Review: Sonim XP7
Jan 23, 2015, 4:00 PM by Eric M. Zeman
Sonim's rugged XP7 Android smartphone is as tough as they get. This handset tackles the elements and all your communication needs in one, heavy duty package.
Is It Your Type?
The Sonim XP7 is for a very specific set of people: those who need the toughest, most rugged smartphone they can buy. Maybe you work on a construction site or maybe you're an adrenaline junkie. If you spend most of your time outside doing active things in dangerous places, the XP7 is probably exactly what you need.
The Sonim XP7 is a brute. It's an incredibly tough Android smartphone that can withstand the harshest conditions and treatment. If you're hard on your devices, the XP7 is probably up for the challenge.
The XP7 is not sleek and sexy. Like so many rugged devices, it's a brick. It's a huge hunk of industrial-grade plastic and it weighs a ton. The design features are blunt, its buttons are over-sized (for better use with gloved fingers), and its black-and-yellow colors make it look like a Tonka truck. This is not a phone for Saturday night on the town, it's a phone for Monday morning on the job site. The XP7 is pretty good looking, especially for a phone designed with an emphasis on function.
The width and height are about the same as an iPhone 6, but the XP7 is about 22mm (or 0.85 inches) thick. There's certainly plenty to grab onto. I didn't have any trouble holding or using the phone, but the weight does get to you after prolonged use. It weighs in at 10.5 ounces, which is about twice the weight of today's 5-inch phones. This phone does not fit in your pants pocket. It's best kept on a belt or in a large coat pocket.
Most of the outer materials are plastic and rubber; there are no fancy metal frames or panels anywhere. The plastic is hardcore. You can use this thing to hammer nails into a two-by-four. The phone is fitted together tightly to keep out dust and water.
The display is protected by Gorilla Glass. It covers the front of the phone and is the only non-plastic element to the XP7's design. The glass is sunk into the frame, which forms a rim around the outer edge. The rim has a pretty harsh edge, but it will protect the screen when the XP7 is placed face down. The XP7 has three physical buttons below the screen for the back, home, and multitasking functions. All three buttons are rather large and distinctly separated. I didn't have any trouble finding or using them with gloves on. The buttons have good travel and feedback.
There are three buttons placed along the left edge of the phone. The screen lock / power button is perched close to the top. It's recessed a bit, which helps prevent accidental unlocking but also makes it really hard to find and use when wearing gloves. There's a dedicated PTT walkie-talkie button in the middle. It protrudes noticeably from the side, is fairly large, and has its own texture, really helping it stand out. Last, there's a camera button. Both buttons have tight travel and feedback. I would like more travel in them, especially when wearing gloves. There are two buttons on the right edge. The upper button is the volume toggle. It has a good profile, but offers the same tight travel and feedback as the other buttons. There's a red button on the side, too, and it works well.
Sonim chose to create its own charging connector rather than use micro-USB. The connector is recessed a bit and uses magnets to help properly seat the cable. Though it's a bummer to lose the common USB standard, Sonim's solution is durable, waterproof, and supports docks. The headphone jack and SIM card port are on top. The headphone jack is protected by a hatch, which keeps out water. The SIM card port is covered by a hatch too, but you need a special screwdriver to remove it (one is included.) The antenna nub houses the speakerphone and also has a notification light on top.
The XP7's rear cover is not removable, but you will see two screws under the camera module. These are for attaching Sonim's XPand accessories, such as a laser scanner and such.
The Sonim XP7 favors function over form, but that's par for the course with ultra-rugged devices.
Sonim is hitting its stride in its quest to make the best rugged phones for demanding industries. The XP6 and XP7 are the company's best efforts to date, and represent much more than just two phones, with support for a whole ecosystem of software and specialized accessories.
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XP7 possible on Verizon?
I'm interested in buying this phone and activating it on Verizon, combined with our PTT service by ESChat. That would get me as close as possible to the handset toughness and reliable PTT of good old Nextel, PLUS the coverage & reliability of Verizon's network, and all of the conveniences of a smartphone and speed of 4G.
From the XP7's specs, it looks like its radios are compatible with Verizon's networks. Does anyone know (a) is it technically possible to bring the XP7 to Verizon on a BYOD plan, and (b) if so, what it wo...