Rugged phones are not only handily immune to scratches and dents, most are strong enough to survive drops or even unplanned ‘dips’ in the local river.
But while many of the early models – including JCB’s Toughphone – had a clunky, rubbery feel to them, Samsung’s sequel to last year’s Solid ditches the ugly all-weather poncho look in favour of a more streamlined design.
Style and substance
You wouldn’t call it sleek, but the Solid Extreme has a certain style to it, its matt black casing edged with shiny pillar-box red stripes.
Its macho credentials are impressive: you can drop it onto concrete from a height of 2 metres, and leave it in water for half an hour to a depth of a metre (that’s the paddling pool covered, then).
Of course, this kind of phone is really aimed at builders or adrenalin junkies. This means there’s a strong integrated loop to put a chain or lanyard through, so the phone’s always accessible outside your clothing.
And the (actually quite bright) torch feature with its dedicated on/off button could help you find your way out of the dimmest building site or greyest deep-forest bike track. Similarly, the chunky keypad means you can dial with thick gloves on and the clear white-out-of-black screen is easy to read.
Keep the noise down
Since you might be using this in noisy conditions while a concrete mixer churns in the background, Samsung has built in noise-cancelling to make your voice heard – though in our tests this didn’t seem especially better than the largely effective systems regular phones pack.
The Solid Extreme’s ruggedness makes it ideal for skiing, as it’d be unworried by wet snow or crashes into the ground. So it’s a shame there’s no built-in GPS, which would make it an even more formidable survival tool on the slopes.
It’s not great for taking quick snaps of your friends on the piste either. There is a camera, but as it’s only a 1.3MP job, the results aren’t great.
You can shoot video, but only at 15 frames per second and it’s not a 3G phone, either, so don’t go planning on uploading those shots to the web at speed.
The other slight disappointment is the screen. Because it’s set back behind a protective screen, it looks low-rent and blocky, and isn’t helped by the low 120x160 resolution.
But this is a phone for practicality rather than evening out glamour. And as such, it’s better looking than anyone has any right to expect, and plays its rugged role very well too.