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Best durable phones for workplaces or outdoor adventures

This tough tech will keep you connected in even the most challenging environments

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04 February 2022

hether you’re perennially clumsy or spend your days out and about, a durable phone is an indispensable piece of pocket-sized technology. Swap a flimsy smartphone for a rugged device that can handle inclement weather or close encounters with concrete so you can stop shelling out on frequent phone repairs. It will become a thing of the past.

Designed for use on construction sites, during extreme sports or on adventurous excursions where durability and exhaustive battery life are critical, durable smartphones are increasingly comparable with conventional smartphones. You’ll find fast processing speeds, progressively more credible cameras and industry-leading battery sizes, while some even include software such as thermal imaging cameras or laser rangefinders.

But, while fancy firmware is nice to have, what you’re really investing in with a rugged smartphone is its ability to be hard-wearing. Measured according to the IP Code, devices are rated on their resistance to the ingress of dust, sand and water. Most promise a rating of IP68 - intensive protection - or even IP69 or IP69K (the highest levels of performance available).

Robust designs also aim to make these phones shockproof and drop proof, with devices certified as withstanding a drop of up to 1.52m according to the military-grade MIL-STD-810G rating, or the newer MIL-STD-810H standard. Chemically strengthened Gorilla Glass 6 - or better still, its newest and toughest incarnation, Gorilla Glass Victus also ensure they take the rough with the smooth.

Nokia XR20 rugged smartphone


Released to immediate fan fair, the XR20 is a tough and truly dependable device. With its combination of a IP68 waterproof rating and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus - it’s one of the first to adopt this technology - you’ll have plenty of confidence in the ruggedness of this phone.

Slick in styling, it could easily be mistaken for a traditional smartphone, but its 4,630mAh battery is larger than most and should last up to two days. Performance does lag a little behind typical smartphones due to an underpowered Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 processor, but it’s unlikely to be noticeable for typical use. A well-sized 6.67in screen, three middle-of-the-road cameras (48MP and 13MP rear; 8MP selfie camera) and Android 11 complete its main features.

You’re not paying for bells and whistles with the XR20, but functionality and a phone you can drop without fear. However, 5G connectivity and a commitment from Nokia to provide four years’ worth of monthly security updates and three years of OS updates grant this device a level of futureproofing that you don’t get from Chinese-made competitors.

Ultimately, this is a smartphone that sits remarkably high on the indestructible charts - and with free screen replacement for a year thrown in too, you’ll be hard pushed to do it any damage.

Ulefone Power Armor 13 rugged smartphone


For trips that take you far away from an electrical socket, there’s no real competition for the Ulefone Power Armor 13. At a whopping 13,200mAh, its battery is one of the largest available and should last you an entire 10 days of use or over 100 hours of calls.

Couple this with an extremely punchy Mediatek Helio G95 processor with 8GB of RAM, wireless charging, Android 11, 256GB of internal storage and space for a 1TB SD card, and you’ve got a remarkably capable phone that’ll also survive the most demanding of conditions. Certified IP68, IP69K and MIL-STD-810G, this robust handset has a polycarbonate plastic and metal frame leaving no questions about its durability.

For construction workers, a laser rangefinder is a welcome addition that uses infrared rays to measure length, area and volume and offers a modern alternative to time-honoured tape.

In testing, the Ulefone Power Armor 13 ticked nearly all the boxes, however, its lack of 5G and enormous size mean it won’t appeal to everyone. Weighing in at 492g and with a 6.81in screen, it’s hardly pocket sized. If you can cope with these minor drawbacks, you’ll be getting a well-powered phone that’ll endure whatever your workplace or far-flung adventures throw at it.

Cat S62 Pro rugged smartphone


Got a larger budget and want a phone with thermal imaging capabilities? The Cat S62 Pro is an impressive device, packing both high-end specs and a robust design with professional-grade thermal imaging.

The latter is certainly the flagship feature on this device. A FLIR Lepton 3.5 thermal imaging sensor, the highest resolution available, is invaluable whether you’re identifying a leak, electrical short or increased temperature. Its sharp image quality leapfrogs that of other smartphones with this functionality.

Touted by the brand as the ultimate work phone, we found this statement hard to contest. The Cat S620 Pro boasts the highest IP rating of 69, due to a rugged, non-slip rubber and aluminium case, plus it’s MIL-STD-810G certified. Sturdy Gorilla Glass 6 also protects the 5.7in, 1,080 x 2,160 LCD display from cracks or other damage.

Perhaps the only minor disappointment with the Cat 62 Pro is the solitary 12 MP rear camera. While photos are passable in decent lighting and it can record video in 4K, this won’t be enough performance for some. The battery is also smaller than we would like at just 4,000mAh, which, combined with the speedy processing power of the eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 with 6GB of RAM, might not last more than a day and a half.

Despite these downsides, this is an extremely capable handset that almost takes the crown as the ultimate work phone.

Dogee S88 Pro


If you’re after extensive battery life and a phone that is practically indestructible, the Dogee S88 Pro has your name on it. Built by Chinese rugged phone manufacturer, Dogge and utilitarian in design, it won’t look out of place on a building site or on the top of a mountain. An IP68 waterproof and IP69K dustproof rating, plus MIL-STD-810G drop proof certification allow it to compete against pricier devices when it comes to durability, and it can even function at temperatures as low as -55°C.

Beyond these exceptionally tough credentials, it’s the battery life that really stands out. An enormous 10,000mAh battery means the Dogee S88 Pro can cope with up to 47 hours of calls or remain on standby for an incredible 32 days. Additionally, there’s 128GB of flash storage (expandable up to a further 256GB) and a crisp, clear 6.3in screen.

Built for the harshest of environments with a battery that could well outlast your adventures, this handset is an affordable and extremely robust choice.

Motorola Defy


Taking the title for the most affordable durable phone, the Motorola Defy is fuss-free and accessibly priced thanks to its focus on all-round functionality without any of the frills you find in competitor handsets.

That’s not to say it won’t do the job. With a waterproof inner casing and shockproof outer casing, it’s picked up both IP68 and MIL-SPEC-810H ratings, works down to -25°C and has a Gorilla Glass Victus coated screen; there’s no question about it coping with the heavy-duty demands of the workplace.

The specs are decent for the price point, with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 processor coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. There are also four cameras and a large 5,000mAh battery that can last up two days on one charge. An area where it struggles is the 720 LCD display, which is average at best.

With an OS still on Android 10 (although Motorola claim it’ll be updated soon), it’s not the most state of the art handset, and its internal specs can’t compete with pricier models. However, the Motorola Defy is an extremely rugged and wallet-friendly buy.

Dogee S97 Pro


Budget-minded buyers looking for a phone with an in-built rangefinder will struggle to find one that surpasses the comprehensive functionality of the Dogee S97 Pro.

Durability and endurance sit at the core of this Chinese-made handset. At 346g, it’s weightier than most, but these extra grams are a result of a whopping 8,500mAh battery - enough for up to 40 hours of call time or multiple days of use.

Certified at IP69K, it’s designed to withstand dust, high temperatures and high-pressured water, qualities that make it ideal for wet or dirty environments or those where equipment needs to be sanitized after use. It also meets the MIL-STD-810G standard for drop protection, so there’s no concern about it landing on concrete or other hard surfaces. The only con is the use of Gorilla Glass 5 rather than the newest, and toughest, Victus.

One of the Dogee S97 Pro’s main USPs is the inclusion of a laser rangefinder that uses infrared to calculate volumes, surface areas and angles and can measure up to 40m in length - a welcome bit of software for carpenters, surveyors and engineers.

Finally, what it lacks in 5G capability, it more than makes up with its massive 8,500mAH battery, respectable camera quality and the Mediatek Helio G95 processer - the latter being the same chip found in the more expensive Ulefone Power Armor 13. All in all, this is a solid device that ticks all the boxes for a budget rugged phone, and then some.


Slick enough to pass for a conventional mobile phone, but rugged enough to stand whatever you throw at it, the Nokia XR20 is both futureproof and price-friendly. For those requiring impressive battery life on an accessible budget, you can’t beat the blend of functionality and hefty battery size in the Dogee S88 Pro.