The Good Samsung’s Rugby Pro has stellar call quality, push-to-talk support, NFC, a speedy processor, and a decent 5-megapixel camera.
The Bad It doesn’t look or feel so sturdy, and the back panel popped up when I dropped the phone.
The Bottom Line Samsung’s Rugby Pro makes a good, affordable choice for people looking for a more durable smartphone, but it won’t satisfy those in need of an oversized frame.
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Samsung’s Rugby Pro is a buddy story between AT&T and a durable Samsung-made Android 4.0 phone. It may look tough on the outside, but there’s heart and brainpower within. The Pro joins the “Rugby” team — which also includes the Samsung Rugby Smart , the Rugby II , and the original Rugby 2008 – with specifications to prevent heat, dust and more.
Proving that over time, Rugby Pro adds an Android ice cream sandwich, 4G LTE lightning speed, and a particularly fast dual-core processor to push-to-talk devices with physical buttons and a screwdriver. The $ 100 price tag is definitely attractive to everyone you get, but beware – the Rugby Pro wasn’t always ready to twitch.
Samsung Rugby Pro is one tough Android (pictures)
Strong as advertised?
Every time a durable product arrives, we have the honor of embracing it. The rather rugged Rugby Pro phone is 5 inches high by 2.7 inches wide and 0.5 inches thick. Feels healthy at 4.6 ounces. Meets American Mil-STD 810F dust, humidity, rain and shock characteristics. In addition, it is waterproof to a depth of 30 meters when all ports are tightly closed. However, don’t be used to taking a swim with you; it is not intended for long-term use of water.
Rugby Pro works underwater as advertised, and with thick seams and edges, definitelylookshow it can take a knock. At least at first. There is heavy, curved material that rings on the phone. Although I appreciate the inherent character, I am disappointed that the material does not appear to be thicker, softer or particularly rubbery. I have post-sale cases that offer a better kickback when you drop them.
Why isn’t the screen more built-in to protect it? Why doesn’t the back cover fit into something more rubbery? Its thinly textured plastic panel feels a bit slippery. Fortunately, the square thorns of the phone help keep it clamped in your hand. I like the height and width of the power button, volume and convenience on the Rugby Pro studs, and the flap covering the 3.5mm headset jack was so secure in place that I nearly tore the nail shut. At the bottom of the display are three physical buttons to control the menu, home and back. They were not too tight, and in my tests they pressed very well while wearing gloves.
The screw that holds the back cover in place is a classic step to seal the phone, but it is unscrewed with a coin (Samsung specifically warns against using your nail, but I had no problems). SIM and microSD slots are below them. Now here’s the big “but”: when I intentionally slammed the Pro on my back from about 3.5 feet, a portion of the back panel that was not wound up popped out. Rugby About never showed its insides ever when I dropped it from such a height without undue force.
One of the benefits of a much more accurate body around the screen is that the 4-inch display is much easier to access and doesn’t seem encroaching. Super AMOLED material and 800×480 pixel resolution (WVGA) deliver crisp, colorful and smooth text and lines. Blacks look deep and rich, and Samsung’s default settings overload certain colors, such as green. This helps give the images depth and richness, but in your own photos it may look a little exaggerated when the color over-color becomes apparent.
OS and features
Rugby Pro runs on Android 4.0 Sandwich Ice Cream. Samsung’s custom TouchWiz layer provides additional software applications, such as a custom lock screen and one-touch access to the system controls from the notification menu. Access to the full suite of Google services, including logging in to multiple accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft Exchange, in addition to your Gmail and other email profiles.
Your favorite favorites are: turn-by-turn maps, YouTube, and people and places search apps. The phone supports VPN, portable hotspots, Kies for sharing Wi-Fi with other Samsung and DLNA products. Bluetooth 4.0 is also available.
In the settings, you can program the convenience key to open any application, such as navigation or camera (hallelujah). NFC means you can happily share photos and URLs with S Beam. Samsung also offers motion control, but to upgrade only two – shake to switch audio or pause – against 11 inches Samsung Galaxy Note 2 . I think watching music is very helpful.
A whole lot of preloaded apps come on the Rugby Pro, as they do on every smartphone with a major carrier. There are a few Samsung apps, and many more AT&T apps for managing your account and tapping into the carrier’s extra services (like U-Verse live TV.) In addition, Qik Lite is installed for you to start in on voice chats. Standard apps include the calendar, clock, calculator, and music player. The Google Play store is your go-to for downloading free and premium apps and other content like TV shows, movies, and music.
One interesting addition is AT&T’s browser bar, a shortcut strip you can call up or hide on the bottom of the screen. If you find yourself wanting to share a story, signing in to one of these services just once lets you share the story on Facebook or Twitter, send the link over e-mail, and even simply “Like” the page on Facebook. You can also browse for news by category: popular stories, sports, news, and so on. The Browser Bar is customizable as well, and easy to disable from the bar’s settings.
I liked the concept a lot and liked the shortcuts in the browser bar, but it could use some improvements. I especially noticed that the Twitter shortcut did not cut the link, which is the main black mark in my happy Twitter universe.
What about voice commands, you ask? You will actually have two choices; and this is important if you really wear thick gloves that cannot be typed on the virtual keyboard of your phone. S Voice is Samsung’s own version, but I much prefer Google Voice Actions. Run the old one by double-clicking the home button, no matter where you are. Use the latter by pressing and holding the menu button from any start screen.
You can also get to Google using the microphone icon in the search bar on the home screen. You can access the voice text by clicking the microphone icon on the keyboard. Of course, the button is quite tiny on a 4-inch screen.
Rugby Pro will support advanced push-to-talk at the launch of the service in November. At this point, you can turn the comfort key into a PTT trigger.
Cameras aren’t usually emphasized on durable phones, but I’m glad to see that the Rugby Pro packs a decent 5-megapixel shooter. In addition to outdoor and indoor shots, Samsung has provided the Rugby Pro with many of its typical extras.
Let’s start with the photos themselves. Rugby Pro creates photos that are overall crisp and detailed, with sharp edges and strong color. Obviously, there aren’t as many details as most 8MP cameras, and the photos taken in good light are better than the photos taken in mixed lighting or artificial environments.
Compare photo quality with CNET studio shots.
Those who want to do more than just point and shoot will appreciate the various shooting modes, including panorama and smile modes, and effects such as sepia and black and white. The resolution options range from 5 megapixels to 0.3 megapixels and you will find white balance, ISO, measurement and shutter sound settings. I am always grateful to see the choice of scene, including night and sports modes.
Capturing HD 720p video on my phone was also good. The image was crisp, mostly sharp (sharper outside than indoors) and colorful. The microphone was not very keen on the voice of the subject, which, unfortunately, is normal, but increasing the output volume solves the problem.
The front-facing 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera has taken relatively decent shots, and more importantly, it works well for video chat.
Only 8GB of internal storage beautifies the Rugby Pro, but you will find relief for ways to collect content with a microSD card slot capable of 32GB.
AT&T’s 4G LTE was blazing throughout my test period here in San Francisco, and the Rugby Pro’s internals more than kept up. Using the Speedtest.net diagnostic app, the Rugby Pro typically achieved download speeds spanning the 13Mbps to a searing 59Mbps. Uplink speeds hovered in the teens, but never surpassed 16Mbps up.
Programs are downloaded and installed in seconds, and web pages are downloaded with lack.
The 1.5GHz dual-core Ragby Pro processor, Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960, is also extremely fast. Navigation took very little time, and the gameplay was strong.
However, there were a few points in my test period. There was one accidental restart, and in a while I lost all the signal. After a while, I received a signal, but it took longer to recover my data. Fortunately, this has happened only once.
|AT&T Rugby Pro: Performance testing|
|Download CNET News app (646KB)||6 seconds|
|CNET mobile site load||4 seconds|
|CNET desktop site load||4.7 seconds|
|Boot time to lock screen||24 seconds|
|Camera boot time||1.75 seconds|
|Camera, shot-to-shot time||3 seconds|
|Load up app (Quadrant)||1.78 seconds|
As for the battery, the Rugby Pro has an estimated battery life of 11 hours and 12 days of battery life of 1,850 mAh. It lasted quite a while in my anecdotal tests, but in CNET lab tests, Rugby Pro played video only 5.2 hours before shutting down. However, in our talk test, it lasted 15.9 hours. Samsung Rugby Pro has a digital SAR of 1.42 watts per kilogram.
I tested the Rugby Pro (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; LTE 1700/2100) in San Francisco using AT&T’s network. I don’t get to say this very often, but call quality was amazing. Crystal clarity meant there was no background noise whatsoever, and I didn’t detect any vocal distortion. Volume was robust on the highest setting (this came by default), and in the mostly quiet office, I needed it. That’s usually a red flag, but the Rugby Pro has Samsung’s call-boost control, which uses software to amp to decibels. As always, turning on the booster changes the audio’s character; it made it louder, and also slightly less warm.
My test partner agreed that Rugby Pro is one of the clearest phones he has heard on his landline. It was comfortably loud, there was a slight distortion on the high frequency peaks, and I sounded unnatural. Otherwise, he said I sounded “very, very good.”
Samsung Rugby Pro sample call qualityListen now:
When I tested it at waist level, the speaker followed suit. Its very loud (but not too aggressive) volume meant I could move away from the phone and still hear; no less useful feature for listening to a moving car is the harsher environment. The voices retained their warmth and clarity, but it was obviously still a loudspeaker and was buzzing in my hands through the speaker.
My calling partner claimed that his assessment was short and sweet: “Excellent speaker. Ditto higher” He added that he was aware of the normal amount of echo from the surrounding room, but that the handset was not conducive to the normal hollowness of the loudspeaker.
Who should buy this phone
If you are looking for an Android smartphone that you hope is a bit stiffer than a normal crop, Samsung Rugby Pro is a good fit. Plus, a $ 99 smart phone is a terrific option for street workers who need a durable phone and prefer the Rugby Pro camera and sandwich ice cream.
However, if you need a headset to handle the most difficult situations under extreme pressure, you should continue shopping for a more durable tube. The same goes for those who need to operate a glove phone – the Rugy Pro touchscreen works only with the bare hands.