Samsung is a prolific producer of mobile phones. Its range extends from consumer-focused handsets through to high-powered smart phones. The company has recently produced its first rugged handset, the Samsung Solid (or more formally, the SGH-M110). It's available from O2 and Orange for free on a monthly contract.
The Samsung Solid isn't a fully rugged mobile phone. It meets the IP54 standard, which means it's designed to survive water splashes and some knocks and drops. However, it's not intended to survive immersion in water or to suffer the indignity of being driven over, trodden on or otherwise treated with extreme harshness.
With that in mind, the Solid isn't the chunkiest of mobile phones either, although its rubbery outer shell is distinctive. The mostly matte black finish lends the phone a certain industrial look and also has a practical use in that it helps with grip. This is particularly apparent when you're wearing gloves. The material used is much easier to grip than the shiny plastic or metal used for many handsets.
A key consideration for any rugged device is how the ports and connectors are protected. The Solid has only one connector, which is shared by the mains power adaptor and headset. It's proprietary, protected by a cover hinged on one side. As far as we can see, there's no protection against dust or water when the port is uncovered; even when covered, water could seep around the seal.
The only other control around the edges is a volume rocker. This is not moulded into the rubber shell but is a separate button. Again, it looks as though water could seep in.
The front is the hardest zone to protect against ingress of foreign matter. Most of the buttons on the front are protected by a single piece of soft rubber. This covers the number keys, call and end keys, and soft-menu keys. The navigation pad and its central button are separate, as are two silver keys to the far left and right of the navigation pad. The left one activates the handset's speakerphone, while the right one is a delete key and also has a second function, which we will come to shortly.
The backplate is held firmly in place by a rotating lock. There looks to be a good seal between it and the main body of the device.
During testing, which included a long weekend of use involving rain, snow, sleet and mud, the screen became slightly scratched, but not to a significant degree. Our main concern with the screen is its small size. At just 38mm (1.5 inches) across the diagonal, the screen does not offer a great deal of viewable information at once, and its 128x128-pixel resolution is low.
The screen technology is CSTN, which is not often used in mobile phones these days. Nevetheless, it proved perfectly adequate during testing as far as brightness and visibility were concerned.
Overall, the Samsung Solid is a little larger than the usual candybar mobile phone at 48 by 109 by 18mm. It's light at 95g. It comes with a stereo headset and a clasp that's fixed to the phone via a lanyard and can be used to tether the phone to a belt loop or otherwise secure it about your person.
The Samsung Solid is a relatively basic handset as far as features go. It's a dual-band GSM phone with GPRS support. Bluetooth is built in, but perhaps not surprisingly, there's no Wi-Fi.
It also lacks a flash memory card slot for expanding on the 2MB of internal memory. Space is allocated for 500 phone-book entries. Each entry can include a landline, mobile, office and fax number as well as an email address and one number designated as 'other'. You can add a text note to an entry and assign individual entries to a group; it's also possible to append an image to an entry and assign it a ringtone.
Applications include a voice recorder, WAP browser, calendar, to-do list, memo utility, clock, three alarms, calculator, unit converter, timer and stopwatch. There's an FM radio, but no music player.
camera at the back shoots stills at up to VGA resolution (640x480
pixels), which puts it a long way behind even a mid-range smart phone.
Picture quality is poor, with shutter lag making it difficult to take
photos of anything moving. It may suffice for basic image
We mentioned that the front-facing delete key has a second function. This relates to the flash, which sits next to the camera lens. Press the delete key for a second or so and the flash is turned on permanently so it can be used as a torch. Press the key again and the flash is turned off. This doesn't work when the keypad is locked. Since the keypad locks after about five seconds unless you disable the feature -- and to unlock it takes about five seconds, too -- this can be irritating.
The phone incorporates an SOS feature. If you tap the front-facing volume button three times, an SOS message is sent to a nominated person. Once this has been sent, the next call to the handset is automatically answered. This feature is clearly intended primarily for those engaged in challenging outdoor activities, but could have wider appeal.
The rubberised casing helps protect this handset against knocks and drops, although we doubt it would survive being trodden on or driven over. If nothing else, the screen may be vulnerable to shattering.
The outstanding feature of the Samsung Solid is probably its battery life. Samsung claims 8 hours of talk time and up to 400 hours on standby. During testing, we got 15 days of usage between charges and this included making a relatively small number of phone calls, sending some text messages and listening to the radio in short bursts.
The Samsung Solid has limited appeal because of its realative paucity of features compared to a smart phone. It could fit the bill for those who work in trades where dust, dirt, water and occasional drops are a perennial problem.
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday