Suppose we could go back a decade and reintroduce characteristics of the smartphone that have since passed. In that case, I believe some would want to recover the removable battery and back cover, upgradeable storage and the 3.5mm headphone jack. Although it was a time of plastic and cheap-feeling back materials, upgrading a device with a fresh new battery or more storage was a pleasing experience.
Nowadays, these “older” features have been superceded by enhanced, non upgradable battery technology, cloud storage and truly wireless earbuds. However, there is still a need for these features in commercial and ruggedized devices that call for characteristics that are not really desired in consumer products.
Samsung lent me one of its newest ruggedized devices, the Galaxy XCover6 Pro, to test as a showcase for how the XCover series has gone through more than a decade of innovation to provide the most competent smartphone for tough environments. Let’s look at how Samsung has engineered one of the most rugged smartphones on the market.
Who is the XCover6 Pro for?
While the XCover6 Pro looks very appealing to consumers who enjoy a headphone jack, a removable battery and upgradeable storage, the XCover6 Pro is in fact designed to meet the needs of frontline workers.
Before I jump in and give a voice to frontline workers as an industry analyst, it is appropriate to give some background as to why I can speak for them. When I was younger, I worked on a farm and a metal shop, so I have the experience of getting my hands dirty. Moor Insights & Strategy boasts that it provides actual industry experience, and I can confidently say that manual labor is on that list.
The XCover6 Pro is engineered to meet the needs of industrial, transport, first-responder and otherenvironments where you might not want to use a consumer device without wanting to replace that device in the next couple of years. Without getting specific yet about the features that make it so rugged and versatile in these environments, let it suffice to say that it goes beyond what your typical Samsung device could handle and what it can offer to frontline workers and businesses.
Build quality and display
We can start with the built-in ruggedized phone case. The XCover6 Pro has a rubber-perforated chassis design with perforated buttons and raised edges to protect the display. It is about the same size as most flagship 6-inch-plus devices. Interestingly, the rugged chassis of the XCover6 Pro does not add any more bulk than a phone with a rugged phone case, and that is true even though it has a removable battery and backplate. I believe it has a balanced size and weight and a grippy feeling in the hand. I could wear gloves with the XCover6 Pro and not worry about it slipping out of my hand like many phones with glass back covers.
It is also MIL-STD-810H rated, IP68 dust and water-resistant and can withstand submersion in up to five feet of water for half an hour. These certifications are essential for tough environments. Thanks to its sensitive touchscreen, workers are also able to use the XCover6 Pro with gloves on in harsh wet environments.
The XCover6 Pro also has two programmable keys, one on the left-hand side and another on the top. The former is large enough and in the perfect position to be programmed as a dedicated Walkie Talkie for Microsoft Teams. The top key is programmed as the flashlight button out of the box. On the right-hand side, the home button doubles as a fingerprint scanner, much like on the Galaxy Z Fold4. All four buttons, including the volume rocker, feel durable and easy to press.
The display has a teardrop design with noticeable bezels all around. It is very bright at full brightness, which is critical for outdoor use. It also has a 120-hertz refresh rate and incorporates Samsung’s Adaptive brightness feature. I appreciate that Samsung included its variable refresh rate rather than a fixed 120-herts or 60-hertz option. If you are conscious about the battery life and don’t care about a high refresh rate, it does have the option to run at 60 hertz. Although I do not know the exact brightness of the device, I was surprised by how bright the display could get and visible it was in daylight.
The XCover6 Pro has a large 4,050 mAh battery that is removable. Although it is about 500 mAh smaller than the Galaxy S22, I believe that the phone has other battery features that more than make up for the 500-mAh difference.
The first is that if the battery undergoes strenuous conditions and stops working, it does not break the device because it is replaceable. The second is that since the battery is replaceable whenever the device dies, you can pop in a fresh battery and go about your day, which is significantly faster than waiting to recharge to full.
It also has 15-watt fast charging and two pogo pins at the bottom for connecting to a charging hub and other accessories. I had no trouble getting a full day battery and it charged relatively quickly with 15-watt fast charging. I also like that it has an LED indicator at the top of the device, which I mistakenly thought was an IR blaster at first glance. It is a subtle addition to the device, and I can imagine it is very convenient when connected to the pogo hub so you can see when the device is fully charged. Although the device has a removable backplate, it still has near field communication (NFC) capability.
Built for business
The XCover6 Pro also benefits from Samsung’s secure and versatile ecosystem. It comes with Samsung DeX device multitasking, which allows the XCover6 Pro to quickly connect to a keyboard and monitor to create a PC-like experience. Samsung DeX makes it easier for users to move from the field to the office without needing to transfer data from one device to another, because the same computer that is with you in the office is with you in the field.
Like all of Samsung’s smartphones, the XCover6 Pro comes with Samsung Knox. As discussed in an earlier article, Knox is Samsung’s security platform which offers security from the chipset level—complete with hardware root of trust—to the software level. It also benefits from Samsung Knox’s newest blockchain for IoT, called Knox Matrix. In concept, the more devices connect to the Knox Matrix platform, the more secure the ecosystem becomes.
The XCover6 Pro also comes with two high-quality rear cameras and a front-facing camera. Like the XCover Pro that is used in Walmart stores (more about that here), its camera is capable of scanning barcodes and powerful enough to handle augmented reality tasks. For example, Samsung has a built-in AR Zone app that lets you doodle using the cameras. Similar business applications could allow frontline workers to display useful information in real time in the field with the built-in Wi-Fi 6 and 5G connectivity.
Front-line workers need devices optimized for their environments and special needs. Consumer devices in cases just don’t foot the bill and are suboptimal.
The XCover6 Pro is more than capable of handling any tough working environment with quality and versatility. It is more durable and rugged than any other smartphone on the market, even with a durable case, and has the military-grade certifications to prove it.
The XCover6 Pro has unique battery capabilities, as well as the best connectivity available with Wi-Fi 6 and 5G connectivity. On top of these critical features, it has all the great features you expect from the Samsung ecosystem, including support for Samsung Knox, DeX and AR features. Samsung has been innovating in its XCover lineup for over a decade, and the XCover6 Pro now stands as the most competent smartphone for tough and difficult environments.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.