At GearLimits we are very active in the great outdoors. Forests, heath, beach, mountains, water, through wind and weather. And if you are active with sports, or working (in our case filming), you quickly run into the limitation of regular smartphones. Whether it’s tracking a day on the snowboard, or flying with a drone, finding a GPS signal in the mountains, we have so often encountered the limitations of regular telephones. For example an iPhone battery that can not stand the cold, drains very quickly or just dies on the spot. Having to take off your gloves to cold Alpine winds to be able to operate it, or drop the phone and smash…. Pretty difficult sometimes.
We are very dependent on our smartphones,and they are amazing pieces of gear that can improve your time in the mountains, as long as they can be trusted to not let you down. Especially if you’re flying a drone at 3000 meters altitude. It still reminds me that we had a drone at the foot of Mont Blanc when the iPhone controlling the drone failed. Hayco then flew through “blind”, made brilliant recordings that we used in a production for Berghaus, and brought back the drone safely. But it was not very pleasant.
So we were interested when we heard about the Landrover Explorer Outdoor phone. It is a smartphone with a 5 inch full HD screen protected by Gorilla Glass 5. The heart of the phone is the 2.6 GHz deca-core processor from MediaTek. It has 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of internal storage capacity.
With the back facing 16-megapixel camera you can snap away and an 8-megapixel front camera for the much-needed selfies. These are the most important specs.
In a conversation at the ISPO Outdoor exhibition in Munich with a representative of the Bullitt Group, the company behind the development, we covered some other interesting features. He addressed some of those outdoor related important points:
- Battery life
- Resistance to cold (up to -30 claims Bullit)
- GPS / GLONASS tracking
- Impact resistance
- Water resistance
- Operating the phone with gloves on: until now I have only used the phone during mountain biking back home and in the Alps, hiking, filming with the drone in rainy England and canoeing in the Netherlands. So I can’t make a complete review yet, but I can share a first impression of the Land Rover Explore Outdoor phone.
A Phone like a Land Rover
To begin with at Land Rover; why Land Rover? Methinks ’tis mainly a licensing . marketing consideration, to give the phone a little bit of cachet and use the strength of the Land Rover brand to put the phone on the market. Land Rover did participate in the development, and primarily the design of the phone, and you can notice there are design elements on the phone that remind you of a Land Rover, the “grill” of the speakers on the front of the phone, the camera that echo’s a Land Rover headlight and on the back lines that are reminiscent of the roof of a Land Rover.
And maybe also the “bulkiness”. Because it is a sturdy, heavy telephone. Especially if you attach the extra battery pack or “Adventure pack” to the rear, it is a pretty clumsy thing that weighs 422 grams. That will not fit very easily in your pocket.
When the Adventure pack is attached, the phone fits in the rubber cover to which a carabiner is attached. With this, you can easily hang the phone on your backpack, your belt or wherever you want and is comfortable.
Without the Adventure Pack, the phone is slightly larger than an iPhone and fits perfectly in your daily use (and pocket). The phone feels solid and is quite a cool thing.
What does it Deliver?
So now let’s look at those features we mentioned as see how they deliver on their promises:
- Battery life: The promise of the phone is that it can easily run a day in cold conditions with intensive use: “GPS running and screen constantly on”. The 4000Mha capacity of the internal battery is almost doubled by the 3620 of the adventure pack. Me experience with the battery life has been inconsistent. My first impression is that with regular use you do not have to charge the phone for days. Recently I used the phone much more intensively all day, with a lot of online work while traveling. The battery did not seem to perform much better than a regular phone. Added to the fact that I actually can not see the battery status of the Adventure pack, I find it difficult to estimate whether this promise is really fulfilled. Soon, on summer vacation I will create good conditions to be able to say more about this.
- Against the cold (up to -30 claims Bullit): We have not yet been able to test it.
- Very good GPS / GLONASS tracking: the first experience is very positive. In Montafon we followed the Montafon Arlberg Marathon on an e-MTB for a film project and GPS was very accurate. This is partly because the Adventure pack also includes an extra “ceramic patch GPS” that can also be found in dedicated GPS devices.
- Tracking and mapping: with the perfect GPS reception, Strava is at least very good. The View Ranger app that is pre-installed on the phone (it’s a regular smartphone app) I still have to get used to. The User interface is less simple and smooth than many other GPS tracking apps. But you can find and download many routes via the app, and you can follow these routes, or track your own new routed via the app. With the purchase of the phone you also get a voucher for the premium edition of the app with which you have a lot of detailed maps at your disposal or against credits that come with the voucher, can be purchased in the card shop. I notice that the Map downloads very often do not work because the phone indicates “Internet Communication” failure, even on steady home wifi. So that is annoying.
- Impact-resistant: I attached the phone to my backpack during our Montafon production and bounced around a lot against the bike and rocks. Not a scratch. Also, I carefully dropped the phone a few times and it did not budge at all.
- Water resistant: during filming in England it rained profusely. I used the phone to fly our drone and the rain fell directly on the screen. Because of that the screen was slightly more difficult to operate (but less than with regular phones) but otherwise the Explore did not suffer from the rain. The phone also received some splash action during canoeing in the Netherlands. No problems either.
- Easy to operate with gloves on? Yes, even without conductive fingertips. You have to press a little harder but it works well.
So the first impression is for the most part positive. The ViewRanger app still has its challenges for me, the battery life I have to really see in action. I am not very impressed by the quality of the camera, and as an Apple user of many years, I really have to get used to Android as an operating system. But that the phone is really much better for outdoor than regular phones is certainly true. Incidentally, the price of € 650 euros is not very low, but then you do get the Adventure Pack for free and the code for a premium account on the View Ranger app.