Connect with us

Gadget of the Week

Gadget of the Week: Nokia enters rugged territory

Nokia’s first rugged phone ticks many of the handset boxes, but leaves a few wanting, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

What is it?

The rugged smartphone market, catering for people working mostly outdoors or in harsh environments, has been dominated in the past decade by the CAT brand. An offshoot of Caterpillar construction equipment encapsulated the need for devices that could handle rough treatment.

The last year saw a new name in rugged phones – but one of the oldest names in handsets. In its ongoing efforts to revitalize the brand and restore its former market leadership, Nokia entered this most demanding of segments with the XR20.

Nokia signals the positioning of the device with the very first feature highlighted on the box: “Resistant to pavements, puddles, and dirt”. In short, you can drop it on bricks, lose it in water, or clog it up with dust, and it will keep going. Or, to use Nokia’s marketing slogan for the handset: it’s a “life-proof” phone.

It lives up to its promise thanks to three specific features:

  • A rubberized bumper and metal frame that combine to make the phone shockproof;
  • Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, one of the toughest glass materials available for smartphones;
  • IP68 water-and dust-resistant.

This means it can handle extreme temperatures, drops of up to 1.8m drops, and an hour underwater.

The camera specs are somewhat basic for the current mid-range market, with only two lenses on the back: a 48MP wide-angle and 13MP ultra-wide, using Zeiss Optics, along with a dual-LED dual-tone flash, and second LED flash. It can shoot in HDR and panorama, offering video capture in 1080p@30fps. The selfie camera, a single 8 MP wide lens, offers the same video capture capability.

Its connectivity, at 5G, is now standard in the upper mid-range, but still rare in rugged phones. It has a fair-sized battery at 4630 mAh, offering fast charging at 18W and fast wireless charging at 15W. That’s still a little disappointing for a rugged phone. However, Nokia does say using the basic Android One operating system increases usage time, thanks to battery optimisation techniques, and promises up to days of use on one charge. That is fairly standard for rugged phones.

The XR20’s longevity extends to the software, and it comes with a guarantee of four years of monthly security updates, and three years of OS upgrades.

While packaging varies, our review unit came with a charging brick – a rarity nowadays – and Nokia Clarity Earbuds Pro, which uses dual mic environment noise cancellation and active noise cancellation to eliminate background noise. The regular speakers use Ozo audio with wind-noise cancellation. These sound like new “must-haves” in rugged phone territory.

What does it cost?

Between R8,500 and R10,600, depending on specs. It comes in 4/64GB and 6/128GB configurations. It is available in Ultra Blue and Granite colour options.

Why does it matter?

Florian Seiche, CEO of Nokia phone manufacturer HMD Global, puts it simply:

“We are tapping into consumer pain points around durability and longevity. We did a global trend report and found that 73% of consumers want to keep their phones for longer and would if their devices were maintained over time. At HMD, we are empowering people to avoid early device replacement and encouraging a more sustainable consumption through our longevity promises.”

What are the biggest negatives?

  • In terms of hardware specs, it’s a very basic phone.
  • A small battery for a rugged phone.

What are the biggest positives?

  • Can take plenty bashing about if you’re working or playing outdoors or taking part in vigorous activity.
  • Three years of guaranteed upgrades of its operating system, and four years of security upgrades.
  • Very elegant for a rugged phone, with the feel of a regular large-screen handset using a wrap-around sleeve case.
  • Intelligent approach to dealing with noise when listening via regular speakers or earphones.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

Subscribe to our free newsletter
To Top