Chase Bernath / Android Authority
Smartphones are more refined than ever, with glass builds, tiny bezels, and large displays. They’re great for life in an office, but most mainstream phones come up short in harsh environments. For example, if you work in construction, you’re probably looking for a phone you can use as a trusty, durable tool. You need to be able to give it hell without risking it getting destroyed. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the best rugged phones you can buy.
See also: Our guide to picking the best case for your new phone
You won’t find all-glass designs on this list, but you will find plenty of durable MIL-STD and IP ratings to go around. Some of our picks even have unique features like thermal cameras and walkie-talkie features to help you through your shift. Let’s get to it.
Buying the right rugged phone for your needs
There are plenty of rugged phones on the market right now, which can make choosing the right one a challenge. However, it’s not that much different from buying an everyday phone. You’ll have to decide which features to want most, and it’s essential to see what extras are available.
Here are just a few of the questions to ask while you research:
- How large is the battery?You probably don’t want to spend much time attached to a charger if you’re working a long shift. Some of our picks offer huge batteries, while others let you swap the battery for an instant charge.
- Does the phone offer durability ratings?Rugged conditions often require a phone that can withstand water and dust. It’s essential to check if your phone carries the latest IP68/IP69K ratings, though IP67 may also be enough. If you’re worried about dropping your rugged phone, you’ll also want to find a device with a MIL-STD 810H certification. Learn all about IP and MIL-STD ratings in our dedicated posts.
- Is the camera any good? What about extra features?While none of these rugged phones are bound to end up among our best camera phones, it’s crucial to have a relatively capable shooter. Accuracy is critical if you have to document anything at work, and a few of our picks offer underwater capabilities or even thermal cameras.
- What is the phone made of?Glass-bodied phones may look and feel good, but you might want metal, plastic, and rubber for your rugged phone. That way, you can feel a bit safer if it takes a tumble. It may come at the cost of wireless charging, but more rigid materials should last through even the longest shifts.
Other options: These are the best waterproof phones
Cat S62 Pro: The best rugged phone you can buy
Chase Bernath / Android Authority
If you’ve spent any time on a construction site, you’ve undoubtedly seen one of Caterpillar’s yellow vehicles. They’re a mainstay for their power and durability, and now Cat is in on the rugged phone market as well. The Cat S62 Pro is the best of the bunch and is currently our pick for the best rugged phone.
The FLIR Lepton thermal sensor is the standout camera feature in tough work environments.
One of Cat’s standout features is the FLIR Lepton 3.5 sensor, which allows for thermal imaging on top of the 12MP Sony camera. That means you can check the temperature of a tool or machine before you use it. Unfortunately, the thermal system does replace the laser-assisted measurement feature from the Cat S61, so you’ll have to weigh which element you need more.
As for durability, Cat crafted its S62 Pro with an aluminum frame and a TPU back panel. It comes ready with IP68 and IP69 ratings and a MIL-STD 810H rating to handle dust, water, and drops up to 1.8 meters. The Cat S62 Pro even features a crisp 5.7-inch Full HD+ display made of Gorilla Glass 6. It packs 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which is solid for a rugged phone. Under the hood, you’ll find a Snapdragon 660 SoC powering all of Cat’s tough features.
Cat S62 Pro
With a FLIR 3.5 thermal camera and MIL-STD-810H rating, the Cat S62 Pro can detect heat in any environment.
- Excellent thermal camera
- Glove mode
- IP68/69 and MIL-STD 810H certified
- The specs aren’t great
- No 5G support
- No face unlock
Check out our full review to learn more about the Cat S62 Pro.
Other products worth considering
The best rugged phones:
- Nokia XR20: Nokia found a way to mix strength and style on the XR20. It looks like a phone you can use daily and offers good future update support.
- DOOGEE S98: DOOGEE specializes in making rugged devices at very low prices, and this is no disappointment. It can handle its own with fair specs, a rugged body, super-fast charging, and more.
- Samsung Galaxy XCover6 Pro: Don’t want to stray too far from large brands? Samsung has a rugged option for you.
- Kyocera Duraforce Ultra: If you want the fastest Verizon speeds, the Duraforce Ultra is the way to go, thanks to 5G mmWave support.
- Unihertz Tank: A massive battery, integrated flashlight, and super rugged construction make this one of the best adventure options.
- Ulefone Power Armor 18T: Are you looking for something a bit more capable? Here’s a great option, and it also has a pretty large battery.
- Cat S22 Flip: Those looking for a rugged Android device with a unique design will love this one. It’s a flip phone!
- Motorola ThinkPhone: This is your best bet if you want true performance on a rugged device.
Nokia XR20: Rugged but stylish
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
Nokia‘s brick may have been the original rugged phone, but the XR20 brings the OEM into the modern era as one of the best rugged phones. The XR20 is one of the most stylish options, with slimmer bezels and an eye-catching blue finish. It comes in two configurations — one with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for Europe, and another with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for the US and UK.
Regarding Nokia’s hardware, we described the phone as a thin device with a tight case preinstalled in our review. It packs aluminum side rails, a rubber coating across the aluminum body, and a MIL-STD 810H rating against drops. The display is formidable, too, with a Gorilla Glass Victus panel to keep everything together. You get creature comforts like a fingerprint reader, a headphone jack, extra-loud speakers, and a Full HD+ display that makes the XR20 feel like an everyday option.
The Nokia XR20 is a semi-rugged phone that can handle drops and spills while offering two-day battery life, a large display, and fast 5G data service.
- Great battery life
- Solid update support
- Appealing, yet durable design
- Average cameras
- Weak processor
- No 5G with AT&T
Check out our full review to learn more about the Nokia XR20.
DOOGEE S98: The best budget rugged phone
DOOGEE may not have the name recognition of either Nokia or Cat, but it knows how to make durable devices. The S98 is one of the latest offerings, replacing the still-solid DOOGEE S97 series. It’s large and in charge with a hefty construction that comes in three colors — orange, red, and black.
You shouldn’t find yourself hurting for power at any point with the S98, thanks to its Helio G96 chipset and sizeable 6,000mAh battery. That battery charges at 33W, so you should only have to spend about two hours to get back to full strength. Additionally, it supports 15W wireless charging.
The phone is IP68 and IP69K certified, as well as MIL-STD-810G approved. It can handle its own. We would have recommended the DOOGEE S98 Pro, but its only improvement is that it comes with a thermal imaging sensor. We feel the rear display is much more helpful for most users.
The DOOGEE S98 offers fair specs for an accessible price. It's tough and functional, offering a large battery, fast charging, and even a rear display.
- Fast and wireless charging
- Handy rear display for quick glancing
- IP68/IP69K/MIL-STD-810G rating
- Large and heavy
- Questionable software support
- Not the latest MIL-STD rating
Samsung Galaxy Xcover6 Pro: Samsung’s most durable device
Samsung offers some of the best rugged smartphones, and the Samsung Galaxy Xcover6 Pro was a true winner in 2022. For starters, this is one of the very few phones that still offer removable batteries, which means you can switch out the 4,050mAh capacity in seconds. It also runs on a Snapdragon 778G processor to offer mid-range performance and keep the price in check.
There’s only one version of the Galaxy Xcover6 Pro to pick up, and it comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage onboard. You get the benefit of Samsung’s generous update policy, too, as the Galaxy Xcover6 Pro is already running Android 12 with Samsung’s OneUI 4.1. It also has Gorilla Glass Victus Plus and the latest and greatest MIL-STD-810H rating.
Samsung Galaxy Xcover6 Pro
- Great 120Hz display
- Removable battery
- Competitive price
- 5G support
- The design could be improved
- It only has 15W fast charging
Kyocera Duraforce Ultra: The toughest Verizon phone
Luke Pollack / Android Authority
Most of our rugged phones rely on 4G LTE for the bulk of their service, but the Kyocera Duraforce Ultra is the way to go if you need top-end speeds. It’s the only entry to support Verizon‘s mmWave 5G network, even if it does come at a cost. This device is pretty expensive, and it comes with mid-range internals, including a Snapdragon 765G SoC, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
Kyocera’s main selling point is the connection speed, as we found that the 4,500mAh battery and the camera array were not the best. You won’t find extra camera features like night vision or thermal support, and the images tend to come out soft. However, the phone is tough as nails, with an IP68 rating and MIL-STD 810H certification.
Kyocera Duraforce Ultra 5G
Kyocera Duraforce Ultra
The Kyocera Duraforce offers an extremely durable design and a great display in a straightforward form factor.
- Bright IPS display
- Verizon’s 5G mmWave support
- MIL-STD 810H rated
- Average cameras
- Middling performance
Check out our full review to learn more about the Kyocera Duraforce Ultra.
Unihertz Tank: A rugged phone with an insane battery for true adventurers
Unihertz is known for being pretty bold with its new devices. Some are tiny, some have a physical keyboard, and most are rugged. The Unihertz Tank is definitely one of the most interesting of the bunch, though. Its most unique feature is the massive 22,000mAh battery, which awards it its unique name. It can charge at up to 66W, and comes with an integrated flashlight, making it one of the best rugged phones for adventurers.
It’s also built like a tank, though, featuring both IP68 and MIL-STD-810H certifications. And unlike most other rugged phones, this one comes with pretty capable specs. These include an octa-core processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a 6.81-inch Full HD+ display, a 108MP primary camera, and even a 20MP night vision shooter.
The price is also pretty enticing! This is likely one of Unihertz’s best releases yet.
- Huge battery
- Good performance
- Integrated flashlight
- Very resistant
- Big bezels
- Very bulky
Ulefone Power Armor 18T: Very capable and with a large battery
The Ulefone Power Armor 18T may not have a battery as large as the Unihertz Tank, but it’s still pretty huge at 9,600mAh. It still overshadows most popular phones with the best battery life. We know it will take you through multiple days on a single charge. And when it’s time to charge, you will do so fast, thanks to the 66W wired charging speeds.
Other specs are just as impressive. It has a MediaTek Dimensity 900, 12GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. The 6.58-inch Full HD+ IPS display is pleasant and even features a 120Hz refresh rate. Regarding ruggedness, it comes with IP68/IP69K and MIL-STD-810G ratings. All that said, it’s not as affordable as other rugged phones, but it’s likely one of the most capable. And if you care for it, it even comes with a FLIR thermal camera.
Ulefone Power Armor 18T
- Large 9,600mAh battery
- Good specs for a rugged phone
- It comes with a FLIR camera
- Lesser-known brand
Cat S22 Flip: It’s a flip phone!
It’s a flip phone! Need we say more? And it actually runs Android 11, but it’s the Go Edition. The only real downside is that it’s exclusive to T-Mobile in the USA, but it’s a good option if you happen to be a Magenta customer.
The phone features IP68 and MIL-STD-810H certifications. Otherwise, it’s a pretty basic phone focusing mainly on design. Specs include a Snapdragon 215 chipset, 2GB of RAM, and a small 2,000mAh battery. The display is also tiny at 2.8 inches.
Cat S22 Flip
We typically don't see Android-powered flip phones, especially rugged ones. This is one!
- Awesome flip phone design
- Super portable
- Very rugged for a flip phone
- T-Mobile exclusivity
- Super basic specs
- Tiny screen
- Runs Android Go
Motorola ThinkPhone: A high-end experience on a rugged phone
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
The Motorola ThinkPhone is special. It comes with much more modern high-end specs when compared to other devices on this list, but it is mighty expensive, and we don’t think it offers as much value as it costs. At least, that should be the case for most users. It’s not really made to be a rugged device, anyways. It just has rugged capabilities.
It’s made to be more of a business phone, as opposed to a rugged handset. You can definitely tell this by the look of the phone. It highly resembles Lenovo’s ThinkPad look. It’s pretty slim at just 8.2mm of thickness, and it doesn’t look like an indestructible beast. That said, it was granted the MIL-STD-810H and IP68 ratings. In theory, it should handle torture as much as the best on this list. Looking at it, though, we’re just unsure if it actually can in practice. We’re sure the fancy aramid fiber, Gorilla Glass Victus, and aircraft-grade aluminum help.
The performance should be excellent, though. The device comes with a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor, 8-12GB of RAM, a pretty nice 6.6-inch P-OLED display with a 144Hz refresh rate, a triple-camera system, and a large 5,000mAh battery.
The Motorola ThinkPhone has higher-end specs and a rugged body, but discrete business looks.
- High-end performance, which is rare in rugged phones
- Slim for a rugged phone
- It looks like a regular, more discrete device
- It’s expensive for the specs
- We’re not sure if it’s quite as rugged as actual rugged phones
- We didn’t find the special business features too exciting
You may not be happy with what the best rugged phones offer in terms of performance, features, and specs. These can be underpowered and have an overall lacking experience in comparison. The best way to get the best of both worlds is to find one of the best Android phones available and throw one of the best rugged cases on it.