The Sonim XP3 Quest is the update to the Sonim XP1 that we reviewed last year. If you thought the XP1 was strong--and believe us when we say that it was--the XP3 goes a step further by being completely waterproof like the G'zOne handsets. If that isn't enough, the XP3 is certified to military specifications for salt, fog, humidity, shock, and vibration. You can use the XP3 as a hammer, store it in freezer (its operational temperature range is minus 4 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit), put it in a vice, and drop it on a concrete floor. We tried a few of these tests and the XP3 didn't get a scratch. You can check a full range of torture tests and its rugged specifications on Sonim's Web site.
Inside the phone you'll find midrange features that include a 2-megapixel camera, an FM radio, Bluetooth, and GPS with turn-by-turn directions. It also comes with a bright flashlight for use in all those extreme situations, but we're annoyed that there's no multimedia messaging. The sound quality is satisfying and the controls show improvement over the XP1. As the GSM handset is only available unlocked, it won't come cheap ($399) but that's the price you pay for the pleasure of throwing your phone against the wall when it drops your call.
You'd never confuse the XP3 with being attractive. It's big and bulky and the yellow and black color scheme isn't for the wallflower. It's available in a more muted gray and black, but even that won't win any beauty contests. But looks are no matter as brawn before beauty is the whole point. The thick plastic skin and rubber sidings protect the XP3 from blows and the large size (4.56 inches by 2.2 inches by 0.98 inch) gives it a comfortable, solid feel in the hand. It's a tight fit in a pants pocket, but that's a minor concern. The XP3 is on the heavy side at 5.9 ounces, but that's to be expected on such a durable device.
As we mentioned earlier, we subjected the Sonim to a few torture tests. We dunked it in water and called it while it was submerged; we used it to hammer a nail in a block of wood; we stepped on it; we twisted it in our hands; we rolled it down a flight of concrete stairs; and we dropped it onto a concrete floor from 14.5 feet. We even tried to hammer a nail into the display. As none of our tests left the Sonim with a scratch, we have to admit that this is one durable phone.
The display measures 1.75 inches and supports 64,000 colors (220x176 pixels). It's relatively bright and vibrant with sharp colors and graphics. The menu interface is basic and intuitive. You can adjust the backlighting time and brightness, but the small text size can't be changed. People with visual impairments should test the Sonim before buying.
Below the display are the navigation controls. Fortunately, they have a better design than on the Sonim XP1. You'll find four directional keys with a central OK button, two soft keys, and the Talk and End power controls. All keys are tactile with a firm feeling beneath the finger. The only thing missing is a dedicated Back or Clear key. The spacious keypad buttons are raised, the numbers on the keys are large, and the backlighting is bright. We had no issues dialing or texting. According to Sonim, the keys will last through 500,000 pushes.
The battery cover is secured using two screws. It's important that you fit the screws tightly if you want the phone to survive a dunking. We were looking around for a screwdriver until we found the handy tool that Sonim supplied in the unique sturdy box. It's a little annoying that the microSD card slot is behind the battery and cover--it takes a few minutes to remove the screws--but we understand that the arrangement is necessary to ensure that the XP3 is waterproof.
The Micro-USB charger port and 2.5-millimeter headset jack on the bottom of the phone are protected by a thick rubber cover. The cover doesn't lock into place, but the fit is secure. The volume buttons, camera shutter, and phone book shortcut on the XP3's spines are sturdy and comfortable. We had no trouble changing the sound level when we were on a call. On the rear of the phone you'll find the camera lens, flash/flashlight, and a speaker. The XP3 includes a headset in the headset in the box, but you'll need an adapter to use your own.