Every time I see the frontline users chugging along those thick, heavy, oversized rugged phones, I feel there should be a way to make them sleek, and stylish like consumer phones, without compromising on the functionality. And I am delighted to say that Samsung has done exactly that with their Galaxy XCover Pro.

As a friend of mine who is a frontline worker once told me, the design philosophy of ruggedization is to primarily protect the devices, without any regard for looks or convenience. Samsung has turned that concept upside down, by making a phone that is stylish, functional as well as rugged and durable. 

So, when one of the Samsung reps mentioned the XCover Pro, I jumped to get a review unit. This is my first such test device, and I am not a frontline worker. However, I spent weeks with it, imagining and simulating typical frontline use cases and scenarios. Here are my observations and experiences. 

Ruggedized construction with stylish look

The phone looks and feels solid. It has a ruggedized polycarbonate wraparound body with Corning Gorilla Glass end-to-end display. Its shape offers a strong grip, and the narrow width makes it fit even in smaller hands. The rugged body eliminates the need for any protective case. It is interesting that its thickness is very comparable to my Samsung Galaxy S20 with a sleek protection case (S20 is on the left and XCover Pro on the right in the picture). 

XCover Pro has MIL-STD 810G certification that ensures it is reliable in extreme altitude, humidity, and other severe environmental conditions. It is also sand, dust, and dirt resistant, theoretically capable of surviving 30 minutes in 1.5 meters of water, and can withstand drops from 1.5 meters. 

I have often used this phone while in the pool or in the jacuzzi in our backyard. So, it has seen lot of water spillage and wet hand usage. I even once accidentally dropped it in the pool, but quickly picked it up and wiped it dry. The phone still works flawlessly. I have had the phone fall a few times on hardwood and tile floors without any damage. Its corners are strong enough to absorb shock, and the narrow bezel/edge that protrudes out protects the display from a face down fall. 

Being in San Diego and confined to home most of the time because of Covid-19, I was not able to test it for sand, dirt, extreme humidity, or high altitudes. Higher altitude testing would have been interesting. I have experienced phones, especially the ones with older batteries, behave erratically when taken above 10,000 ft. Last year when hiking Mt Whitney (14,500 ft), my buddy’s phone battery died on the summit, and he had to borrow my phone to take pictures!

Decent specs 

In terms of specifications, XCover Pro is comparable to the Samsung Galaxy A51. It is powered by Samsung Exynos 9611 processor, has 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a microSD slot supporting up to 512 GB. It seemed to have more than enough processing power for many of my routine productivity tasks, including mailing, messaging, browsing, watching videos etc. Obviously, it is not built for heavy use such as gaming, or intense graphics. I can’t imagine any frontline use cases needing that much processing power anyway. One thing to note though, when I watched YouTube continuously for a couple of hours, it got noticeably hot. 

The phone has a 13-megapixel front-facing camera and two rear-facing ones— a 25-megapixel main camera and 8-megapixel ultrawide. The camera performance was decent. I was impressed with its low-light performance. Here is a picture of the backside of our washing machine (taken without a flash), a typical use case for a repair tech.

The best feature of the phone that many frontline workers will love is its replaceable 4050 mAh battery. When you look at the multiple battery packs handymen and technician carry, you realize its importance. XCover Pro also has pogo charging which comes very handy when the phone is being used as a desktop handheld. It supports fast charging both through USB-C and pogo. Charging time was pretty fast using USB-C (I didn’t test pogo charging).

Impressive usability

I found the phone to be highly functional, with many nifty features. Its power button with integrated fingerprint scanner on the side is much more convenient than the ones at the bottom (with home button) on the front, or on the back. This is because your thumb is there anyway during a natural hold. The scanner worked most of the time. I would say the reliability was similar to fingerprint scanners on other phones. Power button is flushed, which prevents accidental presses, and makes putting the phone on a cradle much easier, without pinching buttons.

The phone has two programmable keys, which work without unlocking the phone, and can be assigned for any applications that users desire. Phone supports Verizon’s push-to-talk (PTT) feature (requires additional service), which can be used to group call up to 250 people. This works like a walk-talkie service, and is useful for dispatchers, crews closely working together and such. One of the programmable keys, located on the side is designed to be used for this (I did not test the PTT feature). The other key on the top can be programmed for the most used app, for example for launching the enterprise service app, or camera.

The display has an extra sensitive touch feature that Samsung calls “Glove Mode.” As the name suggests, it allows the touch screen to be used even when wearing gloves. I tried this a few times, when working in my backyard with garden gloves on. I also tested it with gloves of different materials—rubber, woolen, cotton, faux leather etc. It worked pretty well. Considering that most frontline workers wear some sort of gloves when working, this will be a big plus for them.

I found the battery life to be quite good. It gave me a full day for normal productivity use. The usability for different frontline users will vastly vary. So, it is hard to fit every users’ need. In such cases, the removable battery and fast charging come in very handy. Samsung also sells spare batteries as well. 

In closing

XCover Pro is very competitively priced at $499. In my view, the phone is a lot of value for the price, especially for the target market. It is an excellent choice for enterprises looking to provide rugged, stylish, powerful, and highly functional phones to their frontline employees. It is highly versatile and has many features that make frontline users’ life easy while improving their productivity. Kudos to Samsung in starting this new trend of sleek and stylish rugged phones, and for the sake of frontline users, I hope other phone OEMs follow their lead.

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