Grab your Gore-Tex and hike up your hiking socks, because we're going where few gadget lovers have gone before: outdoors. The Samsung B2700 Bound is a rugged phone that invites us to take it cycling, rock climbing and trekking in the wild, and has some fun features like an LED torch to help out around camp. But high-end features such as GPS are nowhere to be found, so you won't be too troubled if this candybar phone gets eaten by a bear.
You can pick up the B2700 on 3 from free on a £15-per-month contract, or SIM-free from eXpansys for £182.
The B2700 is 'IP54 certified', which means that it's fairly well-protected against dust, and some splashes of water won't cause it to give up the ghost. It's by no means indestructible, but it's a huge contrast to the prima-donna fancy-pants phones out there, such as the iPhone, which apparently can fail if you hold it in a sweaty hand. This could really come in handy if you're hitting the trails on a wet day, but don't try strapping the phone to the outside of your kayak and doing Eskimo rolls.
To get that damp, dust-free rating, the B2700 has a plastic cover over a socket shared by the USB cable and headphones, and you'll need a coin to pry open the back cover. The whole handset is also covered in a rubbery case that should be able to take some tumbles, although Samsung makes no promises about how many hits it can survive.
The B2700 also has a rubbery keypad that will keep out the dirt, but the buttons are harder to press than a keyboard with independent, separated keys. We found we had to press the keys quite hard to make our intentions known, and you certainly wouldn't be able to type a text with your ski gloves on.
The B2700 has a couple of special features to tempt the nature boy or girl, including a built-in compass with an altimeter. It feels rather basic when compared to the mapping features on a phone such as the HTC Magic, however, which has a compass that works in tandem with Google Maps. Since Google Maps is Web-based, it's not much use outside of network coverage areas, but we would have loved to have seen a sat-nav feature with downloadable maps on this phone.
There is a pedometer built-in, but we didn't find it very accurate. Maybe it's our gazelle-like grace, but it didn't count half of our steps, leaving us without proof of our incredible stamina.
The final treat for the roaming phoner is the B2700's LED torch, which turns on and off with a dedicated button on the side. It's only got one LED, but that little lamp really pumps out the lumens. We thought it would be a great backup when we're stumbling home to the tent after a session of feeding the trees. There's even a sturdy spot to attach a lanyard, so you won't drop it on the way.
Just the basics
The B2700's user interface is simple and in combination with its relatively small, low-resolution 48mm (1.9-inch) screen, it has a mid-90s retro feel. But it's straightforward to use and would suit a mountain man or woman who doesn't feel the need for any bells and whistles.
There's a 2-megapixel camera nestled in the rubber at the back, but the quality is only good enough for the occasional snapshot. And you won't be capturing fleet-footed creatures in the wild with your shots, because there was over two seconds of shutter lag between the moment we pressed the button and the moment that that photo was taken. You could try catching your furry friend's escape on video instead: although the quality is quite low, that's a bonus for Bigfoot videos.
For those long nights around the campfire, you can sing along with the FM radio or the music player, which supports MP3, AAC, AAC+ or WMA. Again, everything is kept simple and there are no surprises in these basic features.
The really crappy thing about communing with nature is that there's nowhere to charge your phone. Happily, the B2700 has a talk time of up to 640 minutes and will standby for up to 480 hours, assuming you don't keep its torch on all the time. That's almost four times longer than the glamour-puss of the Samsung stable, the Tocco Ultra, which has 240 minutes of talk time -- and probably much less if you're surfing the Web a good deal.
The Samsung B2700 Bound is a rugged phone, but for once, it's not targeted at men in hardhats clutching rolled up blueprints. This one is for the outdoor types, and it's certainly up for a walk in the country. Its torch, compass, altimeter and pedometer are fun features, and it covers all the bases with an average camera, video, music player and FM radio.
But without GPS or a mapping application, it misses a trick as a great activity phone. Nevertheless, its dirt and water resistance mean that it could be a handy backup phone for the times when a fancy smart phone would crumble under the pressure.
Edited by Jason Jenkins