The rugged phone category is booming and challenger brands from China are capitalising on the trend with a surprising array of affordable and durable options.
Online Chinese retailer, Gearbest, sent us the sample and sells the Blackview BV5800 Pro (opens in new tab) for £139 (around $180) at the time of writing. Note that, while this price includes delivery, it is exclusive of any taxes that may be levied by HMRC or the courier companies on behalf of the vendor. Want to buy tech from online Chinese retailers? Read this first.
Blackview currently offers 11 rugged handsets with the BV5800 Pro (opens in new tab) being one of its more affordable models. Even so, it’s construction is one of the toughest we have come across it comes loaded with features that could help anyone who works outdoors.
Ruggedised phones usually command a premium because of their build quality and niche nature, but the Blackview BV5800 Pro manages to tick all of the boxes in the rugged phone category.
In other words, it has a big screen, big battery, big polycarbonate body and modest processing power. In running the latest version of Android, it offers all of your favourite apps, but adds other features that could be particularly useful to outdoor workers, such as fast wireless charging and press-to-talk calling (PTT).
Like most rugged phones, the Blackview BV5800 Pro is considerably chunkier and heavier than a fashion phone of the same screen size. Some might describe it as clumsy, if not downright ugly, but all that polycarbonate, rubber and metal serves its purpose.
The 5.5-inch Gorilla Glass screen is surrounded by enough of a bezel to survive a 1.6-meter drop onto a hard surface and withstand submersion in 1.5-meters of water for two hours. The textured rubber back also gives you a better grip in wet conditions and a metal panel surrounds the dual front camera torch and fingerprint sensor. If you like the rugged look of the BV5800, you’ll be pleased to know that it comes in three colours, camouflage green (as pictured), high-viz yellow, or plain black.
The layout of the Blackview BV5800 Pro is similar to many other Android handsets with no hard buttons on the front, volume and power buttons on the sides and access ports for a 3.5mm headphone jack and micro USB port at the top and bottom. Frustratingly, because of the thickness of the casing, both of these sockets are deeply set, which means not all microUSB cables, or headphone swill reach inside. So don’t loose the ones that come bundled in the box!
There’s an additional function button on the side that could prove useful when you’re out in the wild. When you press it a curt message pops up to tell you that the software you need is not installed, so we downloaded Zello, which effectively lets you call key contacts without having to unlock the phone or navigate the onscreen menu, which is great if you’re wearing gloves. The SIM card slot can take two micro SIM cards and a microSD memory card.
Here are the full specs of the Blackview BV5800 Pro:
CPU: ARM MT6739WW
GPU: ARM T720-Mp2 600MHz
Screen size: 5.5-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 720
Dimensions: 157 x 79 x 16mm
Rear camera: 13MP + 0.3MP
Front camera: 8MP
OS: Android 8.1.0
For what you might call a budget handset, the Blackview BV5800 Pro packs a lot of features, particularly those that could be considered useful to people who work outside or in industries where a phone could get damaged. It is water, dust and shock resistant, as mentioned, but it also offers wireless charging so you don’t need to faff about with USB cables and the battery itself is large enough, at 5580mAh, to last for 38 days on standby, or 40 hours of talk time.
Unfortunately the wireless charger isn’t included, but there are plenty of other inbuilt features that could be useful outdoors, like a powerful LED torch, stereo speakers, dual cameras (13MP), dual 4G SIM card slots and NFC connectivity.
The 5.5-inch screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 and though it is less bright and lower resolution than the best phones, it doesn’t look compromised. It is only a pity the screen doesn’t automatically brighten in sunlight where the phone is likely to be used a lot.
The 13MP Sony camera takes sharp shots in full light and acceptable shots in the dark and includes a second depth of field sub camera. This is good for adding a bokeh effect, but note that it will not give you an optical zoom, like the dual-lens iPhone, which would have been far more useful.
The ARM processor is fine for a budget phone and 2GB seems adequate given that this handset is designed for long battery life as opposed to fast gaming. It certainly runs the latest version of Android (Oreo 8.1) very smoothly and it looks rather good with Blackview’s skin over the top.