Top 3 Best Thin Rugged Phones In 2023

 

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Searching for the best thin rugged phone?

In the world of rugged smartphones, “thin” is a word you don’t often hear. These devices are typically built like tanks, sacrificing sleekness for durability. But does it always have to be a trade-off?

Only a select few contenders are rising to the challenge, aiming to strike that perfect balance between brawn and beauty. It’s a delicate dance of engineering — one that could change the game for outdoor enthusiasts and professionals alike.

As we explore these contenders, we’ll peel back the layers of marketing gloss to reveal the true mettle of these devices. 

Are they really as resilient as they claim, and do they deliver on the promise of sleekness without compromise? 

Stay tuned as we put these rugged smartphones under the microscope, where only the most durable and design-savvy will emerge at the top of the pack.

Our Top Picks

Why Should You Trust Us?

At WhollyOutdoor, we understand that trust isn’t given lightly—it’s earned. Our founder, Paul Dudley, didn’t just create another review site; he crafted a platform fueled by a genuine passion for the great outdoors and the gear that gets us through it. 

As a ham radio aficionado and a fishing enthusiast, Paul knows the value of reliable equipment in unpredictable environments. This hands-on experience is the bedrock of our ethos: to provide reviews that are not just informative, but lived and breathed in the field.

Why trust our word on the best thin rugged phones? Because we’ve been in your shoes—out there, in the thick of it, relying on our gear to hold up its end of the bargain. We test these phones where it counts: out where the trails get rocky, and the rivers run wild. 

We don’t just look at specs; we look at performance under the same skies you wander. Our commitment is to honesty and education, ensuring that when we say a phone is up to the task, it’s because we’ve seen it stand up to the test—just as you’d expect it to.

How We Choose the Best Thin Rugged Phones

Choosing the best thin rugged phones is not a walk in the park. In a market flooded with devices boasting toughness and tech prowess, separating the wheat from the chaff requires a fine-tooth comb approach. So, how do we sift through the plethora of options to handpick the phones that truly deserve your attention? It’s a meticulous process, informed by both qualitative assessments and quantitative measures.

Performance Under Pressure:
First, we consider the resilience of each phone. A rugged smartphone should be more than capable of withstanding the occasional drop, dust, and water immersion. We delve into IP ratings – specifically looking for IP68 or IP69K – to ensure they can handle a dunk underwater or a dust storm. But that’s just the starting point. We also look for MIL-STD certification, which guarantees the phone can endure temperature extremes and physical shocks. Each device on our list must pass these fundamental endurance tests.

Thinness Equals Sleekness:
The ‘thin’ aspect is next on our checklist. We measure the devices not only by their millimeters but also by their weight and how they feel in your hand. After all, a rugged phone that’s thin by numbers but feels like a brick doesn’t cut it. The phones we choose strike a balance, maintaining robustness without the bulk.

Tech Specs That Matter:
Beyond toughness, a phone must perform well in everyday scenarios. We scrutinize processors, RAM, and storage options, looking for combinations that offer smooth and speedy operation. Long-lasting battery life is a given – we want these phones to keep up with you on long hikes or during extended work hours without constant recharging.

Camera Clarity:
In a world where capturing moments on-the-go is essential, a good camera is non-negotiable. We examine the camera specs, but more importantly, we test them in various conditions. A high megapixel count is good, but real-world performance in low light, fast-moving scenes, and color accuracy is what puts a phone’s camera on our list.

Additional Features for the Adventurous Spirit:
We don’t stop at the basics. Rugged phones should have that extra oomph – something special that makes them stand out. Maybe it’s an innovative feature like a thermal camera, a built-in barometer, or exceptional audio quality for those times you’re off the beaten track but still want to blast your favorite tunes.

Price-Performance Ratio:
Lastly, we factor in the price. The value for money must be evident. It’s about finding the phones that deliver on all the above criteria without leaving your wallet in shock. We weigh the features against the cost to find the sweet spot where affordability meets functionality.

By taking this comprehensive approach, we ensure that the phones we recommend are not just fitting the mold but breaking it. They’re devices that offer you the freedom to explore, to work, to live without fretting over the safety of your phone.

3 Best Thin Rugged Smartphones Reviews

1. IIIF150 Air1 Ultra – Our Top Choice

Feature-rich, rugged, and impressively thin, IIIF150 Air1 Ultra takes our top spot for rugged slim phones. The phone has a thickness of just 9.5 mm, which is fairly impressive for rugged phones. In fact, this puts the IIIF150 Air1 Ultra in line with the thickness of regular non-rugged smartphones, which is a feat unto itself. 

The phone takes good advantage of its slim profile and pushes for good appearance and design as much as its rugged characteristics. The result is an overall sleek phone that feels good in the hands and has good looks.

The phone also shows off some interesting and unique features. Air 1 Ultra takes the “breathing” light from Air 1 Pro and ups the ante to four custom color lights. It also works as a rhythm light, which pulsates and flashes to the music being played by the phone. In the right setting, this becomes a rather fun feature. 

There are more usability options for these lights, like lighting up with calls and notifications. That way, the phone can stay completely silent while alerting the user of incoming calls with flashing lights. 

Another unique and interesting feature is the built-in infrared thermometer. It can measure the temperature of the target human or environment. While the technology itself isn’t exactly rare, it is a rare addition for smartphones, especially where thermal cameras aren’t in play. 

Unique features aside, the phone does fairly well with its conventional duties and rugged expectations. IIIF150 Air1 Ultra is certified MIL-STD-810H, which means it can operate in tough temperature conditions and is drop-resistant up to 1.5 meters. 

The phone is also rated IP68/69K. This means it is dustproof, and waterproof when submerged in water depth up to 1.5 meters for less than 30 minutes. It can also handle heavy rain or jets of water directed at the phone.

Adding to the toughness is the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display and 2*1mm magnesium titanium frame. I guess the IIIF150 Air1 Ultra can say it used the titanium frame before the iPhone 15!

The phone comes with a 5000 mAh battery with a USB-C charger to allow quick charging. Battery performance is average and lasts for almost a day after a full charge. 

The front camera here is 32 MP, which isn’t nearly as impressive as it sounds, though it isn’t bad either. Things do get interesting with the rear camera. The phone has a 60 MP main rear camera and a 20 MP night vision camera. Both these cameras are good at their job and capture clear photos.

Overall, the slim profile of the IIIF150 Air1 Ultra works well for a pleasant rugged phone experience without the added heft. It offers a good range of features at a reasonable price, making it a reliable thin rugged phone.

To sum up, what we like is the…

  • Decent 60 MP main camera
  • 20MP night vision camera
  • IR thermometer
  • Overall good feature set
  • Supports dual sim
  • Good audio and display
  • Certified MIL-STD-810H
  • Dustproof and waterproof IP68/69K.

On the downside…

  • No microSD card slot
  • Battery performance is mediocre

Our Ratings

  • Features: 9/10
  • Build Quality: 8.5/10
  • Battery: 8/10
  • Ruggedness: 8/10
  • Value for Money: 8/10
  • Overall Rating: 9/10

2. Unihertz Titan Slim – Best Premium Thin Rugged Smartphone

Unihertz Titan Slim is a nice and tough phone with great features that gets it a spot as our premium pick.

The Unique Selling Proposition of this phone comes out to be the physical QWERTY keyboard that it rocks with style. The keyboard works fantastically for those who want a tactile feel when texting or working.

The Blackberry-styled profile of the phone works pretty well, keeping the overall design familiar, yet in touch with modern requirements.

There’s more to the keyboard than just typing! Unihertz Titan Slim allows each key to be mapped to a specific shortcut. So, pressing a key can open an app, or even a specific feature inside the app.

As an example, you could map a key to open Spotify or map a key to open your favorite podcast or album inside Spotify. 

You can even use the keyboard to scroll the screen, so your fingers don’t block the display. It’s a small but thoughtful feature that plays well with the phone experience and small display size.

A 4.2-inch screen sits right above the keyboard. This is a touchscreen, so you could use it as a conventional phone without any issues. That keeps the whole process rather intuitive, giving the user the freedom to choose between the touchscreen and the keyboard at their convenience. 

When looking at the camera, the numbers seem impressive. There’s an 8MP front camera and a 48MP rear camera. However, as performance goes, the cameras are average at best. The mismatch between the expectations from the numbers and the camera performance perhaps makes it feel more of a letdown than it actually is.

On the plus side, there is a generally good mix of features, including WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, infrared port, GPS, 4100 mAh battery, USB Type C connector, Helio P70 Octa Core processor, supports dual sim, 6GB RAM, and 256GB internal memory. However, there is no room for a microSD card. 

As a slim phone, Unihertz Titan Slim is 12.75mm thin, which is good enough for an overall rugged build. While the Titan series gained fame and saw Kickstarter success for its rugged build, it isn’t waterproof and doesn’t carry military standard certifications that most rugged phones like to show off. 

The phone works with T-Mobile and Verizon but doesn’t explicitly support AT&T. 

Overall, Unihertz Titan Slim is a sleek and tough phone with likable features. Its key draw remains the physical keyboard and the phone manages to use it remarkably well. However, the average performance of the camera and the battery put a dent in the overall experience.

To sum up, what we like is the…

  • Physical keyboard
  • Programmable button and programmable keyboard keys
  • Slim profile and good weight
  • Supports dual sim
  • Decent screen quality
  • Good audio quality
  • Good connectivity options
  • 48 MP rear camera, 8MP front camera
  • Corning Gorilla glass display.

On the downside…

  • No microSD card slot
  • Runs on Android 11 (no update yet)
  • Battery performance is mediocre

Our Ratings

  • Features: 9/10
  • Build Quality: 7.5/10
  • Battery: 8/10
  • Ruggedness: 8/10
  • Value for Money: 8/10
  • Overall Rating: 8.5/10

3. Ulefone Armor X10 Pro – Best Budget Thin Rugged Phone

Rugged phones can often struggle going to the thin side, especially when they’re a budget device. Thankfully, some phones manage this challenge, like our budget choice, the Ulefone Armor X10 Pro. 

Though this is a thin phone, it also plays a little trick to appear thinner than it actually is. It tapers slightly from the back towards the edges to accentuate that slim look, especially if you look at the phone from the side. 

A look at the back establishes Armor X10 Pro as something of a stylish phone. It has that clean and chiseled look while also showing off its rugged roots. 

A black strip with a textured design runs the length of the phone’s back, starting at the camera on the top and going to the speakers at the lower back. 

These speakers are loud and have a decent sound quality. Ulefone says these are 1216 super-linear speakers with 1.6cc-equivalent large sound cavity.

The other notable feature on the phone’s back is the camera. This is a 20MP Sony dual camera that can take fairly good pictures. Ulefone has included an “underwater mode” for the camera and says that the phone can handle underwater photography. 

I’m not a big fan of underwater photography with phones, considering even a small error can brick the phone. But for those willing to risk this budget phone in the water, the allure of underwater photography could be an attraction. 

For any of that to work, the phone needs reliable waterproofing. Ulefone Armor X10 Pro is rated IP68/69K for waterproofing. That means it can withstand jets of water directed at the phone and survive being submerged in a depth of up to 1.5m (approximately 5 feet) for 30 minutes. 

Given those numbers, I don’t see much to the claims of underwater photography, but hey, it could work for some special cases!

That said, the waterproofing is decent and speaks well to the ruggedness of this phone. As does the MIL-STD-810G rating, which says that the phone can survive a small drop on concrete and work in tough environment conditions ranging from -4°F to 131°F. 

The casing of the phone goes a bit thicker around the corners for additional protection and ruggedness, and rises a bit to protect the screen. Ulefone Armor X10 Pro has a 5.45-inch display, which looks fairly good, but is not outstanding.

Other features include a 5180mAh battery, Helio P22 Octa-core processor, 4GB+64GB memory, room for an external microSD card, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

The phone works with T-Mobile and similar service providers, but doesn’t support AT&T and Verizon.

Overall, Ulefone Armor X10 Pro is a decent rugged phone for a very attractive price. It is built well, looks nice, and has a decent slim profile while maintaining its rugged credentials.

To sum up, what we like is the…

  • Attractive pricing
  • Decently slim profile
  • Certified MIL-STD-810G
  • Rated IP68/69K as dustproof and waterproof
  • Supports dual sim and SD card
  • Has a customizable button on the left
  • FM Radio can work without headset
  • Loud and clear audio.

On the downside…

  • Claims of underwater photography are overblown
  • Battery performance is mediocre

Our Ratings

  • Features: 8/10
  • Build Quality: 8/10
  • Battery: 7.5/10
  • Ruggedness: 8/10
  • Value for Money: 9/10
  • Overall Rating: 8/10

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What factors should I consider when choosing a thin rugged phone?
Look for durability ratings like IP68/IP69K for water and dust resistance, MIL-STD for shock and impact resistance, battery life suitable for your needs, a processor that can handle your typical usage, and the right camera specifications for your photography requirements.

2. How important are MIL-STD ratings when selecting a rugged phone?
MIL-STD ratings are crucial as they indicate the phone’s ability to withstand environmental stressors such as shocks, drops, temperature extremes, and vibrations. Choose a phone with the specific MIL-STD rating that aligns with your most common outdoor activities.

3. What battery size do I need in a rugged phone for all-day usage?
For all-day usage, aim for a phone with a battery capacity of at least 4000mAh, which should keep your device powered through a full day of moderate to heavy use without needing a recharge.

4. How does screen size affect the usability of a rugged phone?
Screen size can impact the readability of information and the ease of use of the touchscreen interface. Consider a size that balances good visibility and ease of handling, typically between 5 to 6 inches.

5. Should I choose a rugged phone based on its operating system?
Yes, the operating system (OS) can affect the user experience, app availability, and security features. If you are invested in a particular ecosystem (like Android or iOS), ensure the rugged phone supports the latest or recent version of the OS for the best performance and app compatibility.

6. Are camera specs on rugged phones comparable to regular smartphones?
While rugged phones have made strides in camera quality, they may not always match the high-end cameras on flagship smartphones. Prioritize phones with higher megapixel counts and additional features like night vision or underwater modes if photography is important to you.

7. How do I assess the audio quality of a rugged phone?
Check for features like high-fidelity speakers, noise cancellation, and the presence of a standard headphone jack if you prefer wired audio. Reading reviews and user experiences can also provide insight into the audio performance.

8. Can I find thin rugged phones with a modern aesthetic appeal?
Yes, many newer rugged phones are designed with aesthetics in mind, offering a more modern and sleek look while maintaining durability. Look for phones with a less bulky design and features like tapered edges or stylish backs.

9. What connectivity options should I look for in a rugged phone?
Ensure the phone supports 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC if you require contactless payments. Also, check for GPS and GLONASS capabilities for accurate navigation outdoors.

10. Is user serviceability (like replaceable batteries) common in rugged phones?
User serviceability in rugged phones varies by model. Some phones offer replaceable batteries and easy access to SIM and SD card slots, which can be advantageous for extended outdoor usage where charging may not be possible.

  • November 8, 2023
Paul Dudley
 

Paul is the owner and founder of WhollyOutdoor.com . His passion for ham radios and fishing lead him to create this site. He loves playing with his radios and doing many other outdoor activities