First things first, the RugGear RG700 is a solid piece of manufacturing. There are a lot of tough and rugged smartphones from various brands doing the rounds now, but I’m yet to hold one that feels as strong as this. It’s a reassuring feeling.
The MIL-STD 810G specification certifies it tested for repeated drops onto concrete from 2 metres, but it may well be able to deal with further than that. The design required to make a phone this tough usually results in a very cumbersome construction. The RG700 however manages to pull this off with its thick and chunky trappings looking a lot better than expected. The industry standard black and yellow colouring mark it out as a commercial enterprise unit rather than a consumer one, although attention has clearly been paid to crafting an aesthetically pleasing final product. The handset is symmetrical and fair on the eye not only to the front but from any angle. The edges contain a number of finger-friendly grooves and the sealed down back plate has a textured pattern. Individual buttons (under a thick layer of rubber) are made easy to find with different raised symbols to assist finding them through touch, plus the rubber seal on the USB / headphone port is suitably robust. It’s a solid, measured construction that has kept usability in mind. The RG700 is by no means small, even for someone with large hands it’s not that easy to use one-handed. That’s partly down to the very big 5.3 inch (960 x 540) screen but also added to by wide bezels and a 15.55 mm thickness (1.5 cm). This does though of course adds to the protection levels, as well as providing some excellent real-estate for browsing or utilising a bespoke application. Bear in mind though whilst this is still firmly in the portable category, it is bordering on what can be considered pocketable. The battery is sealed (not replaceable), something to remember if deploying for extended use. The one part of the casing that does come off covers the dual SIM card slots (full size) and micro SD expansion port. This can be screwed tightly into place to ensure the top IP68 rating is not compromised. The RG700 will get a standard user through a full day and is capable of running a good number of applications. It is worth noting though that both hardware and software are somewhat outdated for 2015. That’s the downside for a practically bombproof smartphone though. The processor is a 1GHz dual-core from MediaTek. It’s a perfectly respectable chip, yet not one that’s going to be winning awards against more modern competition any time soon. You’ll also find the system stuck on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Now this is a thoroughly stable build of 4.1.2 there’s no danger of crashes or unexpected behaviour. The downside though is a number of more modern features are missing, including support for lock-screen widgets, Bluetooth low-energy features, Android Wear/Auto & Miracast screen mirroring. Much of this is elementary as the system is perfectly functional for most enterprise use-cases, just a little laggier than one might expect from a current high-end consumer experience. Lastly there isn’t a huge amount of available storage space, about 1GB free to use out of the box. That means not a lot for storing apps (you can store images, music and other files to a 32 GB micro SD card) as there was no app-to-SD functionality throughout Jelly Bean’s release. If you’re looking to provide a a workforce or fleet with something to run a bespoke application then you should be perfectly fine here. Used in an enterprise perspective and possibly under an MDM solution, there’s no worry about workers filling up their devices with Angry Birds & Candy Crush or taking resources away from what it needs to do. If however you’re an individual after something resilient that also doubles as a modern media machine, you’re probably best off looking elsewhere for something a bit more on-trend. A couple of years ago the feature set on the RG700 would have been considered top of the range. There’s a full complement of sensors (g-sensor, compass, barometer, altimeter, proximity), which also have pre-installed applications to check on their output. There is an NFC chip for one-touch accessory pairing, document transfer, settings updates and payments. The standard Bluetooth, 3G, WiFi & GPS are of course here as well. You can install dual (full size) SIM cards; perfect for workers crossing borders or needing two active numbers. Only SIM 1 will have 3G data access on 850/2100 MHz, although both slots are GSM quad-band for global voice/text service. The IP68 rating is completely water and ingress protected – you can fully immerse the RG700 in water for extended periods. Coupled with MIL-STD-810G even ‘microparticles’ (fine dust/sand) can’t get in. RugGear’s own branded display protection, RugGlass, is also used. This can take a proper battering, unlike some other rugged phones such as the Cat range, which whilst meeting IP standards, can still more easily suffer smashed glass from a drop at the wrong angle. The camera isn’t great in consumer terms but is perfectly functional for most uses. The 8MP sensor will pick up more than enough detail for anyone doing a survey, close-ups of building work etc. It’s not going to match up with the likes of a new iPhone or Galaxy S6 but it gets the job done. A 2MP front facing camera for video calling is also included, as well as a powerful LED flash to double as a torch. In 2015 this is a device that can only really be marketed at an enterprise application. It’s sturdy, reliable and more than deserving of the term rugged, however the lack of a newer Android installation and features leaves it lagging behind more consumer oriented devices in this category. An individual or self-employed person looking for something tough that is also closer to the current range of Samsungs and iPhones is probably better off looking at Cat’s current range or perhaps the Defender from The Toughphone, which has recently been updated to Android KitKat. If however you want to supply a workforce with larger powerful units that can take a beating and may not even leave the company, the RG700 is perfect. The screen size and protection levels are spot-on, plus the older less-featured version of Android actually makes for a more stable and reliable platform to develop applications on and manage with an MDM solution.