Back in February 2008 I reviewed the Sonim XP1, which restarted up the toughphone segment when it was launched around about the same time as the Samsung Solid. You can read the earlier review of the phone here. Just in time for Christmas, Sonim have put out review copies of the XP3 which is an evolution from their earlier phone. I’ve been able to play with it to get a sense of how this phone is different and how well it addresses the limitations of the XP1.
The XP3 positions itself as a toughphone before you get it it out of the box. The XP1 came in the same kind of cardboard container that mobile phones from Nokia or Sony Ericcson arrive in. In comparison the XP3 comes in a plastic case reminiscent of an OtterBox or Pelican case. It says power tool rather than mobile phone. It begins to make more sense when you find out that these phones will also be sold in hardware stores.
The box has a card belly band around the outside that challenges you to test its water resistance. The end of the case proclaims that the phone is built to military specifications. Inside the box is a quick start manual, a guarantee card and a registration card. The only slight foible is that the manuals are on a mini-CD. Given that many laptops have a slot rather than a proper CD tray, attempting to read this disc could involve a trip to the computer service centre to have it fished back out of the machine again.
A better alternative may be a website or a basic USB memory stick.
Moving on to the handset itself, the phone has a decent heft, with uparmouring around the edge of the phone and a rubberised back plate its look live up to the Mil Spec labelling on the back. It feels better made if a little larger than the XP1.
Here is a comparison shot I took with my Nokia N95.
A lot of work has gone into having a better rubber seal of the charging ports and a re-engineered battery hatch to the phone. It is held in by two metal screws and sits on top of a silicone casket.
The plate itself is made of metal with the rubberised backing over the top. These precautions make the phone feel much more robust. The phone features a menu system that is reminiscent of the Nokia Series 40 interface, although the Sonim still has the best alarm clock application seen on a mobile phone, this time it also comes with an Opera browser.
The phone comes ready with push-to-talk, but lacks 3G capability like its predecessor, which is becoming more of an issue as 3G networks become the norm in Europe. The lack of a camera may be an issue for some people but for others its a security benefit. The oil refinery I used to work in, didn’t allow cameras in and in a post-9/11 world mobile phones must be a major security concern for them. From a practical point of view the torch built into the top of the phone is a nice touch, not so sure about the plastic belt clip though.
As with the previous version, the call quality on this phone is first rate and text is only difficult to master because I have used Nokias for so long. This phone is a smart evolution over their first offering, however in the medium term Sonim needs to get a 3G phone into the marketplace.
You can see the full set of pictures that I took on flickr.