Review: Samsung Rugby II

With much focus nowadays on smartphones, Wi-Fi, Facebook and any other top of the line frills, many have forgotten the trusted and durable flip phone. Samsung has recently released the Rugby II, the sequel to their original rugged flip phone, which is advertised as “military grade”, as it reportedly meets US Army standards for shock, dust, and water resistance (military standard 810G compliance for extreme conditions). The Rugby II sports a 2.2” internal TFT screen with a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels QVGA, and a 1.3″ external CSTN screen with a resolution of 128 x 128 QVGA. The Rugby II is approximately 101.9mm (tall) x 52.3mm (wide) x 21.6mm (thick) when closed, and expands to around 195mm (tall) when opened, all while weighing around 133g.

The second I picked up this phone out of the box, I immediately noticed the rugged and durable feel of the housing. It feels very solid and sturdy while holding it (attributed to ribbed sidings), and its rectangular shape sits comfortably in the palm of your hand. The casing is made out of a silver/black tough plastic that seems to resist scratches quite well.

SIDE NOTE: This device might feel heavy and brick-like, but as a comparison, this phone weighs 133g, compared to the Blackberry Style (131g), the Blackberry Torch (161.1g), and the HTC Desire Z (180g).

The front of the Rugby II houses a 1.3” color LCD external screen with 128 x 128 QVGA. This display summarizes the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID. This screen also helps eliminate the need to constantly flip open the device in order to check the time, new messages, etc. Just below the screen is a 2.0MP camera that is also capable of video capture (no LED flash, 2x zoom). Slightly above the external display is a large speaker for music playback, speakerphone, etc. The left side of this device sports a camera shortcut button, and volume rockers/menu navigation.

SIDE NOTE: Other versions of this phone in various countries (ATT in USA) are capable of PTT, and have a PTT shortcut instead of a camera shortcut. Since this phone is rugged and geared towards the construction industry, it would have been nice to have PTT functionality since it is quite commonly utilized in industry.

The right side of this device reveals a speakerphone shortcut button, and an enclosed microUSB port for charging/PC connectivity. The back of this device reveals a small clip in order to possibly secure the phone to a lanyard/chain, as well as a small, latched locking mechanism which can be turned with a small coin, in order to access the battery. Unlocking this mechanism reveals a 1300mAh battery, which advertises 240 minutes of talk time, and/or 250 hours of standby time. It should be noted that a microSD port (no microSD card included) and SIM slot are present underneath the battery.

SIDE NOTE: Although I would never utilize the small clip area, it is a nice option for people who have the tendency to clip their phones to chains, lanyards, etc. Although the battery latch is a smart idea in order to keep out water, moisture, and dust, it is often annoying when trying to remove the battery with no coins present. Secondly, I would have liked to have seen the microSD port located in a more convenience location.

Once you flip open this device, you will be greeted with a 2.2” color internal screen with 240 x 320 QVGA. This screen is slightly bigger than the original Rugby, and is very bright and vibrant. Images look very clear and sharp when loaded on the screen, and text is easily legible. Underneath the screen is a navigation area, as well as the classic 12-key alphanumeric T9 keypad. The navigation area consists of two soft keys (left/right), an “OK” button for menu/confirm, in addition to keys for voice recognition, multi-tasking, send, clear, menu exit/on-off. It should be noted that there is a microphone located in the bottom left corner of this device (when opened). The keyboard is very easy to type on due to the large, backlit buttons that are adequately spaced.

SIDE NOTE: The hinge of this device is very critical to its design and seems very strong and durable. I dropped the phone from various heights with the phone open, and the hinge did not seem to become damaged or hindered in any way.

The Samsung Rugby II comes preloaded with Samsung’s proprietary OS, NetFront 3.5, and SUN VM, while leaving approximately 94MB of user memory. This device is compatible with the HSPA network, and supports HSPA/UMTS 850/1900/2100, and GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/1900/900/1800. This phone is powered by a 1300mAh battery, with up to 240 minutes of talk time, and/or 250 hours of standby time. The Rugby II supports GPS, +AGPS, and Bluetooth 2.1. The Music player supports AMR, AAC, WMA, MP3, and MAF, while the Video player supports MP4, .3GP, and WMV.

Call quality is an important aspect of this phone, since it is rugged and tough for the construction industry. I am happy to report that the call quality on the Rugby II is pleasant and enjoyable. Callers sound crisp and clear through the speaker, and the location of the microphone ensures that minimal background noise is included. The speakerphone also performed well, as it sounded loud and clear – due to the large speaker on the front of the device. Another added bonus was the voice recognition software, which provided quick and accurate voice dialling (especially important in Ontario with recently implemented “hands-free” legislation).

Web browsing is difficult on this device due to the small screen, and WAP 2.0 browser, however this was expected with the Rugby II since it is not built for user-friendly Internet connectivity, as other ‘smartphone’ devices.

The camera did improve from the original Rugby, as the Rugby II now has a 2.0MP camera, with many settings/options (four different resolutions, three quality settings, self-timer, brightness/white-balance control, mosaic, panorama, multi-shot, night mode). Pictures quality was surprisingly better than expected, however it would have been nice to have some sort of flash included for times of low visibility.

SIDE NOTE: When the maximum picture size is set to maximum, I was greeted with a message stating “Zoom Not Available”

Another surprising discovery with this device was the battery life, which performed beyond expectations. With some light browsing, heavy phone calls and text messages, I was able to exceed the advertised battery life. I was often stunned how many times I would return to my idle phone, only to discover that I still had 3 of out 4 bars for battery life.

The Rugby II lives up to its military-grade durability, as I was unable to produce any noticeable damage to the hardware or software after various tosses of the phone. I threw the phone to the ground, across the room, and even banged it around other various hard surfaces to no avail. The OS did not lag/freeze, and I was still able to completed calls and text messages. I also carried around this phone and used it without a case during various cold winter days and the phone seemed to withstand these extreme temperatures with ease.

The software for this device is exactly what you should expect: a basic OS for everyday use with minimal frills. The software on the Rugby II runs very quick an efficient, and I experienced no lag time while toggling between screens for contacts, messages, apps, etc. When navigating through the OS and various menus, a neat sliding motion wipes the screen from one menu to another. The voice recognition was very accurate when calibrated, and the music player was able to handle my everyday needs. The multi-tasking button was also a handy shortcut to have, as I was able to quickly toggle to more common areas such as messages, browser, etc. without having to go through all the menu selections.

Overall, the Samsung Rugby II is a durable and rugged phone that provides excellent call quality and battery life. This phone is perfect for the construction industry, as it is able to withstand the harshest of conditions. It would have been nice to have the PTT capabilities that are present on other versions of this phone, and hope that Samsung/Canadian carriers do not continue this trend of removing functionality from future devices in Canada. The simple OS keeps messages and contacts organized, while the basic WAP browser provides convenient Internet capabilities when needed. I wish that Bell and Telus would include a microSD with this device, since this seems to be the norm amongst the releases of new devices with capabilities of expandable memory. Secondly, I hope that future promotions will see the price of this device drop below $100 on a 3-year agreement.

The Samsung Rugby II is available through TELUS, Bell, Rogers and SaskTel at various pricing plans.