just how tough and versatile the four phones in the group can be. You’ll be amazed by some of the results!

Motorola DEEY Plus JCB edition

The Defy and its Plus model have always been known for their durability and the JCB overcoat gives it a further boost

Description: Motorola DEEY Plus JCB edition
Motorola DEEY Plus JCB edition



The JCB case does help with the phone’s grip, though it is a tight fit. However, the phone on its own looks stylish, it sits well in the palm of your hand and even without the case it feels surprisingly durable.


The phone’s IP67 rating certainly helped survival after being dunked into water. The JCB case was also effective at protecting the phone from a lofty fall. However, we would still recommend a screen protector to boost the scratch resistance.


The screen quality was the best in the group. This was matched by a great user interface and bundled software, including the handy JCB toolbox. On paper the performance was slightly below the Sony but in reality it was no slouch.

Battery life

Battery life was pretty good, with 70 per cent remaining during our heavy video playback tests. General heavy usage also proved that it can survive the day with more than enough juice to spare.


The JCB case gives the DEFY an extra form of protection to go on top of its respectable performance and price tag

The Defy plus JCB Edition is essentially the same model as the standard Defy Plus, a rugged but surprisingly sleek phone, but features a two-year warranty and comes supplied with a JCB hard case. Even without the provided case the phone feels remarkably sturdy and includes an IP67 scratch, dust and water proof protection rating which brings it in-line with the other products. We would still recommend a screen protector for certain uses, however.

Without the case, all the standard micro USB and headphone ports are covered with a plastic sleeve and the back cover contains a partition to protect the battery. While we discovered a few droplets in the back cover after submerging the phone in water (while simultaneously playing a music track), the phone was still in perfect working order.

The JCB case is a tight fit and it took us a while to get the case to sit properly on the phone. However, once in place it not only helps with gripping the phone (especially with wet hands), it also aids its water resistance and durability without comprising on weight. It easily survived multiple drops to the floor. Not only is the phone rugged, but powering on the handset also reveals one of the best consumer experiences in the group. The screen’s vibrancy and its larger resolution enabled us to play any of the games we wanted to install.

Additionally while the Ul does incorporate the Motoblur Ul (which can sometimes dampen performance due to its linking of multiple social centric accounts), it did provide the ability to organize the pre-installed apps into customized folders.

As well as the respectable collection of consumer apps you also get a proprietary JCB application. This gives you some nifty tools, such as a spirit level, decibel meter and a flashlight - unfortunately this simply activates the backlight and not the camera’s LED (like it does on the other phones in the test).

Even though its Vellamo virtual benchmark score of 455 seemed a lot less than the Sony’s 910, it still performed well for streaming content, watching films, playing games or general office use. Battery life was also one of the best in the group for heavy use and video playback. The five-megapixel camera was no slouch either and provided some nice snaps and recordings, despite the maximum VGA resolution.




More information


Technical specs

Operating system

Android 2.3 Gingerbread


1 GHz Cortex-A8


512MB RAM 1 GB ROM, 2 GB internal storage


107 x 59 x 13.4 mm




3.7" Corning Gorilla Glass (IP67 certified - scratch, dust and water proof)


Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 2 Mbps


5-MP rear, no front camera, VGA @30fps video recording


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