What’s the Most Unbreakable Smartphone of 2021?

Jon Bitner
·9 min read

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Unlike old Nokia phones from the 2000s, smartphones today are shockingly fragile. Highly susceptible to all sorts of cracks and scratches, most people decide to cover their new purchase with a case before stepping foot outside the store. However, cases aren’t a foolproof solution – even with your iPhone 12 snuggly wrapped in a protective OtterBox, there’s still a chance for damage when it slips out of your hand or falls into a pool.

While they might pale in comparison to the indestructible Nokia, there are still a few smartphones on the market that are made to last. These electronics are tailor-made to withstand scratches, drops, water damage and anything else life throws at them, all without the need for a case.

Many of them are from lesser-known manufacturers – and they might lack a few bells and whistles – but these highly rated, unbreakable smartphones can take a lot of damage before finally calling it quits.

The Most Rugged Smartphones of 2021

Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR

Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR
Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR

It’s not the sleekest looking phone, but all that extra cushioning makes the Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR one of the most durable smartphones money can buy. Using both plastic and metal in its construction, the Armor 9 FLIR can withstand drops of nearly four feet, is IP69K certified – meaning it will survive high temperatures and high water pressure – and even comes with a thermal camera and endoscope support for professionals who require a versatile phone.

The Armor 9 FLIR also comes with many of the same features you’d find on a flagship from Apple or Samsung, including a scratch-resistant glass screen, a long-lasting battery and a surprisingly powerful set of cameras. It’s not the fastest phone on the block, but that’s a small price to pay for everything else packed into the Armor 9 FLIR’s sturdy frame.

Unihertz Atom XL

Unihertz Atom XL
Unihertz Atom XL

Beyond its underpowered Helio P60 CPU, there’s not much to complain about with the Unihertz Atom XL. Its exterior design is about as rugged as it gets, featuring orange accents around a chunky grey frame, and its four-inch Gorilla Glass display gives it a tiny footprint reminiscent of smartphones from another era.

Likely due to a combination of its tiny screen and massive battery, the Atom XL will last you nearly two days before needing a recharge – a huge selling point compared to other products in its price range. You’ll also find built-in FM radio receivers and even a removable antenna for use as a walkie-talkie.

Cat S42

Cat S42
Cat S42

Known for its production of manufacturing, construction, mining and other rugged industrial equipment, you might be surprised to discover Caterpillar has its own line of smartphones. And – much like its heavy machinery – its phones are built to the high standards of the construction industry.

While all Cat smartphones are nearly unbreakable, the S42 is arguably the best in its catalog. Featuring a non-slip rubberized body, water and dirt-proof ports and Corning Gorilla Glass, you’ll need to try your hardest to deal any damage to this heavyweight of a phone. Its design is a bit toned-down compared to others on this list as well – so your S42 won’t stand out too much when away from the worksite.

DOOGEE S96 Pro

DOOGEE S96 Pro
DOOGEE S96 Pro

The DOOGEE S96 Pro’s exterior design might not be everyone’s style. Its cameras are enclosed in an attention-grabbing silver orb, its profile is marked with silver accents and the rest of the body is encapsulated by a protective rubber coating. If you can look past the ostentatious design, however, there’s little the DOOGEE S96 can’t do.

An affordable price tag, night vision camera sensor, long-lasting battery, powerful cameras and a surprisingly snappy processor make the S96 Pro a serious contender in the rugged smartphone market. The Helio G90 processor is also well-suited for a bit of gaming – so you can play a few rounds of Fortnite when you’re not out camping or glued to the worksite.

BlackView BV9900

BlackView BV9900
BlackView BV9900

You’d never guess the BlackView BV9900 is one of the most durable phones on the market just by looking at it. The sleek exterior – at least by “rugged smartphone” standards – belies its unbreakable nature. IP69K certification for waterproofing and temperature resistance, Corning Gorilla glass for a tough display, a battery that will last you all day and a FLIR infrared camera are all packed inside the average-looking device.

Like most products in this category, however, the BV9900 is still lacking 5G support. Its battery is also a bit underpowered compared to others on this list, but it makes up for it with an impressive list of features. If you’re looking for a truly durable phone that doesn’t look the part, it’s hard to find a better fit than this. Plus, it is currently on sale with a $30 off coupon available.

Unbreakable Smartphones from Samsung and Apple

Make no mistake – the phones listed above are some of the most rugged, unbreakable products on the market. However, just because they can withstand scratches and cracks doesn’t make them the perfect product for you.

These smartphones from Apple and Samsung are a good balance between durability and convenience, offering all the functionality you’ve come to expect from today’s phones while still featuring a fairly life-proofed design.

Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21
Samsung Galaxy S21

It should come as no surprise, but the expensive Galaxy S21 is one of the most durable mainstream phones you can buy. It’s not going to survive repeated drops or extreme temperatures, but it does feature Corning Gorilla glass and IP68 certification for waterproofing.

Combine those specs with a popular OtterBox case, and your new phone will likely survive most accidents with the tiniest of scratches.

Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro

Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro
Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro

The Galaxy XCover Pro isn’t as popular as the S21, but it’s easily the most rugged phone in the Samsung lineup. Capable of withstanding several four-foot drops and highly water-resistant, the XCover Pro offers everything you love about the Galaxy series in a more life-proofed package.

Samsung calls the XCover Pro a “military-grade” rugged phone – although that might be overselling its abilities by just a smidge. No doubt it’s a step up from the other products in the Galaxy lineup, but it faces stiff competition from the BlackView, Armor 9 FLIR and other rugged phones in a different segment of the market. Still, if you want a mainstream phone with a bit more protection, the XCover Pro is an excellent choice.

iPhone 12

iphone 12 inbody
iphone 12 inbody
  • iPhone 12 – Sale Price: $0.00 (with eligible trade) | Regular Price: $829.99

If you’ve seen the latest iPhone 12 ads, you’ll know Apple is trying really hard to convince people its new phone is unbreakable. And – to be fair – it’s a much more durable device than anything else in the iPhone lineup. The new Ceramic Shield technology improves drop performance by 400% without resorting to bulky materials or clunky designs.

You’ll still end up with a few scratches over time, but that’s bound to happen with any phone that’s not covered in a rubberized case. Much like the Galaxy S21, however, the iPhone 12 gives you all the power of a modern smartphone with a bit of extra protection. Toss a case on and it should last you well past your next upgrade.

iPhone SE

iphone SE
iphone SE
  • iPhone SE – Sale Price: $0.00 (with eligible Unlimited plan) | Regular Price: $399.99

No doubt about it – the iPhone SE is the least durable product on this list. It features IP67 certification for water resistance along with a strong aluminum design, but that’s where the life-proofing ends. However, at less than $400, the frugal smartphone is a great choice if you want it all – performance, durability and a low price tag.

The iPhone SE doesn’t have many bells and whistles – there’s no night vision or thermal imaging to speak of – but it’s a great compromise if you don’t need something as rugged as the BlackView or Cat S42.

Tips for Finding an Unbreakable Smartphone

smartphone underwater at sea
Credit: iStock.com/Evgen_Prozhyrko

While we’d highly recommend checking out all the products on this list, there are plenty of other smartphones that offer durable designs and rugged performance. Here are a few tips to help you find a smartphone that’s built to last.

  • Check its certifications: Ingress Protection (IP) ratings are standard in the smartphone industry. When looking for an unbreakable smartphone, you’ll want something that’s at least IP67. Ratings in the 60s mean the phone is sturdy enough to prevent dust, sand and water from getting inside. The larger the number, the better the waterproofing. For example, IP68 is more likely to prevent water damage than IP67, with IP69 providing ultimate protection – although damage is still possible if exposed for an extended period of time.

  • Be mindful of its construction: Is your potential phone made from metal or plastic? Is it covered in a rubberized material? Does it offer covers for various ports, or are they exposed to the elements? Ideally, you’ll want something that offers a rubberized exterior to prevent any type of cracks or scratches – while also absorbing any damage that might come from a sudden fall.

  • Don’t be scared off by unfamiliar companies: Many of the most durable smartphones of 2021 come from manufacturers you probably haven’t heard of. BlackView, DOOGEE and Unihertz are some of the best in the business – although, they’re not exactly household names. Make sure to do your research before making a purchase, but it’s highly likely you’ll be looking at phones from obscure companies.

More to consider:

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