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Kyocera Hydro XTRM

Best rugged Android smartphones money can buy (2019 update)

If you are looking for a rugged phone you can toss around in the mud and go to battle with in the trenches, then continue below for our top 7 best rugged smartphone available.  But if you don’t crawl around in the mud all day for a living, we would highly suggest the Cat S60 or the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active as the most rugged smartphone for everyday use.

CAT PHONESCAT PHONES S60 Rugged Waterproof Smartphone with integrated FLIR cameraBuy on Amazon|$459.97(Price as of 02/17/2019 03:31 ET)

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Made by the same company that makes industrial heavy equipment, Caterpillar also has a phone division that makes rugged phones.  Their latest phone, the Cat S60, was released in June of 2016, so it has most of the modern technologies you would look for in a smartphone, and combine it with the rugged protection, this just might be the perfect and best rugged smartphone available today.  It comes with a 3GB RAM, huge 3800mAh battery, 13MP camera, IP68 certified for waterproofing, running Android 6.0.

Galaxy S7 Active should handle most of the daily mishaps you may entercounter.  It is built with shatter-resistant screen, rated the highest possible IP68 for water and dust protection, and comes with a huge 4,000 mAh battery to get you through the day.

You know how smartphone manufacturers always like to flaunt the way their latest, proudest, costliest “high-end products” cater to the needs of “power users” and so justify the outrageous price tags? Well, if you ask me, they got the definition of power user all wrong.

Bruce Willis phone

Bona fide power users don’t care how fast silly cat YouTube clips load on their handhelds. Or if they can smoothly run the newest Angry Birds installment. Instead, they want devices that could survive wars, actual wars, without flinching.

Quad HD displays? How about unbreakable glass with just enough pixels to check the football scores? “True” octa-core chips? Save it, and give us a gizmo we can bounce off 4 inches thick concrete walls. PureView 41 MP cameras? No thanks, but a battery capable of lasting more than a couple of days on a single charge would be nice when stranded on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere.

Bottom line, we want phones that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone would use in “Terminator 5” and “Rambo: Last Stand”, not toys for Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner to express their feelings for Kristen Stewart in “Twilight”. Luckily, a few such rough, tough, rugged models are around, and we picked seven we think might make even Machete reconsider his stance on texting.

rugged phone

Before getting to it, we’d like to underline the “magnificent seven” was selected based on a number of criteria. Of course, the exact grade of toughness carried the most weight (sorry, Galaxy S5), but we also looked for hardware specifications from this century, relatively new software, quality-price ratio (not even Rambo’s budget is unlimited), decent design (you can’t walk around with a brick in your pocket), and finally reliable, more or less well-known mobile brands. Here we go:

7. Runbo X6

Not only does this ruggedized beast’s name have an awesome ring to it (Runbo, Rambo, get it?), but it’s also water protected for dunks of up to 30 minutes in 2 meters deep rivers, lakes, whatever. And reportedly, impossible to break unless, I don’t know, a sniper has it out for you. Plus, get this, it doubles as a walkie talkie with a 5 km range. Why would you ever need a walkie talkie? Beats me, but it sounds oh so kewl.

Runbo X5

Any downsides to the Runbo X6? You bet. For one thing, it comes from a no-name Chinese OEM. It runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (2011 called…), packs a modest dual-core 1 GHz chip, and the 4.3-inch screen is cringe worthy, with 800 x 480 pixels resolution. On top of it all, it’s a little on the expensive side of things, at $400 via Amazon.


You’re probably all familiar with IP58 and IP67 certifications since the Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 brought them to the mainstream, but the rugged CAT B15 adds MIL-STD-810G credentials in the mix. What does that mean exactly? Well, this bad boy ain’t just shielded against accidental water immersions, it can also take a beating, as well as handle solar radiation, thermal shock, humidity, vibration, you name it.


I wouldn’t go so far as to say it will take a bullet for you, but you can use it in the desert, at the North Pole, when it rains, you can punch it (though why would you?), drop it whenever wherever. Price? A measly $370. On-board software? Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Hardware specs? That’s its Achilles’ heel, as it sports a 4-inch 800 x 480 pix res panel, dual-core 1 GHz SoC and 512 MB RAM.

5. NEC Terrain

Yes, the design is a violent blast from the past. I mean, I was under the impression candybars were outlawed in certain parts of the world years ago. Jokes aside, the Terrain is sure ugly, but it has one very important thing going for it. It’s cheap. $79.99 outright through Amazon, or $100 with AT&T contracts.

NEC Terrain

It’s also dust tight, water proof, plus MIL-STD-810G certified, just like the B15. Bottom line, if you’re on an (extremely) tight budget, this is your guy. Just maybe don’t ask a lot of questions about screen resolution, pre-loaded software, or cameras.

4. Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro

Looky here, an MIL-STD-810G-approved rugged handheld from the world’s most popular mobile phone maker. And affordable too, at least with AT&T pacts: $20. Off-contract, it’s a preposterous $450, albeit you can find refurb or used units at less than half the price.

Galaxy Rugby Pro

Aside from resisting shocks, water and so on and so forth, the Rugby Pro offers 4G LTE connectivity (nice), a punchy dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 chip, and 1 GB RAM. Too bad it’s still on Ice Cream Sandwich.

3. Kyocera Hydro XTRM

This little survivor resembles the Galaxy Rugby Pro greatly, pretty much withstanding the same “pressures” with similar grace and supporting 4G LTE. But it’s so much cheaper, at $50 (yes, fifty bucks) free of contract restrictions via MetroPCS. Plus, it’s on Jelly Bean.

Kyocera Hydro XTRM

Drawbacks? Technically, it can endure shorter, more “casual” swims than some of its rivals, including the #2 on our rankings. It’s also extra prone to cracking if you drop it from higher than, say, your hip. The battery isn’t ideal either, and the 4 GB internal storage almost pitiful.

2. Kyocera Torque

Extreme is Torque’s middle name, yet another gadget that meets military standards for everything from dust to transport shock, high or low temperatures, solar radiation, etc., etc. Where the Torque truly impresses however is in battery life, packing a ginormous 2,500 mAh juicer whose autonomy is way beyond those of Android “flagship” devices. Think 20 hours in continuous talk time, and possibly up to a week in average use.


Available with Sprint contracts starting at a penny, the Kyocera Torque is no catwalk supermodel, weighing in at close to 170 grams and being way too curvy for my own personal taste. It’s also stuck on Ice Cream Sandwich. So close to perfection, Kyocera, so damn close.

1. Casio G’Zone Commando 4G LTE

Did anyone say perfection? Ahem, meet Verizon’s Commando. A striking, robust, muscular, hunky yet also stylish phone, the 4 incher is a near flawless blend of physical strength and high-performing Android-backed hardware.

Since Verizon eliminated the contracts, you would need to buy this phone outright, which is going for $499.99 currently on Amazon.  The LTE-enabled hunk is sheltered against 4-feet drops, 30-minutes 1 m depth water dunks, rain, heavy dust, salt fog, humidity, solar radiation, ultra-low pressure, temperatures as high as 85° C and as low as -25°. Bottom line, it’s virtually indestructible.


Oh, yes, and it features a snappy 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB built-in storage, 8 MP rear-facing camera, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, so it’s really the best of both worlds.

What say you, action movie aficionados/outdoorsy tech geeks? Is any of the above your ideal war comrade? Have any other suggestions? Would you have maybe ranked our top seven differently? Let your voices be heard.

CAT PHONESCAT PHONES S60 Rugged Waterproof Smartphone with integrated FLIR cameraBuy on Amazon|$459.97(Price as of 02/17/2019 03:31 ET)

* Links in this table contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. Thank you for your support. For more details, please visit our Privacy policy page.

Best prepaid sub-$100 Android smartphones – April 2014

So you’re in the market for some Android-powered goodies, but don’t care coughing up a fortune to score the best of the best. In fact, you only got one little Benjamin to spend. Of course, 100 clams is 100 too much for a host of wickedly fast high-end smartphones, including LG’s G2 or HTC’s 2013 One, as long as signing up to a 24-month carrier agreement is an option.


But what if it isn’t? Well, you could always grab one of the dirt-cheap tablets we recommended a while back. Or, better yet, why compromise when most major carriers stateside have either made the move to prepaid, or are working on it?

The advantages of prepaid plans? Need I even say it? Fine, you’re not bound to a network you may grow tired of, there’s no mandatory contract and, well, no early termination fees. Bottom line, prepaid equals freedom. And affordability.

100 Dollar Bill

Sure, that hundred bucks won’t get you cutting edge performance, quad-core processors or Full HD displays, yet our picks of the best low-cost prepaid smartphones around are poised to come in handy as backup devices for power users or primary handhelds for casual mobile enjoyers. Here they all are, in reverse order of pizazz:

7. Kyocera Hydro Edge – available for $79.99 at Boost Mobile

Why it’s one of the best:

  • Water and dust resistant thanks to IP57 certification
  • It’s surprisingly light for a water-shielded device, tipping the scales at 128 grams
  • Also fairly thin, at 10 mm
  • Packs 1 GB RAM
  • 5 MP rear-facing camera with LED Flash, burst mode, HDR and Panorama

Kyocera Hydro Edge

Why it’s not the best:

  • It might be light and thin, but the overall design doesn’t work in its favor, with massive front bezels and a funky, weird back cover
  • Dated, laggy dual-core 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon chip
  • Only 4 GB built-in storage
  • No front cam
  • Tiny 1,600 mAh battery
  • No 4G LTE support


Neutral points:

  • 4-inch 800 x 480 pixels resolution display
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with no KitKat update in sight

6. ZTE Awe – $63.99 with Virgin Mobile

Strong suits:

  • It’s the cheapest of the bunch
  • Offers a lot of RAM for its price range: 1 gig
  • 5 MP rear-facing camera with LED flash and 1.2 MP front snapper
  • Dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon S4 Plus (not the zippiest around, but again, considering the price range, it’s quite enthralling)
  • Incredibly light and comfortable to hold (125 grams)

Virgin Mobile Awe


  • No 4G LTE speeds
  • 4 GB storage
  • It’s currently on sale at $64, so it could become pricier any minute
  • Main camera lacks autofocus
  • Skinny 1,650 mAh battery, yet chunky 10 mm thick figure


Neutral points:

  • 4-inch 480 x 800 display
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with no KitKat in sight

5. ZTE Radiant – $80 with AT&T GoPhone

Strong points:

  • Dual-core 1.4 GHz processor
  • 5 MP rear-facing camera with LED Flash and digital zoom
  • 1 GB RAM

AT&T Radiant


  • Lackluster design, a lot of wasted space on the front between the logos, bezels and capacitive buttons
  • Chunky and bulky, at 147 grams weight and 11 mm waist
  • Modest 1,735 mAh battery
  • No 4G LTE
  • No front-facing camera, rear-facing snapper lacks autofocus

Neutral points:

  • 4-inch 480 x 800 screen
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean

4. ZTE Source – $99.98 with Cricket Wireless

Why it’s one of the best:

  • It offers plenty of screen real estate, courtesy of a 4.5-inch TFT panel
  • Supports 4G LTE connectivity
  • It’s handsome in a retro way, despite also wasting a lot of precious space with pointless screen borders
  • 5 MP primary camera with LED Flash, BSI sensor, autofocus and digital zoom
  • 1.2 MP secondary shooter
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Spacious 2,070 mAh battery

ZTE Source

Why it’s not the all-around best:

  • Like Virgin’s Awe, it’s $100 as part of a limited-time promotion, and thus will probably be more expensive soon
  • The display may be large, but it’s very low-quality, as it sports 854 x 480 pixels resolution for a cringe worthy 218 ppi
  • Coverage could be an issue, as Cricket isn’t exactly a leading mobile operator
  • 4 GB on-board storage

ZTE Source-2

Neutral points:

  • 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus processor
  • Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean

3. Samsung Galaxy Legend, aka Stellar – $99.99 with Verizon prepaid

Strong suits:

  • Rounded corners and glossy rears may not be upsides for high-enders, but for a low-ender, they’re okay
  • 4G LTE support
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Fantastic battery life, thanks to a 2,100 mAh juicer
  • It is a Samsung and might prove more reliable on the long haul than, say, a ZTE
  • 1.3 MP front-facing cam

Samsung Galaxy Legend


  • 12 mm profile? You’re lucky you carry that gigantic battery around!
  • 3.2 MP rear-facing camera sans Flash
  • 4 GB storage

Galaxy Legend

Neutral points:

  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and run-of-the-mill 800 x 480 pixels resolution display

2. Kyocera Hydro XTRM – available for $99.99 at US Cellular

Why it’s the second best:

  • The design of rugged devices isn’t quite everyone’s cup of tea, but who can’t appreciate the benefits of a water and dust-resilient handheld with, wait for it, MIL-STD-810G military certification for resistance to humidity, rain, solar radiation, transport and thermal shock?
  • 4G LTE data capability
  • 5 MP rear camera with LED flash, autofocus and geo-tagging
  • 1.3 MP front snapper
  • Massive 2,000 mAh battery supposedly capable of holding a charge for up to 12 hours in talk time

Hydro XTRM

Why it’s the second best (get it?):

  • Not exactly a looker, due mostly to rugged reinforcements
  • 4 GB storage

Kyocera Hydro XTRM

Neutral points:

  • Same old Android build and 4-inch display
  • Dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU

1. Motorola Moto G – $80 with US Cellular, $99.99 on Verizon and Sprint

Why it’s the best of the best:

  • It’s got by far the highest resolution display of the “magnificent seven” – 1,280 x 720 – plus, it’s huge: 4.5 inches
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection
  • Remember when I told you $100 can’t possibly buy quad-core power? I lied, the G comes with a quad 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 in tow
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 GB storage (16 GB versions also available for some extra dough)
  • 2,070 mAh battery
  • 5 MP/1.3 MP cams
  • Bluetooth 4.0


How it could have been better (read downright epic):

  • 4G LTE
  • microSD support
  • A couple of mm shaved off its profile

Moto G-2

Aaand that’s a wrap. We’d love to hear your thoughts on our list, including how we messed it up and who we unjustly snubbed. Let your voices be heard.