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PCD Wrangler (U.S. Cellular) review: PCD Wrangler (U.S. Cellular)

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MSRP: $19.99

The Good The PCD Wrangler's rugged chassis isn't fazed by drops, water, rain, or dirt. Also, the compact clamshell phone can be had for a low $20 price of entry.

The Bad The Wrangler isn't a smartphone, and many will find its poor voice quality a big stumbling block.

The Bottom Line Don't be lured by the PCD Wrangler's rugged build or cheap price. Its weak call quality and lack of trendy smartphone features give this tough flip phone a glass jaw.

4.3 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 4
  • Performance 3

PCD crafted the IP67-certified Wrangler to withstand a litany of harsh treatment. Through sandstorms, severe temperatures, wind, water, and driving rain, this basic flip phone is made to survive. Find out if the Wrangler's features are brawny enough to handle ordinary cell phone tasks as well.

When I first laid eyes on the PCD Wrangler, I did a double take. That's because this rectangular flip phone looks like a throwback to the early Aughts. It's been ages since I've seen a handset with a clamshell design, perhaps not since the Motorola Razr and the many copycats it spawned. Flashbacks to my once-beloved LG VX6000 immediately came flooding back too. Yet while the VX6000 sported a distinctive and revolutionary (for its time) external OEL display, the Wrangler features a dim 1.2-inch external OLED screen, which displays basic information such as signal strength, time and date, and messaging alerts. The display's white background is garish and unattractive.

The Wrangler's macho name isn't the only clue to its rugged construction. The phone's chassis, with its black rubberized exterior, is crisscrossed by mean-looking ridges, tire-tread patterns, and oversize screws. Clearly this is a phone made for action. In fact, PCD claims the handset is tough enough to meet the IP67 international standard for ruggedness, enabling it to survive exposure to water, dust, and extreme temperatures.

Compliance with the IP67 global protocol also means the Wrangler is built to withstand hazardous duty at construction sites, on factory floors, or in wild weather. It can shrug off exposure to blowing dust and submersion in water up to a depth of 3 feet. Technically, IP67 doesn't specifically address extreme degrees of temperature or physical shocks. Even so, PCD makes these claims of ruggedness for the Wrangler too. To verify, I plunged the phone in both ice-cold and scalding-hot water. I then mercilessly dropped the phone down flights of stairs and onto concrete sidewalks, abuse the Wrangler took in stride.

Measuring a compact 3.8 inches high by 1.9 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep, the Wrangler's substantial exterior thankfully doesn't result in an overly bloated size. That said, the phone's 2.2-inch QVGA (240x 320-pixel resolution) main display is small by any standard. I also found the Wrangler's old-school numerical keypad a real drag to use, with flat square keys that provide little travel or tactile feedback. Indeed, the phone's entire interface, perhaps created in a time before true mobile applications, is just as painful to view as it is to operate. Four tiny icons for calendar, multimedia, messaging, and WAP browser bookmarks are clustered in the screen's center. Basic status indicators for pertinent information like battery, network, and messaging status run along the top, while time and date information sits on the screen's left. Sorry, no touch screen here. You'll need to use a tiny circular button that functions as a navigation pad. It rings the Wrangler's select button and often pulled up my choices incorrectly.

The Wrangler's basic controls and keypad are tricky to operate.

Other phone controls include software keys, and buttons for the camera, Cancel, Send, and End. Two volume keys and an Easyedge key (launches a list of preinstalled software like weather information and games) occupy the phone's left side. The right edge features tabs for activating the Wrangler's voice command and speakerphone functions.

On back is the Wrangler's low-resolution 1.3-megapixel camera, the same sharpness as a typical front-facing smartphone shooter. A stiff switch slides horizontally and locks the battery door firmly in place. The phone's two ports, for a 3.5mm headphone jack and Micro-USB, sit behind thick rubber flaps reinforced with watertight stoppers. Unfortunately that means the USB port is deeply recessed, so to charge the handset you have to use a special adapter that comes with the phone. If you lose it, you're in deep trouble.

The Wrangler's ports are protected by watertight rubber flaps.

A sliding switch mechanism seals the Wrangler's battery door, helping it stay put when dropped.

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