These phones typically have a rubberised casing and are more suited to being dropped than a standard mobile phone. Often marketed to “active” users (mountain bikers and the like) they have typically ended up in the hands of tradesmen such as builders and carpenters who are fed up of phone after phone ceasing to function as a result of dust, water or damage through dropping.
The market is now showing a renewed interest in this category of device with two specific segments emerging.
In the traditional “builder phone” segment, specialist brands such as JCB (http://www.jcbphone.co.uk/) have licensed its brand to ODM manufacturers (Sonim in the case of JCB Phone) to deliver truly rugged devices which conform to tough standards such as the IP54 rating. This rating means it meets certain standards in the area of dust, water, shock and drop resistance.
In a related development, a new consumer segment is starting to emerge appealing to users who want a more robust device but don’t want the look and standard talk and text feature set of a “builder phone”.
Samsung were the first company in 2008 to launch a product into this category with the Samsung “Solid” although this device has relatively basic talk and text functionality. Other manufacturers are also following the trend such as Alcatel with its One Touch Sport phone.
Most interesting is the Sony Ericsson C702. This is a dust and splash proof Cyber-shot phone also offers a rugged device without compromising on features. It complies with the IP54 (Ingress Protection) standard. It includes a 3.2 mega pixel camera, 262k colour display, expandable memory and may other features you would expect on mid tier consumer phone.
I predict the rugged / active category will grow exponentially in 2008 and that many other device manufacturers to pile into supporting both segments more extensively.
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