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If you're a regular TR reader you'll be well aware of our love for rugged technology. Panasonic's ToughBooks for instance, have received some serious abuse while in my care, but so far they've managed to survive everything we've thrown at them. It seems now though, that the idea of having rugged kit is catching on a bit, with more notebook vendors offering ruggedised notebooks, and more rugged handheld devices starting to appear. And of course, there are more ruggedised mobile phones appearing, although it has to be said that the vast majority of them are just standard models with a rubber casing and better seals around the buttons and battery compartment.
I was therefore quite keen to get my paws on the Sonim XP1, which claims to be a fully rugged phone. In fact, if Sonim is to be believed, the XP1 can handle even more punishment than a fully rugged Panasonic ToughBook, and that's saying something! There's no denying that the XP1 looks the part, with a tough and textured hard plastic shell surrounding it. What surprised me though, was how small and light this phone is, making it clear that Sonim has designed it from the ground up to be rugged, rather than trying to make a standard handset a little tougher. Measuring 113 x 50 x 22mm (HxWxD) and weighing 129g including battery and SIM card, this is far from the big and heavy brick you'd expect a rugged phone to be.
The colour screen measures 4.5cm, and is surprisingly bright and vibrant considering that this is a rugged phone. The resolution of 128 x 160 pixels however, is very low by today's standards, but then this isn't a handset that you're likely to be viewing photos on, especially since it doesn't have a built-in camera. Of more importance is that the screen itself is set very deep into the casing, with a hard, scratch resistant cover protecting it. This means that even if you are rough enough with the XP1 to break the plastic cover, the screen below should remain intact, leaving the phone to continue operating normally. This point was proved when we did some real world testing on the XP1's rugged credentials, but I'll come to that a bit later.
The phone itself is a tri-band affair, supporting GSM 900, 1800 and 1900 standards, so you should be able to use it in most parts of the world. That said, this isn't the sort of phone that you'll be travelling abroad with too often. There's Bluetooth support, but only version 1.2 - not that you're likely to need A2DP stereo streaming from a rugged phone. The important thing is that you can use a Bluetooth headset or handsfree kit, although there is a 2.5mm port for using a wired headset too.