- Water and dust-proof
- Has 3G
- Slow online features
- No 3.5mm headphone jack
- Mediocre screen
- Review Price: £99.99
- 2in 240x320 pixel screen
- 3G mobile internet
- IP67 water/dust-proofing
- Facebook and Twitter integration
Rugged phones are changing, becoming mainstream. Devices like the Motorola Defy and upcoming Samsung Galaxy Xcover are starting to make IP67-certified phones seem attractive for normal people, not just builders and polar explorers. The Samsung Solid Immerse isn’t quite one of these style trailblazers, using a traditional candybar T9-keypad form factor, but it is cheap enough to be worth considering if you’re too clumsy to be left alone with a large-screen smartphone.
The Immerse is the more advanced cousin of the Samsung Solid Extreme. It adds 3G connectivity, boosting the price up from £60 to around £100 on a pre-pay deal. Sounds like quite a lot for a feature phone, doesn’t it?
It arguably earns the right to its price tag because it’s IP67-certified, guaranteeing a high level of water and dust-proofing. The Solid Immerse is completely dust-proof and can stand immersion in water to a depth of 1m for up to half an hour. Hence the “Immerse” of its name. Geddit?
It achieves this level of water resistance using rubber seals around any sockets or openings. The battery cover and the flap covering the microUSB both use these seals. Get the Solid Immerse near water without these seals in place and those bold IP67 claims fly out the window.
Always keen to see if we can break a review product blame-free, we naturally dunked the phone in a few watery environments to see if it could cope. It did. We found that the speaker grills tended to retain the water, but this is fixed with a quick smack on the back – like burping a baby, a bit too vigorously.
IP67 waterproofing – confirmed
Big aesthetic sacrifices have been made to give the phone its ruggedness, though. This is not a good-looking device. It’s bulbous, it looks rather old-fashioned and the lettering on the numerical keypad strives for clarity, not style.
Connectivity is also very limited. A microSD slot sits under the battery cover but there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack, just a microUSB socket that takes on the holy trinity of mobile duties – charging, data transfer and audio output.
There are a few neat design tweaks chucked-in to mitigate. A bright LED torch sits on top of the handset, operated with a prolonged press of a button on the right edge (to avoid accidental use), and a sturdy plastic loop to let you attach the phone to climbing gear – or whatever outdoorsy attire your chosen pursuit might involve.
As we’ll say several times in this review – if you inhabit the niche which the Solid Immerse is targeted at, all is good. If not, there’s no way you could consider its design a good thing.
The Samsung Solid Immerse’s keypad is, like the rest of the phone, designed to keep out water. There are no proper gaps between the keys. Instead the whole pad is a single piece of rubberised plastic. This doesn’t hamper operation, though, as each key is well-contoured and fairly large. Typing away on an old-fashioned numerical keypad feels distinctly old school, but is comfortable and reasonably quick.
Continuing the trad style, the 2in display is not a touchscreen. It’s a 240×320 pixel panel, the standard resolution for screens of this size. There’s no denying it’s a low-tech affair, but with a dpi of 200 it’s reasonably sharp when not viewed too close-up.
Viewing angles are poor though, looking either too dark or washed out when turned left or right. Phones of £60 and above normally feature higher-quality displays than this. The panel itself sits behind a thick layer of scratch-resistant plastic, protecting it from knocks and scrapes. It’s pretty effective too – having picked up no marks in spite of some uncaring treatment over our test period.
The camera lens is also housed behind a sheet of protective material – the actual sensor is recessed fairly deeply into the phone’s back. It’s doesn’t really deserve royal treatment, though. With two megapixels, fixed focus and no flash, the results are poor. Colours are dim and little fine detail is captured. Without autofocus onboard, you can’t take proper close-ups either, although you can get a reasonable focus on objects an arm’s length away.
Control over your images is pretty limited too. There’s exposure compensation, a timer, some white balance modes – plus Beauty, Smile and Panorama shooting modes, but this is all standard stuff at this point. We’re sure the Panorama mode will come in handy as you scale your second summit of the day though, and the forests of Borneo spread out into the distance. But if you’re planning on undertaking such a trek, we’d hope you would pack a half-decent camera.
The internal memory, around 25MB is user-accessible, supplies room for at least 30 photos at 2MP resolution. No microSD card was supplied with our review unit, but you can pick up a 4GB card for just a few pounds online.
The Samsung Solid Immerse is not a smartphone, but in today’s connected world no phone can apparently be considered complete unless it offers full social networking integration. Facebook and Twitter apps make a lot of sense in this phone though, because it has 3G mobile internet built-in.
The two key social networks have their own separate apps, each giving you a basic portal into the latest online goings-on. They are very basic, but do the job. The Facebook one offers News, your Profile Photos and Friends tabs, while the Twitter applet has a standard stream, @ replies and messages tabs. Your friends’ status updates and tweets are necessarily only relayed in part in the stream view – with a 240×320 pixel display there just aren’t enough pixels to go around – but you can click on each for a full-screen view.
There’s also a simple email app, which takes the same approach. However, we were bemused by the slow speed of it all. Even with 3G to hand, refreshing feeds and downloading emails seemed to take much longer than it should. It acts as a reminder that while the Solid Immerse can do several of the key things we rely on our smartphones for – this ain’t a smartphone.
Browsing is similarly sluggish. The browser software relies on cut-down WAP sites rather than full websites, so surfing the net feels consistently, seriously compromised. For looking up the odd fact every now and then, though, it’s fine.
Setting up any connected apps is a bit of a nightmare. For each, you need to specify the connection it should use. Forget to do so and the phone will just fling out error messages, complaining that it can’t get a signal, like a baby crying out for food.
On top of 3G mobile internet, the Solid Immerse offers GPS. Within the phone’s Settings menu, you can use this to obtain your longitude, latitude and elevation (handy for hikers), and Google Maps comes pre-installed. Rather unhelpfully, it’s stashed away in the “Games and more” section.
This is the Java version of Google Maps, and it’s not a patch on the touch-operated smartphone edition. However, it works and will show you a map of your location, give you directions and display the satellite view. Once you go off-road, its usefulness will ebb away, as it doesn’t have full ordinance survey maps, just Google’s ones.
Other handy features for outdoors types include the pedometer and compass. The standard feature phone fare is included too, such as an FM radio, media player, Palringo chat app, voice recorder, calendar and alarm. A decent selection of games comes preinstalled, although most of them are trial versions.
Within the main menu sits a link to Samsung’s online apps portal, from which you can download stacks more games and ringtones, but remember these are just java titles. If you want flashy 3D graphics, you won’t find them here.
The basic interface layout is simple and clear. There’s a single home screen – which you can’t really customise, but there are four set layouts to choose from. You can either have a row of handy links here, or one of three kinds of clock and date layouts.
Behind this home screen is the main menu, which is laid-out as a 3×4 grid of icons – the same layout used in feature phones for what seems like aeons. Any additional software downloaded automatically makes its way to the Apps submenu, so this main menu never changes.
Here are the four home screen options
When you first boot up the phone, the Solid Immerse gives you three themes to choose from, although they’re all simple colour variations rather than anything more invasive. This phone’s interface is unambitious and fairly dated, but it’s easy to use and doesn’t look too bad thanks to some tasteful backgrounds.
It’s often said that making phone calls is now the least-used feature of any phone, but this doesn’t really apply to simpler devices like the Samsung Solid Immerse. We’re glad, then, that call quality is good. Voices cut through clearly, and there’s noise-cancelling technology working its magic to cut out the drone of insects as you hack your way through those Borneo jungles (or cut down traffic noise as you walk along an A-road in Slough.)
The earpiece speaker could go a bit louder, but the speakerphone driver is much more powerful. It may not make a good web browser, or social networking station, but the Solid Immerse is a handy little call-maker.
Battery life varies hugely depending on how you use the phone. Stay away from the connected features and its 1300mAh battery will last for most of a week. Constantly use the 3G and GPS and it’ll drain down in no time. Not being a smartphone, though, this isn’t really an always-on device. Emails aren’t pushed to it instantly, so it’s a bit easier to keep your 3G usage under control.
The three themes – light blue, dark blue and peachy
When all of its connected features feel compromised, it’s tough to wholeheartedly recommend the Solid Immerse over its forbear, the non-3G Solid Extreme – which sells for around £60 nowadays. It does offer more features than several of its rugged rivals, though. It has better connectivity and a bigger battery than the JCB Tradesman, while offering the same level of IP certification.
If you need its rugged credentials, the Samsung Solid Immerse is a decent choice. It costs less than a Sonim or top-end JCB, while still offering impressive strength and waterproofing. If a side-order of rugged will suffice, we’d suggest opting for a phone with better online skills paired with a tough-as-nails case.
The Samsung Solid Immerse has a rugged body that’s impressively water- and dust-proof, at a price well below some of its rivals. That it packs 3G too is a surprising extra. However, its connected capabilities aren’t up to much and the omission of a 3.5mm headphone jack seems unnecessary. As a phone for hiking or use on a building site, it’s a good-value choice. For just about anyone else, it’s the wrong choice.
Even on a bright day, the camera makes the blue sky look dull
Score in detail
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