The Sony Xperia Z is generally considered to be the first proper waterproof smartphone but waterproof and dustproof phones have in fact been around for a few years now, mainly aimed at the building trade. These were usually in the form of a basic but tough handset and in fact the Samsung Solid Xcover is such a phone.
The Samsung Galaxy Xcover brings with it the android smartphone experience in a rugged handset. The first point to note is it is not a rubberised casing as is the norm with tough phones but is a solid plastic one, with ribbed sides and a textured back. The phone does include rubber trim seals and removable rubber covers which cover the deep-set USB charger slot and headphone socket.
Given that it is rated IP67 which means it will stand being immersed in water for up to 30 minutes at 1 meter, as well as being shockproof and dust and dirt resistant, we can’t help feeling that because of the large 3.6 inch screen, which is obviously going to be it’s most vulnerable part, this is primarily marketed at those who want a waterproof phone poolside rather than a rough and ready communications tools with them on a building site.
We can only really describe the screen as average, a 320 x 480 resolution is a lot lower than we have come to expect of a smartphone these days but it probably depends what you are used to. If you are upgrading from a standard type handset and want a smartphone for use in work or outdoor environments then it does the job and is definitely a step up.
If you’re expecting top of the range performance and blazingly bright colours however then you’re going to be disappointed. But this isn’t designed for techno geeks and if you’re buying it for the purpose it was intended then it fits the bill, although the screen is not particularly bright. This could be an issue if you are primarily intending to use it outdoors, and we imagine those who purchase this handset will be doing just that.
The screen is at least covered with a protective coating which makes it up to five times tougher than your average smartphone screen according to Samsung. It is possible that this extra thick coating is absorbing a lot of the light from the screen hence the somewhat ‘dull’ look. It does look an awful lot better in low light to be fair.
Features of the Samsung Galaxy Xcover include a 3 megapixel camera and while this includes an LED flash, it is again average rather than outstanding. Pictures look a little flat, and not very sharp or bright but much of this could be due to the screen. Samsung only provide 150 megabytes of memory so it’s perhaps as well you are not likely to use the camera very often, though you can add a MicroSD memory card with up to 32GB storage space if you so wish. To do that you need to remove the back cover which is held in place with a large lock screw which you can open with a small coin.
Performance isn’t going to blow it out of the water either with an 800MHz Marvell processor and 512MB of RAM and it also runs an older version of android, version 2.3. On the positive side this isn’t going to tax the 1,500 mAh battery too heavily and you will have no problem getting through a long day’s work and should still have 60-70% reserves left when you get home, though of course it depends on how much you use it. On site, self employed plumbers and electricians who typically seem to spend a lot of their time on the phone will still get through the day without any battery problems and the battery is replaceable too.
Other specifications are pretty basic. There is a switch to allow you to use the LED flash as a torch but there are plenty of free apps such as Flashlight on Google Play market in any event so we can’t really consider this as a value added feature. Stereo Bluetooth version 3 is included so you can listen to your music wirelessly and it does have a decent music player and an FM radio.
Other connectivity is as you would expect from an android smartphone, with 3G, USB, Wi-Fi and GPS all included. Given that it’s a tough phone Samsung have managed to keep the weight down at 136 grams so it is a nice size and weight to handle.
Is it worth the premium you pay for the toughness? In terms of technical ability we would have to say no. We think it is a little expensive for what it is but given the way it is likely to be used then a phone that will accept heavier knocks and more abuse that your average everyday smartphone then it probably fits the bill. You’re going to feel pretty sick if you spend the same amount of money on a higher spec phone then find you have broken it on the first day on site or it dies the first time you drop it or get it splashed by the pool. The Samsung Galaxy Xcover does the job it was designed for, but at a price.