The award-winning Land Rover Explore Outdoor Phone is durable, drop-tested, waterproof and built to withstand extreme temperatures, writes Mike Gormley.
This could just be the mobile phone that you have been looking for. It certainly is for me. In my life, and I am sure it is very much the same for the majority of readers of Joint-Forces, I need a mobile device (this term seems more appropriate to just plain phone) that is robust, waterproof and will work more or less whatever conditions I am in. Another real bonus is that the Land Rover Explore has dual sim capability.
I have been using a Land Rover Explore for some time now and it is very much a phone that stacks up to the name – and I am not comparing it to a Land Rover Evoke. This is more of a Defender or Discovery sort of device; sorry if you own an Evoke but you will understand where I am coming from, I am sure. It is good to report that this device was designed and developed by a British-based company called the Bullitt Group. Bullitt develop and market mobile devices for those that live and work in environments where a suit is something only worn for weddings and funerals.
A Smart Phone is, of course, so much more than a phone these days and we depend on ours. The Land Rover Explore is specified for those that spend most of their time in the great outdoors. It is robust; tested. It is waterproof; tested. And it can be used in the rain; tested. I have used phones in the past that are reasonably robust and waterproof but none so far that can truly be used in heavy rain. The screen on this phone is really a bit special. You can operate the phone when it is chucking it down as if it were dry. Not only this, you can also set it up for use with gloved hands, which also works well. In glove mode it is a bit too sensitive for normal day to day use as it is so sensitive, it is really too easy to make mistakes, especially with the proverbial ‘sausage fingers’ as I have.
The design of the Land Rover Explore has clear features to associate it to Land Rover, both aesthetic and practical, but this is really to give it the essence of the rough and tough world. Like Land Rover, the design is also something a bit different, in this case to your average mobile phone. Battery life is a key feature of any phone and more especially if you are likely to be out and about. Bullitt thought of that one at the early design stage and so it has an additional battery (Adventure Pack) that, in use, is magnetically held onto the back of the phone. It becomes part of the phone and is part of the package when you buy a Land Rover Explore. As well as virtually doubling the power available with its 3620 mAh, the main battery having 4000 mAh. it also has a built-in antenna to boost the GPS capability. All this may seem a bit quirky at first and perhaps begs the question why not just have a larger battery in the first place? But when you get to use this for a while it all becomes apparent.
The Adventure Pack and the Explore both have their own charge sockets and they can be charged independently. The Adventure Pack is quite a chunk so when not in use it makes the phone lighter and thinner so it fits a smaller pocket. You can have the battery on charge while the phone is in use which is really handy, especially in a vehicle situation. You could, of course, have more than one extra battery if off grid for some time. The phone will recharge from the Adventure Pack so you just need to attach it and off you go; much easier than being tethered by a cable. I use it like this a lot, even around home. I have not been in an extreme cold environment with this phone (yet) but I reckon if you are operating in Arctic conditions the Adventure Pack could be kept in a warm pocket to boost power on the main phone battery if the cold was affecting the performance.
Now a few relevant facts. Temperature range is -30° to +60°C, which is enough for most of us. It is waterproof, even in salt water, which is really handy for those who get out on the water, and I have even used mine to take underwater photos in the sea. I have also used my Explore for some coastal navigation, using the built in View Ranger which has worked well in our local estuary (the same one every Royal Marine recruit will be very familiar with) which is quite tricky to navigate. Again, the fact you can use the tough Gorilla glass screen when wet makes all this possible.
The LR Explore has two cameras – a 16 MP main, with flash if required, and an 8MP selfie. I must say I have used the main camera a lot and it is good. The centre side button works as the shutter release so no faffing with the touch-screen in tricky conditions. Once again you have no worries using it in the wet, which is great if you want to record and share your real adventures, even if a bit extreme. To handle all those photos you have 4 gigabytes of RAM and this is expandable which an SD card if need be. The SD and the dual sim are located in a slot in the side of the phone.
Above: This device comes with View Ranger which is very handy to navigate and track, whatever the weather – the application can display a lot of different, and settable, information [©MG]
There are a number of relevant applications included when you get your Land Rover Explore, particularly in the Explore Hub, and of course View Ranger which is really handy and you get a code to download UK OS maps. The supplied maps work well, both when abroad and in UK. The GPS capability is excellent on this phone to the point where if zoomed into the OS maps I can tell which part of my house I am standing. This phone uses the Android system, version 8.1.0 in case you are asking.
So, what if things go wrong? Clearly we all hope it does not go pear-shaped when we invest in a new product, but we do expect to get some support from the manufacturer or distributor if we need it. With Bullitt they are UK based, and I can vouch that you can expect to get very good support. I did get an issue with the USB charge socket, probably due to Mr Fumblethumbs here, but the problem was speedily remedied and all been fine since, so even that element has been tested on this review.
I would really miss not having this device now and during the time I did not have it, while it was off at Bullitt ‘A&E’ and I had to go back to my old phone, I really felt something was missing.
Footnote: If you are a dyed-in-the-wool Land Rover fan you might be interested to hear that Frank Elson’s latest blog has now been published on FrankElson.home.blog
[images © Mike Gormley]