Sonim XP7: A rugged phone handles everything you can throw at it

Hands up: Who thinks I’m crazy for leaving my phone outside on purpose in the rain and near freezing cold for two days? I’m guessing most every hand is going up right now. Here’s the thing: This was an actual test of a smartphone. And the Sonim XP7 passed with flying colors, firing up and getting me back online after a dreary 48 hours.

Sonim XP7 in mulch

You might not know the Sonim brand here in the U.S. The company is focused on a particular niche, creating capable phones for those who lead active lifestyles or work in challenging conditions. AT&T just started offering the Sonim XP6 last week, however, and the new GSM-based XP7 I’ve been using is available through an Indiegogo campaign that starts today. The first 500 backers also get a SIM with a $49 service credit — one month of text, data and voice — from Ultra Mobile (U.S. only).

If I had to explain what the XP7 is for someone who hasn’t seen it, I’d say it this way. This is possibly the most rugged Android smartphone out there, thanks its unique integrated case-style design. It looks like an Android phone inside of a rugged case, for example, but there is no case: It’s all armor and protection that’s part of the phone. And it’s well-protected.

Sonim XP7 back low angle

The XP7 is IP68 rated for water so it can withstand being submerged up to 6.5 feet for 30 minutes. It can work in temperatures ranging from -4° C to 131° F. It’s shock resistant and you can drop it from as much as 6.5 feet without damage. And the company says it can handle up to a metric ton of pressure. Best of all, if the phone fails due to elements, accidents, water or something else — which sounds unlikely to me after using it for a while — it has a 3-year comprehensive warranty: It breaks and you get a replacement.

There’s a bit of compromise in terms of hardware, which is likely meant to keep the cost down on the $579 Indigogo price. But it’s done in the right places.

There’s a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chip powering the Sonim XP7 with Android 4.4.4, paired with 1 GB of memory. Internal storage tops out at 16 GB and the rear camera is an 8 megapixel sensor. The phone does have NFC, GPS, 802.11 a/b/g/n/r Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE and an FM radio. The 4-inch display uses an 800 x 480-pixel display, but is glove-friendly. Oh and the speaker is super loud to my ears: 103db according to the company. That speaker pokes out like an antenna nub atop the phone where it also houses a notification LED.

Sonim XP7 underwater
Going for a swim

No, these aren’t flagship specifications but in my experience with the phone, I think it’s an acceptable tradeoff. Performance is solid for what’s inside and you’re getting the peace of mind knowing that no matter what the environment throws at you, you don’t have to baby your phone. In my testing, I had no hiccups running apps or viewing online content — things are just a bit slower than I’m used to since I gravitate towards flagship-type devices. My LTE and voice connections (with my AT&T SIM) were just as good as on recent high-end phones I’ve tested.

I like that the phone has a dedicated push to talk key: Handy say for a fleet of field workers with XP7 handsets. And the average but capable specs help bring long battery life. So too does the massive 4800 mAh battery inside the phone: I’ve easily gotten two days of runtime on a single charge, with power to spare.

Obviously, this type of design brings some bulkiness. The Sonim XP7 measures 137 mm x 72.1 mm x 20.8 mm, so it’s easily twice as thick as many phones currently available. I chalk that up to the outer case, shock absorption and large battery. It also weighs more than most, topping the scales at 290 grams.

Sonim XP7 camera close up

If those dimensions sound ludicrous and you’d rather have a thin, 7 millimeter phone, you’ve clearly got options. But you’re also not the target audience for this handset. Neither am I since I work in a home office, although I certainly appreciate the fact that you can toss the XP7 around and not worry about it.

Sonim thinks this can even be a second phone for those who want to use their elegant phone during the day but then go for a swim, surf, parachute jump, Spartan Race or whatever crazy activity you’d do and never even consider bringing that “everyday” phone.

I don’t know if that will catch on for most people, but for outdoor workers and those with very active lifestyles, I doubt you’ll find a more rugged Android phone than the Sonim XP7. Sure you can put a case on your daily driver as an option. Will you take the chance with your high-end handset though?