"Stick with what works" appears to be Samsung's theme with the Rugby II for AT&T. In both design and features the Rugby II, aka the SGH-A847, is nearly identical to Sammy's first Rugby phone. You'll find they both share the same rugged design and a strong focus on communication with support for AT&T's push-to-talk network. Fortunately, the Rugby II offers better call quality than its predecessor did and it adds the all-important voice-dialing feature. However, on the downside, with the Rugby II, Samsung still forces you to use a nonstandard headset jack. The Rugby II costs $99 with a two-year service agreement; if you don't want a contract, you'll pay $249 for the phone's full price.
If you put the Rugby II next to the Rugby, we'd wager that you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. The Rugby II has a different color scheme (silver and black versus burgundy and black) and is slightly larger, but its remaining design elements are the same. The large speaker above the external display is designed for PTT calls, the ribbed sidings give the phone a comfortable feel in the hand, and the tough plastic skin should take many blows. The Rugby II is slightly larger (4.01 inches long by 2.05 inches wide by 0.86 inch deep) than the Rugby is, but at 3.52 ounces, it's a tad lighter.
The color external display shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID. It also displays your recent call log, but we were disappointed that you can't use it a self-portrait viewfinder for the camera. Speaking of which, the lens is just below the viewfinder. You don't get a flash for night shots.
The PTT button and volume rocker sit on the left spine. Thankfully, they're easily accessible during a call. On the right spine, you'll find the speakerphone control and a Micro-USB for the charger, a USB cable, and a wired headset. Not only does that mean that you can't use a 3.5mm headset, but also you can use only one peripheral at a time. The battery cover uses a locking mechanism to keep out moisture. It's easy to remove, which is a good thing since the microSD card slot is located inconveniently behind the battery.
The 2.2-inch internal display supports 262,000 colors. That's a bit bigger then the Rugby's display so we appreciate the extra space. It's bright and vibrant with sharp graphics and readable text. You can select one of two easy-to-use menu styles and you can adjust the brightness, the backlighting time, and the dialing-font, size, type, and color.
The Rugby's navigation array is almost the same as its predecessor's is. Samsung covers the phone's square toggle in a textured material, but all of the navigation controls are flush. The OK button in the toggle's center is a Web browser shortcut in standby mode; we'd prefer that it take you to the menu instead. You'll also get two soft keys, a clear control, the Talk and End/power buttons, a shortcut for a user-programmable Favorites menu, and a shortcut for the GPS feature. Honestly, we don't find the latter very useful on a device that's not a smartphone. You can program the toggle to give one-touch access to four user-defined features.
Though they're also flat, the keypad buttons are spacious and the keys and separated from each other. We could dial and text quickly, though not by feel. The numbers on the keys are large, however, and they have a bright backlighting.
As mentioned, the Rugby II shares many of the Rubgy's features. We'll review them quickly for the uninitiated before diving into the changes. You'll find a 1,000-contact phone book with multiple fields for each entry, support for AT&T's Address Book feature, six polyphonic ringtones (a rather measly offering), text and multimedia messaging, a solid array of organizer features, instant messaging, and Web-based POP3 e-mail support for a variety of providers.