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What you need to know before you buy a heavy duty rugged phone.

Smartphones are very personal devices. Most people have their phones with them all the time whether they are watching a movie in bed or climbing the mountains. While the former is relatively safe for your handset (unless it's sitting on the very edge of the table right next to a glass of water and you have bad luck), the latter could potentially end in your phone's untimely demise.

If you are a very active person or work in dangerous conditions and are constantly worrying about the safety of your phone, you might want to consider a rugged device. However, buying a rugged phone is not as easy as it may seem. Here is what you need to know before you buy a rugged phone and how to understand ratings behind a ruggedized handset.

Understanding ratings behind a ruggedized device.

Generally speaking, "rugged" means that the phone is more durable than an average device and that's it. In reality, the term can mean anything from being water-proof to resistance to nuclear explosion. Of course, the explosion was just a joke, but the fact remains that there are different types and levels of durability, each characterized by specific standards and ratings.

A standard is a declaration by a third-party organization that a device can withstand certain kind of abuse and still be as good as new. Small electronics such as smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, etc., are certified with two types of standards: the Ingress Protection (IP) Rating and the Military Specification or Military Standard (MIL-STD).

IP rating determines the device's resistance to small particles such as dust, as well as water. Rating for dust ranges from 1 to 6 and for water from 1 to 8. The higher the number, the more resistant the device is. For example, a phone with IP68 rating is protected from ingression of dust and other particles and can be submersed in water to a depth rated by the manufacturer for an indefinite amount of time.

Military Specifications and Standards tell us in what kind of circumstances the device will survive, for instance, shock, vibrations, extreme temperatures, etc. There are virtually hundreds of MIL-STD certifications; though the most common standard for rugged devices is the MIL-STD-810G. This standard lists a number of scenarios a device should withstand without damage, among which are drops and falls.

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Ruggedized phones - What you need to know.

Even though a phone may be called rugged by a manufacturer, keep in mind that there are no indestructible devices. That's why it's so important to check what kind of certifications they have, since some phones may be dust and water resistant but shatter to pieces when dropped, while others can survive a fall on concrete from great height but die when put in water.

Very often rugged devices are made with specific groups of users in mind. For example, Panasonic's ToughBook and ToughPad lineup meets the MIL-STD-810G standard which certifies the device, among others, against fall from height. Not any height, though, but between a 4 to 6 foot drop. Why so specific? Because the devices have special construction which is designed to withstand drops from exactly that height. In order to make a phone or tablet water resistant, different construction is required.

According to Xplore, a manufacturer that focuses exclusively on designing and building rugged devices, the best way to make a durable product, is to build it from scratch not just add extra protection to already existing models. Other companies that release rugged devices are: Kyocera, Casio and Cat. Manufacturers such as Samsung and Sony also add a certain level of ruggedness to their smartphones. Remember, though, that rugged devices usually come with more modest hardware and can run slightly outdated platforms.

If your line of work or lifestyle could put your phone in danger, it could be a good idea to consider a rugged device. However, keep in mind that the term "rugged" has a very broad meaning, so in order to find out exactly what type of hardships your handset will be able to survive, always check the device's specification. This way you will avoid disappointment and additional costs of fixing your phone or buying a new one.