How powerful and compatible is the rugged phone I want to buy?

Rugged tech is more expensive than regular tech (waterproofing, shock absorbency and all that). However, the flagship chipsets and cameras being installed in top of the range $2000+ iPhone and Galaxies are also hugely expensive. A rugged phone to equal one of those would be substantially north of $2500. That’s why there aren’t any.

So when choosing a rugged phone you are making a compromise between your need for durability and your desire for bright shiny features and blazing gaming performance or photography options. The more expensive and powerful your rugged phone is, the closer it gets to the big brand flagships. The cheaper the phone, the less likely it is to handle much more than basic phone calls and text messaging.

The ‘Cowboy’ retailers: false claims about VoLTE

Now a new problem has come up: will the phone you are buying TODAY still work next year?

That’s when the big telcos will start to switch off the old 3G networks that have carried most phone calls for the past 15 years.

You may have seen the word “VoLTE” or “HD calling”: basically all voice calls will soon only be carried over 4G frequencies – Bands 1, 3 and 7 in the cities and Band 28 for everywhere outside the main centres.

Basically, if your new phone you picked up cheap doesn’t have 4G B28, it already won’t work in most of NZ where 4G-only cell towers are now operating, and it DEFINITELY won’t work when the 3G network is fully turned off in 2024.

Unfortunately, there’s one big discount rugged phone website that is deliberately making false claims that its phones are “compatible with all 3G/4G networks in NZ”, when actually they are not. Many of their phones – particularly the ones under $500 – have Asian frequency bands and lack the 4G B28 used in NZ and Australia.

They used to publish the frequency bands in their specs, but at the time of publishing this they hide that information so buyers can’t see whether the phone has Band 28. Instead, they promise the phones “support” 3G/4G, but that organising VoLTE calls is up to you and your telco:

NEWSFLASH: your phone MUST have fully operational VoLTE on Band 28 now – otherwise if you crash your car you may be unable to get service to call an ambulance. If a phone retailer can’t GUARANTEE – at their expense – that the phone they’re selling you WILL get nationwide VoLTE calling – don’t buy it. From next year, phones that can’t get VoLTE or are not configured with NZ VoLTE settings by the retailer will no longer work in NZ.

And frankly, if a reseller is prepared to mislead you over something as basic as whether the phone will actually work outside the city, why would you take a risk with your hard earned cash based on any of their other “assurances”?

So to help buyers make informed choices, we have compiled a list of rugged phones currently available and their AnTuTu score, which measures processor and graphics speed and power. Please remember that more expensive phones will usually have extra features, reflected in the price.

KEY CAUTIONS: phones without VoLTE won’t work outside the city limits. Phones “glued shut” can’t be repaired so their warranties are worthless and traders will rely on the small print to reject any warranty claim. Be extremely wary of buying expensive glued shut phones or you could lose serious money!

For baseline reference, because some of you will be upgrading from older phones, we’ve got a bold list at the start of older phones for comparison:

AGM A825,000N/Aobsolete
Blackview BV800081,000N/Aobsolete
Blackview BV9700 137,000N/Aobsolete
Galaxy S7112,000N/Aobsolete
Galaxy S10 5G334,000N/Aobsolete
Galaxy S22842,000$1999
AGM H3102,000$499we sell it
AGM H5109,000$649we sell it
AGM H5 Pro220,000$799we sell it
AGM Glory SE338,000$799we sell it
AGM Glory G1338,000$999we sell it
AGM Glory Pro338,000$1549we sell it
AGM G1S338,000$1349we sell it
Blackview BV490061,000$289glued shut, slow, no rural coverage, no B28 VoLTE
Blackview BV590048,000$290glued shut, slow, no rural coverage, no B28 VoLTE
Blackview BV510094,000$350glued shut, obsolete, no B28 VoLTE
Blackview BV520088,000$299glued shut, no rural coverage, no B28 VoLTE
Blackview BV5200 Pro112,000$399glued shut, no rural coverage, no B28 VoLTE
Blackview BV6300 Pro137,000$400glued shut, obsolete
Blackview BV660077,000$360glued shut, slow, ltd rural coverage, no B28VoLTE
Blackview BV6600 Pro88,000$600glued shut, slow
Blackview BV7100237,000$700glued shut, no rural coverage, no B28 VoLTE
Blackview BV7200$600no rural coverage, no VoLTE, won’t work NZ, AU
Blackview BV8800333,000$699we sell it
Blackview BL5000290,000$650glued shut
Blackview BL6000316,000$899obsolete, glued shut
Blackview BL8800340,000$899we sell it
Blackview BL8800 Pro340,000$999we sell it
Cat S6297,000$1299low bang for buck
Conquest F2102,000$699we sell it
Conquest S20316,000$1299we sell it
Conquest S21340,000$1049we sell it
Doogee S51102,000$350glued shut
Doogee S58 Pro102,000$330very ltd rural coverage, no VoLTE
Doogee S59 Pro102,000$380glued shut
Doogee S61109,000$330glued shut
Doogee S61 Pro109,000$399glued shut
Doogee S86128,000$400glued shut, obsolete
Doogee S86 Pro128,000$440glued shut
Doogee S88 Plus137,000$525glued shut
Doogee S89215,000$699glued shut
Doogee S97 Pro305,000$570glued shut
Doogee S98340,000$640glued shut
Doogee S98 Pro340,000$849glued shut
Doogee V10340,000$655glued shut
Doogee V20340,000$850glued shut
Hotwav Cyber 7340,000$600glued shut, minor brand
Hotwav Cyber 8128,000$300glued shut, minor brand
Hotwav WP10 Pro102,000$370glued shut, minor brand
Oukitel WP9128,000$300glued shut
Oukitel WP10316,000$700obsolete
Oukitel WP12 Pro89,000$280slow, glued shut, ltd rural coverage, no VoLTE
Oukitel WP13340,000$500glued shut
Oukitel WP15340,000$680glued shut, weighs half a kg
Oukitel WP15S102,000$380glued shut, weighs half a kg
Oukitel WP16128,000$500glued shut
Oukitel WP17333,000$550glued shut
Oukitel WP1888,000$280slow, glued shut, ltd rural coverage, no VoLTE
Oukitel WP19333,000$730glued shut, weighs over half a kg
Oukitel WP20 Pro92,000$300glued shut, slow
Samsung XCover 5117,000$500
Samsung XCover Pro180,000$900
Ulefone Armor X6 Pro34,000$255slow, glued shut, ltd rural coverage, no VoLTE
Ulefone Armor X750,000$240slow, glued shut, ltd rural coverage, no VoLTE
Ulefone Armor X891,000$320glued shut, slow
Ulefone Armor X8i91,000$290glued shut, slow
Ulefone Armor X9 Pro94,000$339glued shut, slow
Ulefone Armor X10 Pro102,000$359glued shut
Ulefone Armor X11 Pro91,000$399glued shut, slow
Ulefone Armor 7215,000$600glued shut, obsolete
Ulefone Armor 8128,000$350glued shut
Ulefone Armor 8 Pro128,000$400glued shut
Ulefone Armor 9215,000$999obsolete
Ulefone Armor 10316,000$999we sell it
Ulefone Armor 11316,000$880glued shut, made of glass
Ulefone Armor 11T316,000$1050glued shut, made of glass
Ulefone Armor 12340,000$650glued shut
Ulefone Armor 13333,000$799we sell it (but it weighs half a kg)
Ulefone Armor 14112,000$430glued shut
Ulefone Armor 14 Pro215,000$500glued shut
Ulefone Armor 15109,000$530glued shut
Ulefone Armor 16 Pro91,000$499glued shut, slow
Ulefone Armor 17 Pro360,000$999glued shut
Ulefone Armor 18490,000$1099we sell it
Ulefone Armor 18T490,000$1399we sell it
Umidigi Bison GT305,000$580glued shut
Umidigi Bison GT2 Pro 4G475,000$899poor reviews
Umidigi Bison GT2 Pro 5G475,000$999poor reviews
Umidigi Bison Pro205,000$400glued shut
Umidigi Bison 2 Pro205,000$600glued shut
Umidigi Bison X10G123,000$300glued shut
Umidigi Bison X10 Pro128,000$350glued shut
Unihertz Tank313,000$899we sell it