Like many people I’ve been toting a cell phone for well over a decade. In that time I’ve had everything from a brick sized Motorola to an oh-so-elegant Sony Ericsson. None have stood up to the abuse dished out while fishing; all ending up with steamed-up screens, swollen batteries, you name it. Since my last couple of phones died (A Sony – definitely not submersible! An LG, totally crash happy!) I’ve been looking for a suitable replacement to use in the field, something a little more rugged, with outdoor features, a phone to include GPS hardware for position records and navigation.
If you look up consumer rugged phones you’ll find very little available in 2011. Casio make the G’zOne phones, pitched pretty well for price and function; unfortunately they’re not available in Europe. Motorola make the Defy and the Barrage. The Defy lacks ‘true’ ruggedness and the Barrage lacks built in GPS. After that you have only a couple other options. Industry focused equipment from Sonim (fine if you need phone tools to manage a construction site and don’t mind the big bucks price tag) or Samsung’s Solid Immerse. I opted for the Solid immerse, otherwise referred to as the GT-B2710, B2710, xCover 271, or xCover.
The Solid Immerse offers reasonable spec for a candy bar form factor at a medium price point. First off, this is IP-67, NEMA 6 rated, meaning it’s dust and water resistant (MIL-STD-810G (for Dust and Immersion)). It’ll take immersion to 1 meter for 30 minutes, and you can drop it in mud and gunk without fear of mobile meltdown. In practice I’ve found the IP-67 rating actually worth the page it’s printed on!
Through a days fishing carried in my outside wader pockets the xCover gets a regular dunking. On top of that, it suffers all the usual angling abuse in the course of a day. Neither water, mud, grit, sand or slime have caused problems. Surviving boulder and scree collisions I can also confirm the validity of the product’s claimed shock resistance.
Apart from the toughness factor there are a few other key points that helped me choose this phone.
First, the phone has built in GPS. It outputs position data using online support and runs Google maps. Or using free third party software like TrekBuddy, the xCover operates without a data connection. I use the xCover with TrekBuddy to record hot spots for my journal.
This phone also has a torch which comes in handy.
There’s a camera – only 2 megapixels but servicable if ambient light levels aren’t challenging. I get respectable enough grip and grin shots giving me postcard prints. There’s a pedometer, organizer and voice memo functions included in the package, all of which I find useful.
Finally but not insiginificantly, another key spec is good battery life. Having the ability to switch to G2, the xCover manages 600hrs standby and 19hrs talk time. That beats the hell out of most other phones, and means I almost never get caught out by a dieing battery.
In the main it’s the camera that lets the xCover down. Although I like the phone and use the camera I’d be enthusing here rather more if it had been at least 3 megapixel and included a flash. Autofocus rather than fixed focus would have been good too.
I’m also a little surprised this phone doesn’t have a 2.5 or 3.5 mm headphone jack something that’s pretty standard elsewhere.
Finally the xCover isn’t especially small or light measuring 121 x 53 x 18 mm and weighing in at 115g, but for outdoor use I’d suggest you don’t want a small fiddly phone and the weight goes with the territory.
So that’s it. Summing up, the Solid Immerse is a proper rugged phone that’s easy to use and reliable. It isn’t perfect but its weaknesses don’t stop me recommending it. Maybe in a further incarnation it will have a camera to match the standard of the other key features and a regular headphone jack. Then the Solid Immerse would be great and not just good.