Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:56:37 PM
A massive battery life with up to 18 hours? talktime.
Sonim claims the phone is waterproof, but this didn?t prove to be the case with our review sample.
CLICK HERE to watch a video of us testing how tough the Land Rover S1 really is, including driving over it with a fire engine.
We love a tough-phone. If truth be told, it’s our favourite type of phone to review. Perhaps it’s all that pent up aggression inside us, but we take great pleasure in actively trying to destroy a handset, especially when we’re encouraged by the manufacturer to do so. Having previously teamed up with JCB for its first rendition, tough-phone specialist Sonim has recruited another heavyweight to give its latest creation some extra oomph. Behold the Land Rover S1; a phone that Sonim claims is its toughest yet.
However, before we take this claim to task, let’s focus on the Land Rover S1’s brains rather than brawn. Feature-wise and this is the most equipped Sonim handset to date. Not only does it pack a two-megapixel camera (OK, so it’s no photography whizz), a built-in torch, the excellent Opera Mini internet browser, FM radio and the ability to store 2GB memory cards, but it also houses a built-in GPS receiver – something we were asking for in previous Sonim handsets. For a phone that is purposefully built for outdoor use, the inclusion of built-in GPS makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, it’s just the receiver that the phone is fitted with, and therefore to enjoy a full navigational experience you will need to purchase an additional mapping solution.While the two-megapixel camera doesn’t feel much more than a token gesture, it’s a worthwhile addition, particularly as the phone is built for the outdoors – you should be able to at least capture a vague outline of the mountain-view at the end of your bike ride. Sonim has included a flash – it doubles up as the phone’s flashlight – which is impressively bright. Unfortunately, this can lead to a rather startled look in someone’s eyes when taking a picture of them. Another camera issue that the manufacturer doesn’t seem to have fully thought through is that once you have taken a snap, it asks you if you want to save the photo before you have viewed it. It makes the delete option fairly redundant, at least until you have seen the pic.Anyway, onto the phone’s muscle. As mentioned, Sonim claims that the Land Rover S1 phone is its toughest model yet. A bold statement, especially considering its previous model (the Sonim XP3 Enduro) survived us driving a double decker bus over it – well, you could at least make and receive calls even if the screen was cracked beyond recognition. In terms of look and feel, the Land Rover S1 is a near carbon copy of the XP3, with some additional branding and the option of a black or rusty colouring. Encasing the phone is a rubber shell that presumably takes the force of any impact you inflict on the phone.
Our first test was to pop the Land Rover S1 into our freezer for a good hour to see if the claim that it can survive temperatures of up to -20°C proved true. We’re told a freezer should be at around -18°C, so we were confident that it would. Indeed, our faith was rewarded when we took out a somewhat icy handset that, after wiping away some residue from the screen, worked as good as before its icy encounter.
From one extreme to another, we cranked up our oven to around 55°C (Sonim’s temperature claim when it comes to heat) before sliding the phone in on a baking tray. Another hour passed before we put on our fetching oven gloves and removed the warm S1. Despite the handset being too hot to hold with our bare hands, the bodywork remained solid with no signs of melting. After both making and receiving a call we once again recorded this test as a success.
A degree of waterproofness would be a welcome addition to any handset, with liquid spillages responsible for a large number of mobile phone ‘deaths’. Sonim lays claim that the Land Rover S1 can withstand depths of up to one metre for a period of 30 minutes. Not quite a metre, we filled a tall vase up with tap water before dropping the handset in for the allotted time frame. Sonim stresses that if you’re likely to encounter water damage, you should tighten the screws on the back of the handset; two of which secure the battery cover and the other the charger and headphone ports. Now, before we reveal the result of this test, let us move onto our final and most dramatic test, which took place the following day.
We thought long and hard about how to outdo a London double decker bus, before coming up with the idea of driving over it with a fire engine. Thankfully for us, the fire station we approached was only too happy to accommodate our bizarre request. So after carefully positioning the handset in front of the vehicle, the phone was driven over by both the front and back wheel.Now, here came our disappointment and the reason why we didn’t immediately reveal the water test results. Inspecting the phone after the fire engine episode, we were impressed to find the phone with not much more than a few scuffs. On closer examination, the back camera was cracked and on the internal screen there were a few vague scratches. However, the phone turned on with the display still fully distinguishable.Then came the next day and the aforementioned disappointment. The display had begun to show signs of condensation, which gradually got worse throughout the day. What was even more concerning was that after initially switching on, the phone died and no longer fired up. Now, without conducting a full technical investigation it’s hard to decipher what ultimately killed the phone; the water test or the 10 ton fire engine driving over it. However, due to the condensation behind the screen and the fact that the phone worked immediately after being driven over, we’re pretty sure it was the water test that proved the deciding factor. This left us somewhat disheartened, particularly as we did not even test the phone to its boundaries (i.e. a depth of one metre).
There’s no denying that Sonim remains The Daddy of tough-phones. The fact that the phone’s body survived being driven over by a fire engine supports this. However, we’re not so sure about Sonim’s claim that the phone is waterproof after this test seemingly broke the phone. The manufacturer of course needs to be applauded for providing an ‘unconditional’ three year warranty, so if you’re phone suffered a similar demise you should be able to get a replacement free of charge. But if such a fate turns out to be a common occurrence, this process could ultimately get a tad laborious.