As long as the offer keeps rising, the competition becomes more stiff and in the last couple of years even major players in the game, like Samsung and Motorola, have developed an interest in this category. And by doing so, wonderful devices have been born, ones that know how to bend the advantages of a rugged smartphone with a beautiful design.

Why buy a tough smartphone? It can be a great tool in various working places where the employee is constantly dealing with elements that could damage a standard phone. This could be perfect for those working on a construction site, around beaches, pools and who knows, even for those that are known to be sloppy (like myself).

What’s the toughest smartphone you could get?

The price of such a handset does not stray from the usual range, with models being sold even below the $300 mark. Besides the usual collection of protective elements, tough smartphones offer the same advantages as a regular phone, like a Wi-Fi connection, wireless media access, a camera, desired applications and a reliable platform to support them all, like Android. Now let’s see some challengers.

Caterpillar CAT B10

Coming from the same manufacturers that offer construction-related machines, Caterpillar, the CAT B10 is a very tough smartphone. It comes with an IP67 certification, meaning that it can withstand dirt and dust abuse. When it comes to water, the device will function properly after being submerged in 1 meter deep water for up to 30 minutes. The 3.2-inch touchscreen display has a protective strengthened glass that is not certified for more exposure. It’s the ideal phone for someone working on a construction site and considering the conditions found in such places, the CAT B10 can withstand pretty much everything besides an actual hammer hit. Speaking of technical specifications, the CAT B10 comes with a single-core 800 MHz processor, a 5-megapixel camera mounted on the back and a front-facing shooter meant for video chats. The smartphone comes with Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread on stock but an updated for 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is said to be on the works. Those interested can purchase the little devil for a sum around $500, off-contract.

JCB Toughphone Pro-Smart TP909

  The JCB Toughphone Pro-Smart is an Android 2.3 smartphone with a 3.2-inch wide touchscreen which comes with the usual intelligent features:

GPS 3G Wi-Fi Bluetooth 5-megapixel front facing camera 800 MHz processor microSD slot a very large 2000 mAh battery

Although the model does not excel in specs, its makers are known to produce very though phone, JCB being in the industry for quite some time know. JCB TP909 is certified against dust, dirt, water (for short periods of time) and the most vicious of scratches. Its most vulnerable component is the 3.2-inch wide display but as owners suggest, producers have pulled quite a job constructing a protective cover which defends the device against all sorts of factors, besides those mentioned above.

Samsung Rugby Smart

Quite a catchy name here, but the Samsung Rugby Smart is indeed a device that could be used by an entire rugby team, for practice. I847 is Samsung’s own answer to those that work in dangerous conditions or made a habit out of dropping devices. The smartphone can resist 30 minutes of exposure to shallow water, dust, humidity, vibration, rain, shocks and to thermal/solar radiation. It’s so tough that 2-years old can use it to play football around the house. Samsung made sure that the phone would attract regular users as well, embedding all these protective elements into a traditional design and pairing them with interesting technology. Here’s what this phone has under the hood:

Android 2.3 Gingerbread (upgradable to Android 4.0) Single-core CPU clocked at 1.4GHz and packed with a Qualcomm chip. 4GB of internal memory with the possibility of expanding up to 32GB, using an SD card Back camera that can shoot 720p videos and has an LED flash

The device has been marked as the “best in its class” and anyone looking to get one can visit AT&T and get it free for a two-year contract or, pay around $350 upfront right from the web.

Motorola Defy and Defy+

Motorola developed the Defy A8210 in the last quarter of 2010 and sincerely, that was the official breakthrough of tough smartphones in the regular European market. The Defy came with a very interesting design, a nice appeal and even a better marketing strategy. The phone could survive to water, dust, scratches and various impacts, thanks to its Gorilla Glass screen and its port covers. Vodafone even put the phone to an extreme biking test which managed to break the Defy’s display but did not touch any internal parts. Although the model proved to be one of the first rugged phones that could withstand abuse, it seems that many customers complained the phone to not live up their expectations, mostly born from over-hyped ads. So, one year after the first model, Motorola introduced the extended version of the Defy, entitled Defy+.

Defy+, a tougher version

The Defy+ came with the same IP67 rating that describes the phone as being water-resistant to depths up to a meter, scratches and totally dust-resistant. The Corning Gorilla Glass display performed a better job than its predecessor but when Motorola’s creation came near water, things went back, just as with the original Defy. The Defy+ could survive almost all sorts of medium impacts but if the device took the plunge, capacitive buttons started to behave strangely, droplets of water could have been found around the battery and the device would not charge unless it was dried to its original state. As most customers describe this issue, it seemed that the heart of the problems was the fact that the back-plate of the Defy+ did not offered a water-sealed connection. Defy+ was not the most defiant smartphone of all, but it could resist more than the majority of handsets and for a price of $230(the unlocked version) it was a great deal.  

Sony Xperia Go

The Xperia Go may be one of the few phones that are truly resistant. Marketers and customers alike say that it has the highest level of dust and water resistance of all phone, but when it comes to shocks, this puppy really knows how to take a beating. In an outdoor challenge captured below the smartphone is thrown around the court, inside a pull, used to build sand castles, washed over and over again and plenty more. Sony’s Xperia Go has been designed to handle almost anything that the usual life might dish out. It has a scratch resistant display, a battery-saving mode and a very slim body with a stylish design. Released almost one month ago, the smartphone weights 110 grams and comes with a 3.5-inch wide LED-backlit LCD touchscreen with a 320 by 480 pixel resolution and 512 MB of RAM. The internal storage has only 8GB of space but it can be extended up to 32GB using an microSD card. Although a bit late for this age, the Xperia Go comes with Android 2.3 Gingerbread and a promise for ICS but it surprises with a dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU clocked at 1GHz, all for the price of $300 without a contract.

Sony Xperia Active

Also from the Sony family comes the Xperia Active, a phone launched in the later half of October 2011 and which can be now bought at an affordable price. It comes with a durable mineral glass screen that can identify wet finger tracking and resist to water and dust factors. It has a talk time up to five hours and can shoot HD videos using its pretty standard 5-megapixel back camera. The 1GHz Scorpion processor with a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip and the Android 2.3 (upgradable to 4.0) OS render this device pretty usual in most situations. But it’s the unusual that caught our attention. The durability test found below shows how many punches the device can really take and as you will see, it requires a handful of tools to damage it. Although quite resilient to impacts, reports claim that drowning the product may ruin the speakers.

Samsung Galaxy Xcover

Samsung has also done quite a job with the Galaxy Xcover, a phone which announced itself as one of the toughest out there. As was the case with any other competitors, the S5690 has a 3.65-inch wide Corning Gorilla Glass touch screen display with a 320 by 480 pixel resolution and weights around 100 grams. It has a pretty slim body, a design that Samsung accustomed us all and an 800 MHz single core processor. On the downside, it has only 150 MB of internal storage (with an SD slot, of course) and a smaller 3.15-megapixel camera.