I know it's a bit pre-millenial to ask
But how does it do on phone calls?
Hot on the heels of Oppo, Chinese phone maker AGM is the second newcomer to launch in the UK in 2019 hoping to turn a niche into a much more mainstream habitat. AGM's X3 is a reasonably priced ruggedised Android flagship that's well set to win favour with the traditional rugged buyers: builders, field workers in enterprises, …
Missing through my browser too. Methinks given the opportunity to review a £599 or £279 phone most of us would make the opposite choice to that we would make shelling out our own dosh. For most, a longer lasting battery so you can still actually use it is more value than being able to throw it 1.39m at a wall 'cos its gone flat again.
Oh and still have £320 to buy another one plus a burner phone inside a plastic bag for more challenging environments.
I will pay £200.
I would like a phone that:
- Makes calls.
- Does 4G (or above, I'm not fussy).
- Has plain Android.
- The usuals that you get by using standard chipsets - Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC, hotspot, etc.
- Has a way to upgrade independent of the manufacturer (I mean, seriously, if you don't want the burden of updates, just make it plain Android, give people firmware update access - even if you have to flag the device as modified - and fire the documentation in the direction of the LineageOS people... then you can wash your hands of it).
- Has a screen that isn't going to crack in two seconds (no Edge, no thin metal frame)... the tougher the better. My car has a spongy plastic touchscreen, like the Palm etc. devices of old, and I'd be quite happy with that.
- Can replace the screen, the battery and the storage easily (A microSD slot costs NOTHING and extends the life of my phone significantly).
I don't need:
- Multiple cameras and fancy processing (I really don't care about those photos in the articles any more... if it's not bright enough, put the flash on!)
- Complete waterproofing (handy, sure, but I'm not going to pay for the difference between IP55 and IP65, to be honest).
- Any kind of non-standard screen (flat, rectangular, edged, no-notch and sturdy every time, thank you). Literally, I don't care about hardware buttons either. At least they do something and can detect "The user is holding for 5 so I should emergency power off". All this "let's hide the button inside the screen" nonsense is just wasteful.
- Extremely thin things. Thin things are fragile. Make it thick. Literally, bulk it out with a case and stuff, even if the phone itself is really thin. Then I can feel it in my pocket (or feel when it goes missing), hold it in my hand, and accidentally sit on it without worrying.
I'd quite like:
- Integrated but replaceable cases (sell me it in a big soft rubberised case that people can make replacements of!). Hell, put little flip-stands and bits INSIDE the case too! I'm tired of having to buy a phone and then, immediately, a case to put it in to cover up its fragile areas.
Given that the electronics for that, I can get from a Raspberry Pi Zero, a camera module and a GSM hat, for way, way under £100 even for a single unit, I don't think it's much to ask. Hell, I would actually BUY a phone that was just a Raspberry Pi module in a fancy case with a battery. I honestly don't care about the specs past a point... and running a casual web browser, a couple of Android apps and managing calls and a camera is way within ANY machine nowadays. When it break, replace the Pi. When you upgrade, just backup the SD card and you're done - firmware and all. When 5G modules come out, just swap the module.
Until such a thing exists, I can't honestly say I will never change my phone for one of these modern things until it literally dies and I can't get anything else.
But, you know, a phone with a USB-in, two USB-outs, and a hefty battery combined inside it to make it the size and purpose of a battery pack as well as a phone... sold. I couldn't care less if it was 1.5cm thick to do that.
Perhaps slightly pedantic, but there is no difference in waterproofing between IP55 and IP65 at all.
The first numeral is protection against solids (fingers, wires, dust particles), the second numeral is protection against liquids. So IP 65 is better protected against dust (no ingress) but still the same against water. It would need upgrading to IP56 to be better protected against water.
Truly waterproof basically means IP68 or I suppose IPx8.
You are indeed correct. +1 Pedantry.
But I think it's clear what I mean. 99.99% of all the electronics I ever touch aren't waterproof, or even water resistant. I don't see why a phone should be any different.
You can be sure, for example, that even most watches that say you can take them swimming aren't waterproof - they will likely survive a few metres for a few minutes, and that's it.
I'd like that it didn't destroy itself if there was a single raindrop on it. Beyond that, I can't see that having it "water resistant" or "waterproof" makes any difference at all, whatsoever.
People carry around games consoles, tablets, radios and all kinds of other gadgets. Virtually none of them are waterproof and nobody cares. Why should it matter for a phone? It's literally a stupidity tax on us all courtesy of those people who take their phone into the bathroom and leave it dangling precariously beside the sink/toilet while they are using the running water.
> You can be sure, for example, that even most watches that say you can take them swimming aren't waterproof - they will likely survive a few metres for a few minutes, and that's it.
Casio account for a good few watches, and they're fairly clear on what they mean by water resistant and water proof. Their resistant watches can shrug off a dunking but shouldn't be used for swimming or placed in direct line of shower, nor should the buttons be depressed under water. Their 50 M waches are fine for swimming. Their 100M watches are unlikely to be troubled by anyone who isn't using scuba gear, and those people will buy watches specifically made for the job.
A 3a5ch shouldn't inconvenience the wearer or cause them concern. It should be waterproof. The same goes for phones. Confining yourself to a dry urban environment is life limiting. Not being able to call for help in a flood could be life shortening.
People carry around games consoles, tablets, radios and all kinds of other gadgets. Virtually none of them are waterproof and nobody cares. Why should it matter for a phone?
A phone is usually carried more frequently, it is used in more places. So for each of those activities, you are also likely to have a phone with you as well. Or, more likely, the phone is also being used as those devices. Therefore the amount of handling/use it gets is as much as all of those devices combined, therefore since it may be used more often (since it substitutes for all of those listed devices) the chances of damage to it is the sum of the chances of damage to all of those devices.
Also, the consequences of damage to a phone are usually higher:
Damage the camera? Can't take photos.
Damage the games console? Can't play games.
Damage your phone? Lost my communications device AND camera AND games console AND navigation AND shopping list AND contact list AND...
So, your use case might not require levels of water resistance, but for many other peoples use cases - even if only peace of mind - it is important.
Here are some use cases for a phone to be waterproof:
1. I pull it out to set a navigation app running. It's raining today, I get bumped on the walk, and my phone falls into a puddle.
2. I am trying to take a picture of my children who are swimming, something from a boat, etc. where I am outside the water but close to it. I get jostled and the phone falls in.
3. This one happened to me. I am going to check a neighbor's swimming pool because they are away and asked me too. I am not going to go in, but I make a wrong step.
4. I live in a flood zone, and my house has become flooded. The phone was on the bottom floor. More importantly, I might want a phone to inform emergency services in case the flooding is becoming a risk.
Some non-accidental situations now:
5. I enjoy going out into nature and swimming around lakes and rivers. I need a phone in case an emergency arises or just to have some of its features when I come out.
6. I like to use small boats, and could really use a phone in addition to the radio on the boat to contact people.
7. I need a phone for a child or someone else who may not be as careful as I am.
I'm not saying these apply to everyone. Only one ever happened to me, and I can say that my phone was not prepared for it. Still, these are pretty logical things for which waterproofing might be useful.
"Given that the electronics for that, I can get from a Raspberry Pi Zero, a camera module and a GSM hat, for way, way under £100 even for a single unit, I don't think it's much to ask."
I like raspberry pi as much as the next person, and prefer it to phones in many circumstances, but let's be realistic. Your three components are not enough to have a functional phone at all, let alone something comparable to a smartphone.
Let's start with the things you need to build a raspberry pi phone. You of course need the board, and the GSM module itself. You also need audio input and output devices that can be attached to the pi, probably via GPIO. Then, you need an interface in the form of a touchscreen, keyboard, or some buttons to select your number and place the call. If you didn't opt for the touchscreen, you'd also need an output system so you could see what you're doing, though I suppose you could have the output by voice only. You also need a battery, and although you could power it with an external battery, it would be much less convenient than a device with one in the case. That's quite a bit more than you originally planned.
Here are some differences between that and a modern smartphone. First, the wireless comms on that are serviceable but not great. You have WiFi, but 802.11N, not AC, and no support for 5gHz networks. Your bluetooth is limited in range. There is no NFC and no GPS. Second, you will not get some of the features that modern smartphones have (though often you don't need them). Fast charging, a front camera for videoconferencing, the various noise-reduction features people bring in, etc. Next, there is a difference in scale for the computing power involved. Smartphones have quad or octacore processors, and your pi has one. Phones have at least 2GB of memory, and some have 8, but your pi has 0.5. Finally, there is a difference between the hardware too. A phone's screen is much higher quality than the touchscreens available for the pi. They have a greater pixel density, helped by the fact that their GPUs are more modern than the pi's, and they have multitouch, which is not available on any of the screens I've seen from standard pi retailers.
I want a raspberry pi phone too. However, I don't want it for the hardware. What I'd like is for someone, and the raspberry pi people would probably do quite a good job, to make a phone that has the same style of hardware as normal phones do, but running the open and replaceable software that makes the pi so useful.
There are at least three RPi-smartphone projects out there - excluding the plastic case (the hard bit to make yourself, the easy bit to get make in bulk) - they are all sub-£100, with all those electronics, touchscreens and everything else. A smartphone-like touchscreen is a commodity item now.
Three years ago I bought an Android tablet for £10 (brand new, Amazon deal) with a 7" diagonal touchscreen. I still have it. It's thin, it's tablet-sized, it's half-empty inside, and it's got all the components of a smartphone except the 4G chip, and a MUCH larger screen. Even today, I can get similar models for £30 (not on an Amazon deal) that do the same.
It's not outside the realms of possibility for some project to produce a sub-£100 smartphone with all the bits, and a case, and be competitive. It's *certainly* not outside the realms of possibility for some cheap Chinese knockoff outfit to do the same. Hell, I have a GSM phone in my car that's literally the size of my thumb... with working Bluetooth buttons, display and internal battery. I keep it in there for emergencies.
My point is that if people could cobble one together and stick it in a 3D-printed case for sub-£100 and beat the specs of even many modern smartphones, then the phone companies aren't even really trying.
I'd gladly accept a thicker phone, with commodity modules, from an unknown, than this junk from a big name.
I agree completely. However, my points still stand about the processing differences between raspberry pi zero and any modern smartphone (if only making calls, this isn't a factor). Also, many of the touchscreens that work with the raspberry pi are less capable and more expensive than ones available on consumer devices. I am not familiar with all of the raspberry pi phone projects going on, but the one I did see simply recommended classes of parts to be purchased on eBay and cobbled together by the user. The software looked interesting, but the semifunctional build I saw was fragile and less like the typical rectangle phone factor and more akin to an octopus shape. Unfortunately, the economies of scale available to the mass manufacturers of phones are not as available to those of us who only want one or two of the components concerned.
There's no final judgement on whether this tough phone is any tougher than a a normal waterproof phone (Samsung, Sony, Apple) in a rugged case. I do appreciate the reviewer doesn't have an unlimited supply of test phones, however.
My mechanic uses an iPhone 5 in a case that adds about 3/4" of foam rubber around it. Physics suggests that it'd be a strong contender in a drop test.
Most of the storage on my Samsung is taken up by slo-mo video of dogs shaking off water after climbing out of a river. It looks like their heads are about to unscrew at times, and their skin reverses direction of twist some time after their skeleton does!
This isn't the most productive use of high res high frame rate video and the fast storage it requires, but it makes me smile! Waterproofing in this context is invaluable too!
Has anyone tested it to see if it can survive falling out of a pocket whilst zooming around a superkart track (and it getting run over by the trailing kart??).
Yes, that was what he had to write on one insurance claim form; after paying out, they wouldnt insure him again.
I've been keeping an eye on rugged phones for a while now, precisely for the reason mentioned - by the time you slap a decent case on a normal phone you may as well go rugged. AGM excited me a while back but I recall they couldn't quite get their act together with actual release dates.
Another one to take a look at is Ulefone's Armor 6. Probably have to import it yourself though.
There's no downside to adding the protection after buying the phone ( i.e buying a rugged case for a normal waterproof phone). The advantage of doing so is that there are more phones to choose from and better deals to be had.
Also, if you're ever want to resell your phone you can pop it out of its scuffed case and it'll be close to pristine, making a difference to it's resale value.
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