Review: Samsung Rugby Smart for AT&T
Most rugged phones are designed with function and not form in mind. That means they are typically heavy, blocky, and often resemble a Mack truck. The Samsung Rugby Smart manages to break free of this mold and set a new benchmark for rugged phones.
Sure, it's an obsidian slab of black plastics, rubber, and glass, but it is also thin and light, and somewhat futuristic in its overall appearance. The industrial design looks tough from afar, with nodules and a screw on the back, ribbed side edges, and large rubber buttons on the front. There's nothing dainty or feminine about the Rugby at all. It's masculine to the core, and could easily fit in with the other gear on Batman's utility belt.
The Rugby feels strong as hell. It's one, solid smartphone. It's not overly large, as many of Samsung's recent devices have been, and is instead a really comfortable size for extended use.
Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.
The outer edges are coated in a substance that feels like fortified rubber. It's not mushy, but it's not overly stiff, either. The battery cover resembles carbon fiber in appearance, and has a good texture to it. There's a screw on the bottom that locks the battery cover in place to protect the Rugby's innards from water. There are four nubs on the battery cover, one in each corner. When placed on a flat surface, these little nubs act as tiny feet, lifting the back surface about 1mm off the desk, table, etc.
The four Android controls on the front take the form of rubber buttons, as mentioned above. They couldn't be easier to find and use, and offer great travel and feedback. The volume toggle is on the left edge. It’s easy enough to find, but travel and feedback are a bit mushy. One cool feature: Press and hold the up volume directional on the toggle to activate the flashlight. The power/screen lock button is on the right side of the Rugby. It's easy to find, and the travel and feedback are good.
The 3.5mm headset jack is on top, and the microUSB port is on the bottom. Both are protected by water tight hatches. This means it takes a bit of work to pry them open. Since they prevent water from getting into the phone, I can live with the finicky hatches.
For similar reasons, the battery cover is a bit of a pain to remove. You have to unscrew the screw with a coin and then really work your fingernails under the edges to release the cover from all the clasps. The microSD memory card is, unfortunately, located under the battery.
As for toughness, I let my kids play with the Rugby for the weekend. Since they are 5 and 7, they dropped the Rugby dozens of times onto concrete, wood, linoleum, and ceramic tile floors, as well as my driveway. It survived all the drops with no problem. I also put in on the floor of my car with a couple of small 5-lb dumbbells and drove a ton of s-curves. The dumbbells rolled over the phone repeatedly and didn't leave a single mark.
If you're the crazy type and forget to empty your pockets before jumping fully clothed into a swimming pool, the Rugby has your back. It can last for 30 minutes under a meter of water. I held it under running water for a while and the Rugby took its cold shower like a champ.