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Samsung Rugby II

September 25th, 2010
Samsung builds a polished rugged flip phone.

Samsung still isn't known for toughened phones, but it's clearly now committed to the concept with the Rugby II. It's tailored not just to outdoor use but to the business class features that would have been reserved for a Sprint Nextel iDEN phone, such as push-to-talk calls and call restrictions. While the durability of the phone is impressive, we'll find in our Rugby II review if a device billed as military-grade can also be user friendly. Hardware and durability

The Rugby II is about the size that most flip phones were about three to four years ago (before Motorola introduced the first RAZR and made thin phones popular). The thick clamshell phone is built with a rubberized plastic shell. Weighing in at just above 3.5 ounces, the Rugby II is about average in weight. The battery compartment on the back of the phone shuts securely with a hefty spinning lock.

When the phone is flipped open, users are greeted with a very large number pad and navigational buttons; a shortcut menu and the GPS application both receive dedicated keys. The outside of the phone houses a camera button, another push-to-talk button volume controls, and a very large speaker.

The 2.2-inch display on the phone is bright and easy to see. The resolution is adequate for most of the phone’s intended uses. The size of the screen does limit the Rugby II when it comes to web browsing and text entry, but those tasks aren’t the primary focus of this device. We managed to get along just fine when testing those features.

We did some extensive durability testing on the Rugby II. When a phone is touted as military-grade -- it reportedly meets US Army standards for shock, dust and water resistance -- we feel the need to prove it. We threw the Rugby II down a flight of stairs several times, and the phone came out of the tumbles without even a scratch. Even though the clamshell did pop open a few times, we could find no cosmetic damage on the phone, and it stayed running during our torture tests. We did manage to pop off the battery cover once, though, so be prepared to collect any spare parts. We also dropped the phone with the clamshell open to see how sturdy the hinges are, and we were quite impressed with the phone's resiliency.

Call quality, battery life and interface

The Rugby II is clearly a work phone, and call quality is very important on a noisy job site or construction area. The Rugby II had excellent call quality and was very easy to hear. The large external speakerphone was perhaps one of the loudest and clearest we have tested yet. Kudos to Samsung for building a phone that delivers a superb phone experience -- a rarity these days. The oversized speakerphone also proved to make the Rugby II a music phone in a pinch.

Talk time on the Rugby II is advertised as "at least 3 hours." We kept the phone on a three hour phone call and then did extensive testing with Internet apps and other battery-intensive features like GPS. The next day, the phone still showed three out of four bars of power without being charged. Battery life also seems to be a strong suit for this device.

While the user interface on the phone feels a touch dated, it runs very quickly. Some of the Java-based apps take a minute or two to load, but basic phone features like contacts and messaging pop up instantly. We tested the phone’s GPS system, Yellow Pages app, and e-mail functionality extensively. All three applications ran quickly and provided us with better user experiences than we had anticipated for this category of hardware. The camera features and web browsing experience were less impressive in terms of user experience, but were still adequate; we have yet to find a smartphone that can take this level of punishment.

A handful of features are designed strictly for that iDEN-like experience. In addition to push-to-talk chat, it can restrict calls, data and messaging use to keep the device in check when traveling or in other conditions where caps are important. Combine these with usual features such as Bluetooth headset support and it's a fairly convincing case for outdoor use.

Wrapping up

The Rugby II is not only job site worthy; it's an all around great basic phone. The battery life, volume, call quality, and general user experience are more than you'd anticipate out of something so straightforward. The interface certainly won't outdo that of the Galaxy S, but its simple design keeps the phone running very quickly and functions like e-mail and GPS running at a good clip. If you’re looking for a phone that is hard to break and delivers a simple yet complete user experience, the Rugby II isn't the cheapest at $100 on contract but is an easy choice when you need it.

- Very durable.

- Great call quality.

- Excellent volume.

- Fast UI.

- Long battery life.

- Feels old next to smartphones.

- Not great for the web or camera use.