Samsung Rugby Smart review [Video]

Samsung Rugby Smart review [Video]
A Bentley Continental GT convertible drives over a Samsung Rugby Smart.
(Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times)

Samsung, AT&T, I’m sorry. I smashed the Samsung Rugby Smart. It’s busted, broken and unusable. In my defense, I was told I could drive over the rugged smartphone with a car and it’d come out OK.

To test out the car-versus-Rugby Smart selling point, I enlisted Times auto critic David Undercoffler to drive over the durable handset with the nicest car we could find -- a Bentley Continental GT convertible.

The Bentley came out fine, but the Rugby Smart is trashed. It won’t even turn on. And the screen is shattered. The back plate is scraped up. I didn’t see things coming out this way.

In the Rugby Smart’s defense, the Bentley Continental GT Convertible weighs more than 2 tons.


As soon as the first tire rolled over the Rugby Smart, I heard a crunching noise that struck both excitement and fear into my bones. You can see from my reaction in the review video above that I pretty much knew I had ruined your phone.

But before the Rugby Smart was put out of commission, it was a solid little handset. Not particularly fast. Not up to modern top-of-the-line smartphone standards. But a rugged bulldog of a phone nonetheless.

At $100 on a two-year contract (exclusively from AT&T), the Rugby Smart offers one of the most durable gadgets I’ve ever laid my hands on. I sunk the phone in a sink full of water for about 25 minutes and it worked like a champ as soon as I pulled it out and dried it off. Samsung says the Rugby Smart can be dunked as deep as a meter, for as long as half an hour.

I rubbed the Rugby Smart in dirt and sand and mud, and nothing fazed it. It passed all the durability tests I threw at it (except for the Bentley), including dropping it from about six feet in the air.


And, best of all, the ruggedness was packed into a compact design that felt sleeker and less obstructive than the over-sized and unattractive waterproof and shockproof cases I see adorning far more fragile iPhones from time to time.

The Rugby Smart is 0.47-inches thick and weighs 4.2 ounces. The rubberized bezel of the phone was grippy and, along with a hard plastic backplate, reinforced the overall feeling that this was a tough gadget.

Performance of the phone itself, however, was poor by today’s standards. Unless you really, truly and genuinely need a phone that can survive the natural elements, I would steer clear of the Rugby Smart.

For one thing, it’s running an older version of Google’s Android operating system -- Android 2.3 Gingerbread. As a gadget reviewer, at this point, I wouldn’t recommend buying a phone not running the latest Android Software (4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich) or a phone without a solid Ice Cream Sandwich arrival date announced. The Rugby Smart, while rugged, has neither.

The 3.7-inch touchscreen looks great, with bright colors and nice contrast, but it’s low in resolution at 480 x 800 pixels. The touchscreen was also slow to respond to my fingers and the operating system moved sluggishly, with power coming from 512-megabytes of RAM and a 1.4-gigahertz processor.

The Rugby Smart comes with just 4-gigabytes of built-in storage, which isn’t enough if you hope to load up on apps, music, games, or maybe a couple of movies. Thankfully there is a microSD card slot for added storage (microSD card sold separately).

The 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera isn’t bad for video chatting, and the 5-megapixel camera on back was pretty good, with decent but not breathtaking photos and 720p video being captured. Battery life was good. I regularly went through a day before I needed to charge back up.

With the highs and the lows taken into account, the hardware and performance felt about a generation behind what is offered on most of today’s new smartphones.


After spending a couple weeks testing out the Rugby Smart, the only reason I see to take it for the next two years of your life is if you know you’ll be abusing your phone day in and day out.

Just make sure not to drive over this phone with a Bentley. 


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