It’s been over 10 years since I got my first smart phone. It was an HTC Hero and I treated it with the most possible care for the three years I had it. Despite this when it finally retired it had chips in the front and back, didn’t pick up touches on the screen and was generally in poor shape. Phones have gotten tougher in some ways with better Gorilla Glass, stronger builds and generally better design but when it comes to it we’re all walking around with a glass covered computer in our pocket.
On a day to day basis for most of us this might be perfectly fine but what if you’re like me and tend to be fumblefingered dropping things too regularly? Or have a love for outdoor (read wet) activities or more extreme sports? There have always been toughened phones available for a while – Caterpillar in particular makes some impressive models but they’ve always been very expensive for what they are.
Archos’s new 50 Saphir aims to fill this gap. Take a read down the usual specs and the phone appears to have everything you’d expect of a mid-range phone. A quad core processor with 2GB of Ram, 16gb of storage with either microSD or dual sim. A 5″ IPS display and a reasonable 13MP camera.
All so normal and reasonable? Yes. Then you look down the phone specs and see its got a 5000mAh battery and you see the phone and it looks like it would survive being bounced off a building. It’s as if Archos went out and found the biggest toughest looking case they could find and then integrated it into the phone. It’s actually a little deceiving because it’s only rated for drops up to a metre – although I think that that might be Archos being conservative. It’s waterproof in the old style with rubber ports that clip shut over the headphone jack and micro USB at IP68 – 1 metre for half an hour. It’s also got a wider temperature operating range than most phones from -20C° to +55C.
Back to that battery. For a bit of context the Galaxy S7 has 3000mAh battery, the iPhone 7 1960mAh and the iPhone 7 Plus has 2900 mAh battery. To make things even better for the Saphir it’s got two other battery life advantages – a lower resolution screen that needs less power and it makes good use of Google’s Doze mode that puts it to sleep when it’s still. Archos claim a two day battery life and for once I’d actually agree. I got two and a half days good usage out of a single charge and if I was a more careful it could go significantly longer.
Price: ± £ 179 Releasing in October 2016
Archos is a French multinational that started making accessories for the Commodore Amiga and mp3 players in the early 90s. They expanded into personal video players, camcorders and now produce a range of tablets, smartphones and are moving into connected IOT devices.
The Saphir physically looks like a fairly standard smartphone which someone has put inside the biggest case they could find. It gives the Saphir a distinctive look that is quite at odds with the sleek thin look that most phones try for but it’s good for the target market and is practical. The phone has water resistance to 1.5 metres and achieves this with rubber port covers that cover the headphone and microUSB ports.
Environment & People
At £180 the Saphir is slightly more expensive than most equivalently specced phones but compare it to water resistent phones and it’s a great budget option.
Product dimensions: 75.9mm x 13.9mm x 146.6 cm
Item Weight: 220g
Drop proofing: 1m
Waterproofing: IP68 water-resistant up to 1m immersion in fresh water for up to half an hour
Operating System: Android 6.0
Processor: MTK6737VWT Quad-core 1.5GHz
Sim: Dual Nano sim. Second sim can be replaced with microSD
Display: 5″ 1280 x 720 IPS Gorilla Glass 4
Camera: 13MP AF and 5MP with 1080p video encoding
Connectivity: USB 2.0
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 & 5 GHz) capable
Bluetooth: Yes 4.0
FM Radio: Yes
Battery: 5000 mAh Li-Ion. Non-removeable
Power and plug description: 9v /2.5A
Warranty: One year limited
To get the most out of a Android phone you need to have a Google account. Without this the phone is useable but you cannot access the store, update apps or do a number of other things. A sim with a data contract is a requirement if you want to use the Saphir on the go but it is possible to use it as a wifi only device.
Rugged phones are not for everyone. The padding and protection adds weight and bulk and you can forget about that sleek look so beloved about most phone users. That’s the theory. Think about it though – how many people put cases on their phones? Or if they don’t end up with broken devices? If you’ve a tendency to drop things or enjoy a active lifestyle its just sensible to do so.
The Archos 50 Saphir is a decent mid price and mid spec phone wrapped in an integrated drop case that also gives water-resistance. You’re not going to be taking the Saphir scuba diving or throwing it off buildings but it’ll stand up well to a daily active life. The huge battery and Google’s Doze give it a genuine multi-day use time and elevate it above the competition. Recommended.
The review is based on a pre-production Archos 50 Saphir kindly provided by Archos. This article was first published on 19th October 2016.