Samsung is releasing a rugged smartphone for the first time in three years, and this one is built with businesses in mind.
In January 2020, Samsung announced the release of a new business-optimized and ruggedized smartphone called the Galaxy XCover Pro to minimal fanfare and only the briefest of mentions in the tech news cycle. It’s understandable that the XCover Pro didn’t merit a lot of buzz when Samsung’s other 2020 Galaxy devices pack so many flagship features. The XCover Pro isn’t a flagship phone, and it’s not packed to the gills with flagship features that enhance gaming, web surfing, and other consumer uses.
What the Samsung XCover Pro does have is a design built with businesses in mind. There are a variety of applications for the IP68, MIL-STD-810G-compliant device that Samsung consumers probably won’t care about, but businesses looking for a fleet of dedicated, tough, state-of-the-art devices definitely will.
What is the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro?
In the CNET story about the XCover 4 (linked above), it seems the device was marketed to anyone who wanted a less high-end device but wanted something that could take a beating. That isn’t the case with the XCover Pro, which is described as a business-first device for companies that send workers out into the elements.
It doesn’t boast the most impressive hardware specs, but that doesn’t really matter for the XCover Pro–it isn’t designed to be a replacement to an S-series Galaxy phone. Instead, what the XCover Pro has going for it is toughness and usability in less-than-ideal conditions.
The device meets IP68 standards, meaning it’s dust-tight and can handle immersion in more than a meter of water for up to 35 minutes. It’s also MIL-STD-810G compliant, which Samsung said required it to pass tests for “21 specific environmental conditions, including temperature, dust, shock/vibration, and low pressure/high altitude.” The XCover Pro can also withstand drops of one-and-a-half meters, or around five feet.
Along with being built to take abuse, the XCover Pro also has other features ideal for business users working in adverse conditions. The screen is made of Gorilla Glass 5, and is capable of working while wet and through gloves, the 4,050 mAh battery (which Samsung said will last 14 hours) is removable, and it has two programmable buttons (one is set to push-to-talk by default) for quick access to important work apps.
Screen: 6.3″ edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass 5, FHD+ LCD, 2340×1080
Dimensions: 6.30 x 3.02 x 0.39 in, 7.69 oz
Chipset: Exynos 9611 Quad 2.3 GHz + Quad 1.7 GHz octa core
Storage: 64GB, up to 512GB micro SD card
Operating system: Android 10.0
Ruggedized features: IP68, MIL-STD-810G compliant, 1.5m drop tested
Cameras: 25MP and 8MP Ultrawide rear, 23MP front
Ports: USB 2.0 Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi (no Wi-Fi 6 support), Wi-Fi direct, GPS, LTE, NFC, EMV level 1 MPOS ready, Pogo Charging port
SIM slots: 2
Biometric security: Side-mounted fingerprint reader
Battery: 4,050 mAh replaceable (Samsung reports 14 hours of life)
Who is the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro competing against?
Because it’s a ruggedized business phone first, the Galaxy XCover Pro isn’t so much going up against Samsung’s usual competition. Instead, the Galaxy XCover Pro needs to be compared to other popular ruggedized smartphones.
TechRepublic sister site ZDNet did a writeup on rugged smartphones in late 2019, and the competition it lists is what the XCover Pro is up against.
The phones that ZDNet lists are similar in many ways to the XCover Pro, at least in terms of their ruggedized features: IP68 is the bare minimum (some are IP69 rated), drop protection from five or six feet is typical, and each seems to have a unique feature or two that makes it stand out.
SEE: Top Android security tips (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Heavy machinery manufacturer Caterpillar, for example, offers the CAT S61, which has a FLIR thermal imaging camera, as well as built-in laser measuring and air quality sensing hardware. The Blackview BV9700 PRO has a USB-C connectable night vision camera, as well as a CO2 sensor and gas monitor and the Doogee S90 has a full suite of clip-on magnetic rear panels with features like a gamepad, printer, extra battery, night vision camera, and more.
In short, each rugged phone has a feature that its manufacturer claims makes it unique (which may or may not be the case), and each one does things that the XCover Pro can do, too.
What Samsung may have going for it with the Galaxy XCover Pro is name recognition. A lot of the hardware listed in ZDNet’s article, and many rugged devices commonly found when searching the web, come from smaller manufacturers who may not be able to compete with Samsung, especially when it comes to business support.
The XCover Pro website links directly to Samsung’s Managed Mobility Services page and Samsung said that “from device configuration and customization to management, Samsung has the mobility software you need for every stage of the device lifecycle.” That’s a positive sign for businesses looking to invest in a fleet of XCover Pros, and it’s something that smaller, more speciality manufacturers may have a hard time competing with, despite gimmicks and features their phones have.
The XCover Pro also comes with Samsung’s Knox security product, which it claims is ” a defense-grade security platform built from the chip up for superior protection that’s easier to manage.”
If it’s advertising is truthful, Samsung simply has the resources to enable businesses to better manage and secure rugged devices that can be lost or stolen in the field than other manufacturers.
What are the business applications of the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro?
Samsung touts a variety of business applications for the XCover Pro on its website, and describes the XCover Pro as built for front-line workers. The five particular sectors where Samsung describes using the XCover Pro are:
- Retail: The XCover Pro is designed to accept EMV contactless chip credit cards. Many chip credit cards already in circulation have contactless capabilities, and those that are capable could check out wherever an employee has an XCover Pro.
- Public sector: Samsung describes XCover Pros paired with field service task management and collaboration software as a way to improve efficiency and communication with workers in the field.
- Transportation: The XCover Pro has barcode scanning capabilities, making it suitable for warehouse picking and packing tasks, as well as proof of delivery photographs and scans, on-site payment processing, and paperless workflow tasks like customer sign offs.
- Healthcare: The XCover Pro’s rugged design, Samsung said, makes it ideal for situations where it might slip out of a lab coat pocket, be exposed to liquids, and deal with repeated cleanings with strong disinfectant chemicals.
- Manufacturing: Samsung describes the XCover Pro’s role in manufacturing to be one of optimization because it’s able to be used in rough environments, and because of its integrations with Samsung’s other industry software tools.
Other capabilities of the XCover Pro that make it ideal for various business roles include its ability to be operated with gloves on (ideal for people working outside in cold weather), its push-to-talk capabilities for communicating when cellular service is spotty, and swappable batteries for working in remote locations when charging isn’t available.
How can businesses get the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro?
The Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro was released for sale in April 2020, and is available in the US for purchase unlocked directly from Samsung or Microsoft, or on contract from Verizon. In all three cases, the device costs $499 USD.
Bulk purchasing of XCover Pros is also available from Samsung, but there’s no discount and orders are limited to 25 devices. If you need to buy more you’ll have to contact Samsung’s business purchasing department directly.