Samsung Rugby 3

Review: Samsung Rugby 3 -- Tough, Simple and Waterproof

2 stars
The rugged shell and walkie-talkie service make it ideal for outdoorsy types and fleet workers.

2.4-inches, 240 x 320 px, 262,000 colors
3.0 MP / 2X Zoom

500 MHz (STE PNX6809L)
256.0 MB

104 x 53 x 20 mm
133 g
1300 mAh Li-Ion
Talk Time:
9 hours
Standby Time:
20 days

Ever drop your phone in the water? Maybe you took a jump in a pool and forgot it in your pocket. Maybe you dropped in in the toilet while pulling up your pants. Maybe you knocked orange juice all over it. Regardless, phones and water just don't get along. Well... most phones.

Samsung's Rugby 3 is just that phone. It's a tough phone that stands up to the elements, not just for bumps and bruises -- but also for water. The small screen, paltry camera and basic software are awful, but it comes with walkie-talkie, off-network communications.

Compare With Similar Phones:

Apple IPhone 5C Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD Motorola Droid Razr HD
Apple IPhone 5C Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD Motorola Droid Razr HD

If you want a rough-and-tumble smartphone, skip it -- it's a bare-bones flip phone. But if you need to keep in touch with a workforce, it's a decent -- but more importantly, cheap -- device that focuses on talking in the toughest of environments.

Photo 1

The classic clamshell shape looks similar in design to older Rugby models. It's designed to be thrown around, and the squat black body is made to last. Standings 4.1-by-2.1-by-0.8-inches, it's definitely a bulky handset. But the added size opens up to fit nicely against your head as you cradle it. If you want sleek, this isn't it. It's for work. And it fulfills military standards for waterproofing, dust-proofing and shock resistance, just like its predecessor, the Rugby 2. The body isn't much to look at, but you can spill water on it and drop it without a worry. And even though it's big, it's not harder to grip than most phones, since it's thicker too.

On the front features a tiny 1.3-inch external screen that tells you basics like time and battery life. It's functional and does what you need it to. The 2.4-inch internal display, meanwhile, may withstand a dust storm, but it's not much to look at even on the clearest day. The 240-by-320 resolution is grainy at a low 167-ppi density creates an unappealing, blurry display. There's no ambient light sensor, so on sunny or dark days you'll have to adjust the brightness yourself. It's fine for basic tasks like dialing a number, but that's about it.

The keypad is wide and gives you plenty of room to dial accurately. I tried it with gloves on and didn't have a problem. I found the buttons a little stiff though. They're made of the same rigid plastic as the phone, so you'll have to press firmly to type a message. You'll need to press the navigation keys even harder. But if you're considering this phone, you're probably not a girl and that won't be a problem.

Photo 2

The 3-megapixel camera takes photos that look worse on the grainy screen than off. There's no auto-focus or flash, so photos are best in outdoor lighting with a steady hand. Otherwise images tend to blur easily, and look extremely dim if taken after 4 p.m. If you have another camera handy, you'll want it. It's an improvement over the older Rugby, which had a 2-megapixel lens, but really, it's just as bad. If you need to take a picture of a work site, it'll do the trick, but don't try to print out photos to frame. The 320-by-340 pixel video is even worse -- unless you hold the phone perfectly still, clips looks shaky and fuzzy. You'll have plenty of room to store both, since it comes with a 32-gigabyte microSD card.

The Rugby 3 uses AT&T's simple bare-bones grid menu. You can pare down the functions even further by limiting call, texting and IM. Why would you do that? I don't know. It's not great for personal use, but if you want to buy a bunch of them for employees, it's easy to make sure they don't rack up phone bills.

It's designed for on-the-job use, so you can communicate other push-to-talk devices easily. That's clear with the dedicated walkie-talkie button. You'll get exclusive features like supervisory override and talk group scanning, which used to be accessible only for two-way radio users. But while AT&T advertises its PTT as though it works on its fast 4G LTE network, in reality it works on 3G.

The 1,300 mAh battery is long-lasting, and keeps you juiced up for over a day's work. Even if you constantly use it, it'll stay powered through the day. One of the advantages of a basic phone is that there's not a lot to drain the battery. But the Rugby 3 doesn't have Wi-Fi, so if you need Internet, you'll have to jump on AT&T's 3G network. You'll also get AT&T's navigation service, for a fee, great if you work in unfamiliar terrain.

Photo 3

The Rugby 3 is for outdoor workers, or simply those in need of a rough and tough device. If you just need to make calls, the bad camera, awful display and lack of multimedia isn't a drawback, and PTT service saves you cash. How great is that? If you have an AT&T business account, the Rugby 3 is free with a PTT plan, making it an especially appealing choice to give to accident-prone workers. For such a specialized device, just go with it.

If you need a rugged device that can do more than just call, take a look at the Rugby Pro and Smart, which both pair a hard shell with Android software. Casio also offers a line of tough phones, like the Ravine 2 and the Commando -- sounds like Schwarzenegger would use it, doesn't it? And if you need an extra-long battery, Motorola makes an almost-as-tough Maxx HD, which can stay powered for days. But if you just need to talk, the Rugby 3 is a nice throwback that does the job. One good thing: you won't be heartbroken if you get it wet.

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User Reviews

I miss a good flip phone.

Rating: 2 of 5 | I miss a good flip phone. on October 01, 2013

The phone is durable and hasn't froze and restarted itself like my last Samsung flip phone.

This phone leaves me hopeful that a better flip phone will be and can be made.

The following is a list of problems that I have had with my phone.

This phone is glitchy.

During a speaker phone call the phone fails to end the call when you flip the phone to the closed position.

Too small of an internal memory so saved text messages fill up your memory preventing you from getting more texts.

You can't disable the sidecamera button which means pocket pictures are a regular occurance and they use up your memory.

It has duplicated a text message and then when you go into the message it's a different message.

Too bulky.

Today the phone changed the time to the wrong time and made me late for an appointment by 1 hour. It cost me a $4000 job.

This phone doesn't come with a standard telephone ring.

I would not reccomend this phone.

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best phone ever

Rating: 5 of 5 | joe on March 31, 2014

great feel to the phone, realy rugged, works greatfor someone who is outside a lot and just want a basic phone.

if you want to get on the Internet get a I phone.

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So Bad It Hurts

Rating: 0 of 5 | Joey Roland on January 07, 2013

This phone is one of the worst phones I've ever had the displeasure of owning. The software is horrid, and there's no indication of any fixes coming down the pipeline.

To start, the predictive text is rigid. You can't add or remove words from the library. You can have it "learn" your preferences, but you have to type it over 10 times. But after a week, it'll default back to the original setting, so you'll have to repeat this process over and over again. After a month and you'll want to throw it against a wall.

I don't have PTT service, but I can't disable the key. A quick search on Google and you'll see a lot of others have the same problem. The buttons is easy to mishit, and the only option I've seen to fix it is to pry off the button off or superglue it in place. Drastic, but effective.

The speakerphone camera also doubles as the camera key. The first time you hold it down, it'll ask you if you want to activate this feature -- do not do it. I repeat. Don't activate. I hit "yes" thinking it'd be convenient. But now I have all these photos of the inside of my pocket. And I can't deactivate it.

Lastly, the center key of the directional pad activates the browser. You can't turn that off either. Sound familiar? I don't have a data plan, so anytime the browser loads, it charges me by the kilobyte. I disabled the data transfer by setting a bad URL -- that way nothing loads. But it's a pain in the butt.

In conclusion, this phone is a hassle to own. Samsung locked everything and you can't disable any features. Avoid it at all costs.

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A Headache to Own

Rating: 1 of 5 | Anton S. on January 15, 2013

The phone is a good basic device, but a lot of issues make it a headache to own. I've had so many issues with this phone. Where do I even begin?

Nobody tells you that when you use push-to-talk, if you nobody says anything within 15 seconds, the phone shuts it off. So you have to re-activate it. It doesn't sound like much, but when you have to flip the phone open, select the caller and press the button each time it happens, it can get tedious very fast. All that wasted time adds up.

Another gripe is that you can't answer the phone without opening it. It's one of those small design flaws that can really annoy you in due time. As I mentioned earlier, you can't start a PTT call without opening the lid either. Sometimes when I close the lid, it doesn't end the call.

When you're on a call, and you want to use the speakerphone, you'll quickly come to find out the audio is just awful. You can barely use it.

The external display goes dark after a few seconds, and you can't make it last longer. Looking at the screen, I can't tell whether the phone is on or off either. It's another one of those inconveniences that add up to a lot of headache.

Lastly, if you buy a car charger and you turn off the car, the phone will stop charging. Once you start it back up, the phone won't continue where it left off unless you unplug and reconnect it. Stupid.

Someone at Samsung should have done a better job testing the usability. I would have returned it and swapped for another, but there are no comparable basic phones.

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Back to Basics

Rating: 4 of 5 | Jonas V. on January 31, 2013

I purchased the Rugby 3 because I don't need a smartphone and I didn't want to lock myself into a data plan. I use a phone to call, and earpiece volume and clarity is most important to me. This phone that extremely well. The audio is great on both sides and the loudspeaker blasts voices out loud and clear. It's really a great phone for the basics.

The inner and outer screens are easy to read. It's not going to win awards for resolution or vibrancy, but if all you need to do is read text, it does it well. The size is a bit heavier than I'd like, but it feels good in the hand.

Push-to-talk is great too, if you want to save some cash. But finding people who also have PTT-capable phones is pretty rare in this day and age.

Unfortunately, you can't disable the PTT button. I've already pushed it once or twice by accident. Also, if you want to remove the battery, you'll have to use a screwdriver. It's not that convenient if you like to carry around a second battery.

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Takes a Beating

Rating: 4 of 5 | Damien on December 25, 2012

A day after buying the Rugby, I dropped it from the roof into a puddle. I was pissed off at my stupidity, until I climbed down. Luckily it hit a branch before landing on the sidewalk, so it still worked. But most surprising is there wasn't a scratch. The phone takes a beating. And if you work outdoors like me, you need a phone that can last the dings and dents.

I wished there was Wi-Fi. And it's kind of inconvenient that you can't disable any buttons.

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Great phone, suits my needs

Rating: 5 of 5 | azurecrimsonrose on February 25, 2013

This phone works really well, other than the con that I added below. The phone does what it is designed to do. The audio quality works great and the battery lasts pretty well. I know it is a Push To Talk device, but it does not matter to me because I have never used the service. The phone has all physical buttons, which I really like better than a touch screen. The buttons themselves feel more solid when you press them and the covering for the charger and special headset adapter feels solid. I like how when I push that covering in, to close it, that I can feel it really secure. I wanted a phone that was built like a tank and that was what I got with the Rugby 3.

The only problem I have had with this device is the software. All of my contacts are stored on my SIM card and when I try to edit a contact's telephone number, if just one is listed, it will let me delete everything, up to the first number in the area code. When I attempt to delete the last number, the phone freezes, sometimes making a weird noise through the speakers, the phone screen blinks, automatically adjusting the brightness in the process, then reboots. Sometimes the phone shuts off altogether. The Push To Talk button cannot be disabled, but I just have to be careful where I put my fingers when I hold the phone.

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Very Solid and Durable

Rating: 4 of 5 | A. Benigno on January 31, 2013

I bought the phone last week and I love it. It's very durable and easy to use. And the physical buttons are large. If you're like me, you care about call quality, and conversations sound crystal clear. The ringer is loud, so I never miss calls. And the battery life is fantastic, a rarity in this day and age. If you want a no-frills phone to make calls and text, this is a great phone to get.

It's a bit on the bulky side. And the operating system isn't that intuitive. Also you have to turn a screw to get to the battery.

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hello its a phone

Rating: 5 of 5 | p1106 on June 11, 2013

The call quality is just fine and the speakerphone works great. Now if your talking to a service rep from another world and his phone stinks, its hard to understand. The screen is crystal clear and NOT blurry at all. I dont need internet, I have an HD 24" screen at home and a computer at work... Um why do I need a smartphone with a tiny screen? Some of us dont tweet and dont need mobile data. Its great with texting too. That I do plenty of. I would HIGHLY recommend this phone. Best one I've had yet

sorry... there is absolutely nothing wrong with this phone. I've dropped it a few time... guess what... NO problem. Go ahead... drop that Iphone in a puddle... oops..there goes $400. No complaints

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rugby 3

Rating: 0 of 5 | phone killer on October 15, 2014

it works! a low grade science engineer would figure it out if givin enough time. If you drop it threre is a 50/50 chance it still works

If you drop it there is a 50/50 chance it still works. on navagtion I cant turn the speaker on,I cant get the pictures out of it how do I download the the pictures to my pc?

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Terrible, terrible phone

Rating: 0 of 5 | J Tamak on June 26, 2014

Nothing good about this phone at all.

Poor sound quality, poor build quality (broke within a week of regular use; screen is bleeding, and it freezes regularly on boot-up). Looks terrible and is a pain in the neck to use for anything other than calling (e.g. texting, browsing). People will make fun of you for owning this phone. I was issued it for work, and have thought about dropping it in a lake.

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