If I gave you a phone and said throw this as hard and as fast as you can at that brick wall, you would probably think I was a little mad. Whether I am or not is up for debate, but the RG500 from RugGear just begs for me to do such with it, because I think it will survive.
Not until I have completed this review, will I be doing that (yes we will be testing this to destruction) but this IP rated, MIL spec smartphone is a bit of a brick, but for good reason.
Read on or watch our video review to find out about this rugged smartphone and how it fares.
Smartphones often conjure up images of sleek and svelte mobile computing products in the mind and the vast majority are just that, but the RugGear range are designed for industry.
As a consumer this is not likely to be your choice but as an IT Director rolling out handsets to your team of security guards, construction workers or engineers, this could be a good option.
Specification wise it is about function over frivolity.
◾1.2GHz dual core processor
◾Android 4.2.2 operating system
◾4GB internal storage
◾MicroSD memory card slot
◾5 megapixel camera
◾IP68 rated – Immerse in water up to 2 meters for 30 minutes
◾Mil Spec 810G rated – Drop onto concrete from heights of 1.2m
Depending on the setup required, the Dual SIM option can be used for a work or personal number, a SIM for calls and one for data or one for when you are at home and one for when you are abroad, or you need not use both or either SIM slots if you prefer not to.
Put this in the cab of a CAT or JCB digger, in the toolbox with your DeWalt products and it would not look out of place, but grabbing the front page of the mobile tech pages is not what the RG500 is about. It is more at home inside a cement mixer!
Its designed to be rugged and bold. Bold, so you can find it and bright in colour so it is less appealing to those who like to take things that do not belong to them.
As I said in the intro, this thing looks like it can take some knocks and we will be testing it.
Chunky and solid the screen is surrounded by thick rubber that offers a lip around it should this be laid face down on an uneven surface.
Three clear buttons offer tactile feedback with a front facing camera, earpiece and sensors to the top.
The whole unit is hard plastics and thick grooved rubber for easy grip, with wet or mucky hands or with gloves on.
The right side is home to the volume keys and camera button and on the left side is a push to talk button.
The top edge has a power button and raised antenna whilst the bottom is home to the 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB port under a cover.
Flipped over the removable back cover is secured in place by 2 screw and the camera with flash are recessed in the upper right corner with the loudspeaker on the left. In between sits a sizeable attachment for a lanyard.
Under the cover is the 2 SIM card slots and microSD card slot. Accessible but hot swapping of memory cards will not be taking place.
At 206g and 24mm thick, it is no lightweight companion but one that feels solid in the palm.
Whilst designed to be tough it is not indestructible but the Mil Spec rating should help keep this operation and a 24 month warranty gives you that extra peace of mind (does not cover user damage),
At 3.2” in size, the screen on this handset is small, but the rugged profile of the phone means that actually the handset size is equivalent to something with a 4.5-4.7” screen, at least by width.
If used to larger screens, it does take some getting used to, especially when typing on the keyboard. Rotating it into landscape is easier but still not great unless you are used to this.
Fat fingers or gloves are a no here.
However, chances are that you will be using a dedicated app on here for work purposes which may well be easier for the majority of what you do. Some things are still going to require core Android OS which is just a little cumbersome on a screen this size.
The resolution of 320 x 480 is adequate but nothing special, the bonus as a result is the battery life though which is probably more important to you than crisp and sharp images.
A rugged glass and screen protector are included and the screen whilst more resistive is far from the worst I have encountered.
RugGear_RG500_Screenshot (24)The popular operating system that is Android is installed on the RG500.
It is quite an old version by many users standards, version 4.2.2 but it works for what needs to be done on this. It just lacks some of the more interactive, cleaner and more advanced features that latter software versions have brought. It is also unlikely to be updated any time soon.
Whilst you can use it as a stock Android device, many clients already adopting this are doing so to simply install their own apps on top of, thus the software is almost redundant, it is just the apps they install need to run on Android.
How you choose to use it is up to you, but being Android, you get all the Google services, access to the Play Store for apps and can easily add social media accounts as well as corporate email accounts with ease.
The small screen does have a considerable bearing on the friendliness of use and you need to be quite precise.
Installed is a stock internet browser along with Dolphin browser, Chrome can be downloaded from the Play Store.
There is a file manager, a Bper app (login required), a backup and restore application, a video player, editor, sound recorder, to do list and more. Most are fairly standard and easy to use.
Within the settings you can manage the connections, change audio profiles, like you used to on old Nokia phones. The screen brightness can be adjusted, automatically if preferred along with the font size.
Continuing the functional trend the RG500 has the Dual SIM slots that both offer 2G connectivity, but only SIM one offers 3G.
The handset takes the larger standard sized SIMs.
Which SIM does what can be managed from the SIM management option within the settings.
4G is not available on this handset and the antenna sits proudly on the upper edge of this phone, so you should always get a decent signal as the antenna is not too insulated by the casing.
Bluetooth and WiFi are present as is GPS and NFC.
These technologies work well in a vehicle for navigation and safe hands free driving.
A radio is also built into the device and you do not need a headset to use it.
There is too a G-Sensor, compass, barometer and altimeter.
I mentioned earlier about the Push To Talk (PTT) button on the side of the device. This functionality that is offered as an optional extra, with subscription to third party services, but it is available should you require it.
You know when workmen on construction sites wear ear defenders? I realise why, they must be using the RugGear. Catch you unawares and this thing will make your heart skip a beat. It reaches 100 decibels from the 3 watt speaker.
Of course you can adjust call volumes and the subtleties of the tones, but you should hear this phone ringing.
It does not appear to be quite as loud with media, in fact on par with most other smartphones with rear speakers when it comes to listening to music or watching a YouTube video.
It might be worth noting, that when this phone first powers on, it sounds a tone like heard in a train station or airport as they announce something; so do be considerate if you are turning this phone on in the early hours whilst family members are asleep.
The RG500 sports 2 cameras, one on the front rated at 0.2 megapixels and one on the rear at 5 megapixels.
The camera app itself actually offers a quite a few settings and options including colour effects, white balance and more. However, being honest, stick with the point and shoot as I do not think playing around with the settings will result in a much better image.
Generally poor, lacking clarity, focus, sharpness and colour balance.
You will not be showing off the results on social media, but for taking a picture of that shipment that has been delivered, the installation you have just done or to grab a reading off a meter, the camera is perfectly adequate.
Ideal for capturing a scene rather than the finer details.
4x digital zoom and video recording is all present but the results are no better from the video camera with an obvious struggle to refocus the colours.
Strictly speaking there is a user removable battery in the RG500, it just requires 2 screws to be undone to access it.
Rated at 2060mAh you would have thought it would have been slightly larger in such a device, but the small screen means this will last most through an average 8-12 hours shift, unless you are particularly power hungry.
There are no real battery saving options built in as standard, but with 300 hours of standby time on a dual SIM handset that is pretty good going.
Even in the worst conditions you should be getting about 3 and a half hours of talktime before the unit is depleted of power.
There is a scheduled power on and off if you need to make use of it and this can in turn save some power.
The microUSB connection makes it easy to charge up again as and when you need to re-charge. No luxuries of wireless charging.