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Best rugged smartphones of 2020: waterproof, shockproof and IP68 mobiles

(Image credit: Shutterstock.com /set)

The best rugged smartphone can combine hardy designs with useful functions for work that's out-of-doors or for long periods of time. If you're on the market for such a device, you've come to the right place.

The best rugged smartphones are water and dust resistant, sometimes even totally waterproof, with outer shells tough enough to be dropped on stone or hard surfaces. They'll withstand any drop, bump or impact without bearing a scratch (literally, in most cases), which makes them perfect for use while working outdoors. These devices have undergone stringent tests to ensure they meet military standards, for protection against shocks, extreme temperatures, and of course dust and water (albeit in controlled environments).

Software on the best rugged smartphone is no slouch either, as most offer extra features that are vital in certain lines of work: some might have infrared cameras, sound level meters, and sometimes even VOC (volatile organic compound) detectors.

So whether it's your hobby or your profession that is leading you to to wild or dangerous places, has you needing a device that'll last a long time with plenty of features, or simply makes you prefer hardy phones over fashionable yet fragile standard smartphones, the best rugged smartphone is what you need.

Finally, just bear in mind that while all ruggedized smartphones will be waterproof and dustproof (and therefore meet the IP68 specification), not all waterproof phones will be ruggedized. So think carefully while shopping for the best rugged smartphone for your needs, and make sure you look into all the features that these handsets boast.

So, read on to find out our top picks for the best rugged phones on the market right now.

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We've also featured:

Best rugged smartphones - at a glance

  1. Blackview BV9800 Pro rugged smartphone
  2. Doogee S95 Pro rugged smartphone
  3. Ulefone Armor 7 rugged smartphone
  4. Unihertz Atom XL rugged smartphone
  5. Ticwris Max 4G rugged Android wrist computer
  6. Cat S61 rugged smartphone
  7. AGM X3 rugged smartphone
  8. Doogee S90 rugged smartphone
  9. Blackview BV9500 Pro rugged smartphone
  10. Elephone Soldier rugged smartphone

Best rugged smartphones

The Blackview BV9800 Pro

The Blackview BV9800 Pro (Image credit: Future)

1. Blackview BV9800 Pro rugged smartphone

The best rugged smartphone on the market

OS: Android 9.0 (Pie) | Screen size: 6.3-inch | Resolution: 2340 x 1080 pixels | CPU: Helio P70 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 6580mAh | Rear camera: 48MP | Front camera: 16MP

3.5mm headphone jack
Wireless charging
FLIR doubles as night camera

If you want the best rugged smartphone on the market right now, you're looking at the Blackview BV9800 Pro, because it's as packed full of useful features as it is decked out in specs that'd be impressive for a non-rugged handset.

The highlight of the Blackview BV9800 Pro is its FLIR thermal imaging camera, which is something you don't find on many rugged smartphones. This is useful for a variety of tasks, and it's rare to see it in a phone as affordable as this Blackview device.

There are a range of other great features here, from the 48MP Sony sensor on the back to the big battery, free translation app, and IR blaster. In fact, in our review, we didn't list a single negative point to level at the device, which should tell you all you need to know about this handset

The Doogee S95 Pro

The Doogee S95 Pro (Image credit: Future)

2. Doogee S95 Pro rugged smartphone

A performance powerhouse

OS: Android 9.0 (Pie) | Screen size: 6.3-inch | Resolution: 2160 x 1080 pixels | CPU: Helio P90 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 5150mAh | Rear camera: 48MP + 8MP + 8MP | Front camera: 8MP

Two SIM trays
Good performance
Fingerprint magnet

The Doogee S95 Pro might not be the best rugged smartphone on this list but it's certainly not far from that position, with the handset boasting enough features that could see it high on a list of non-rugged devices.

The handset is incredibly well protected with a metal and rubber frame that'll protect it from lots of what nature (or people) can throw at it. It also has features like an SOS button, fingerprint sensor, and  three rear cameras.

We were pleasantly surprised by the Doogee S95 Pro's performance. It packs the best Mediatek chipset (as of writing) as well as 8GB RAM, which is more than some of the other best rugged phones on this list. If you need a decent amount of processing power, maybe this is the rugged phone for you.

The Ulefone Armor 7

The Ulefone Armor 7 (Image credit: Ulefone)

3. Ulefone Armor 7 rugged smartphone

Boasts a very keen price tag

OS: Android 9.0 (Pie) | Screen size: 6.3-inch | Resolution: 2340 x 1080 pixels | CPU: Helio P90 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 5500mAh | Rear camera: 48MP + 16MP + 8MP | Front camera: 16MP

Great price
NFC and wireless charging
The lanyard
Camera sensor position

The best rugged smartphone may be a hotly-contested title, but Ulefone's plan with the Armor 7 seems to be to offer a solid rugged smartphone at a price that makes it very tempting for people who don't need every top-end feature available.

With admirable performance, a Sony 48MP sensor, and solid IP68/IP69K protection, you could do a lot worse than the Ulefone Armor 7 if you're looking for a great rugged smartphone; that's why it's got so high in this list, after all.

We did have a few problems with the phone's design, as the camera bump extends far enough that it could be at risk if the phone is dropped, and there's a very curious lanyard placement which feels unnecessary. Still, some people might not find these design quirks irritating.

Unihertz Atom XL

(Image credit: Future)

4. Unihertz Atom XL rugged smartphone

A well-rounded bargain for a rugged smartphone

OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 4-inch | Resolution: 1136 x 640 pixels | CPU: Helio P60 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 4300mAh | Rear camera: 48MP | Front camera: 8MP

Oleophobic screen
48MP main camera
Old CPU
No cover for ports

Unihertz is a company that constantly has at least one device in our list of the best rugged phones, and currently the Atom XL is the best phone from the company we've tested.

The Atom phones are pretty small, and even this extra-large version is still pretty tiny with a 4-inch screen. It's impressive, then, that such specs are packed in as a 4,300mAh battery, 48MP camera and 6GB RAM, most of which are specs you'd find on a 6.something-inch non-rugged smartphone.

Some drawbacks we found with the phone are the processor, which is a little on the old side (Mediatek has a Helio P90 in some phones right now), and it had a protection flaw that the USB and headphone jack had no cover.

Ticwris Max 4G

(Image credit: Future)

5. Ticwris Max 4G rugged Android wrist computer

A rugged smartphone that you wear

OS: Android 7.1.1 | Screen size: 2.86-inch | Resolution: 640 x 480 pixels | CPU: MTK6739 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 2880mAh | Rear camera: N/A | Front camera: 8MP

Great mix of hardware components
Very portable
Enraging UI
Old version of Android

Not all the rugged phones on this list are... well, phones at all, not in the sense you might understand. 

The Ticwris Max is partly a smartphone in that it runs on Android, has a front-facing camera and has a small screen, but it's actually a wrist-mounted device akin to a complicated smartwatch.

This may sound like a fun novelty, but it comes with a few issues. The operating system is Android 7.1.1, quite old given the most up-to-date at time of writing is Android 10, and the form factor doesn't exactly lend itself to easy navigation.

Still, depending on your line of work or style, the Ticwris Max might be a great device for you, and its 4G connectivity makes it great for a variety of functions.

Image Credit: Cat

Image Credit: Cat

6. Cat S61 rugged smartphone

A solid rugged smartphone with impressive features

OS: Android 8.0 (Oreo) | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels | CPU: Snapdragon 630 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB | Battery: 4500mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 8MP

Only phone with IP69 rating
Support for dual SIM
Pricey

The Cat S61 was, for quite a while, the best rugged smartphone money could buy, and it's still highly recommendable. This is a brilliant flagship phone in its own right, and it's a significant improvement on its predecessor (the Cat S60) in almost every way. At 162 x 77 x 13mm with a weight of 259g, this is a substantial piece of kit, and one that feels reassuringly solid and robust. 

In fact, it features both MIL Spec 810G and IP69 certifications, meaning the phone is designed to endure even high pressure water jets which are common in many industries. There’s plenty of polycarbonate and rubber to absorb shock and protect the device from drops, and a metal frame to improve its overall structure. 

It also features handy tools not found elsewhere, such as an  indoor air quality sensor as well as a laser-assisted distance measurement tool, and it also comes with some decent smartphone specifications as well, including 4Gb RAM, a Snapdragon 630 SoC and a lovely 5.2-inch 1080p screen. It comes with Android 8.0 and will be kept updated with the latest versions of Google's operating system in the future.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

7. AGM X3 rugged smartphone

The latest rugged smartphone from AGM

OS: Android 8.1 | Screen size: 5.9-inch | Resolution: 2160 x 1080 pixels | CPU: Snapdragon 845 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 64GB | Battery: 4100mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 20MP

Powerful components
Triple sensors
Expensive
Smaller battery than the X2

The AGM X3 is the third flagship rugged phone from the Chinese manufacturer, following on the X2, which was once also listed in this best rugged smartphone guide. With the X3, AGM is looking to break into new markets outside of its native China. The company claims this is the most rugged smartphone on the market with IP68 certification, and not only is it tested to MIL-STD 810G standards, it's also noticeably lighter and thinner than many of its bulky competition.

Not only is it impressively rugged, but it's also packed with the kind of tech we'd expect to see in flagship phones from the likes of Apple and Samsung, including a top-of-the-range system-on-a-chip, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and bags of RAM.

Image Credit: Doogee

Image Credit: Doogee (Image credit: Image Credit: DOOGEE)

8. Doogee S90 rugged smartphone

An ambitious rugged smartphone

OS: Android 8.1 | Screen size: 6.18-inch | Resolution: 2246 x 1080 pixels | CPU: MT6771 (P60) 4*Cortex-A73 2.0GHz + 4*Cortex-A53 2.0Ghz | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 5050mAh | Rear camera: 16+8MP | Front camera: 8MP

Good value for money
Impressive performance
Screen has a notch
Bulky design

We were promised that the Doogee S90 would be unlike any other rugged smartphone on the market, and to be fair, that's what we got, with a modular design that lets you build a handset that best suits your needs. This modular approach means the Doogee S90 is bulkier than many of its competitors, so bear that in mind.

However, in our tests the Doogee S90 performed brilliantly, racking up some of the best numbers we’ve seen in our benchmarks.  Doogee confirmed that the price of the S90 after Kickstarter will be $369.99 (£285). The gamepad and the wireless charger will cost $29.99 (£23) each while the battery will be available for $39.99 (£31), the intercom for $49.99 (£39) and the night vision camera for $59.99 (£46).  

Sure, the Doogee S90 has been succeeded by a bigger sibling which sits higher up this list, but that just means you can pick it up for cheaper.

  • If you're interested you can buy the Doogee S90 from its Kickstarter

Phone side angle

Image Credit: TechRadar

9. Blackview BV9500 Pro rugged smartphone

Once topped this list, but is still impressive

OS: Android 8.1 | Screen size: 5.7-inch | Resolution: 2160 x 1080 pixels | CPU: MT6763T Octa Core | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 10000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 16MP

Very long battery life
Fast and wireless charging
Heavy and bulky
Not brilliant sound quality

Blackview has a range of rugged IP68 certified Android phones available and they tend to be both tough and affordable, if a little light on features. This model, however, comes in at a considerably higher price point and it has all the bells and whistles including PTT (push-to-talk) for walkie-talkie style communication. 

In fact, you'd be hard pushed to find another rugged smartphone that offers anywhere near the amount of features – and battery life – that the Blackview BV9500 Pro does. It's solidly built, which does mean it's a heck of a bulky device, but what really makes the Blackview BV9500 Pro stand out above the rest of the rugged set is its comprehensive list of features that make it ideal for outdoor use. 

The Elephone Soldier

The Elephone Soldier (Image credit: Future)

10. Elephone Soldier rugged smartphone

The ultimate ruggedized smartphone

OS: Android 8 (Oreo) | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 pixels | CPU: Helio X25 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 5000mAh | Rear camera: 21MP | Front camera: 16MP

Absurdly cheap
A lot of unique features
Super high resolution is not put to use
MicroUSB port

The Elephone Soldier makes a solid pitch for being the best rugged smartphone you can buy right now, with features like a really high-res display, a physical flashlight and compass, a Pogo connector, and more; it almost feels like a Frankenstein's Monster-like creation of some of the best parts of other rugged smartphones.

In fact, this is a Swiss Army Knife of intriguing and useful features that could help you out in a pinch when you're out and about.

Unfortunately there are a few shortcomings like the microUSB port, the aging chipset, the proliferation of screws, and the fact the phone can get quite hot. We found it fairly easy to look past these issues, hence the phone's placement on our list of the best rugged smartphone, but your mileage might vary.