The tactic of mobile manufacturers has generally been to attract customers with more advanced or stylish phones than the one they already own; with the Solid Extreme Samsung ignores both selling points and pushes the durability factor instead.
Neither end of the mobile market today can be identified by the sturdiness of its handsets. At the low end phones are flimsy and disposable while at the high end they are delicate pieces of cutting-edge technology.
While nothing like the first of its kind, the Samsung Solid Extreme aims to offer users a phone that can take a hammering, although perhaps not literally, and still work like new. At the heart of its sales pitch is its dust and water resistance, its ability to survive a 10m drop unscathed and its willingness to endure water submersion, albeit briefly.
On top of this the phone has a rubber body and built-in torch just in case, while on the slightly more ‘luxurious’ side it also packs a 1.3 megapixel camera, an mp3 player and an FM radio.
The latter hardly sound like features to write home about but when you see the phone in action, particularly its low-resolution screen, you find your mind drifting back to a time when such features would be considered blindingly advanced.
Not happy with its tolerance for dust and water, Samsung also claims the device is designed to work well in areas with high noise levels and there is no question that the ear piece can be turned up to painfully high levels if required. However the phone’s alert melody volume is drastically more muted, making it easy to miss a call even when the device is as close as your trouser pocket.
This is not Samsung’s first foray into the durable phone market – indeed the Solid Extreme is a follow-on from a similar device marketed by the company last year. Likewise this is a feature set that has been sold by other brands too, including JCB and Nokia.
The re-occouring theme amongst these devices has been their low-spec feature set and their less than flattering looks, which are to be expected when so much space is required to keep everything dust and water-tight.
Arguably the reason why durability is so absent from most phones on the market today is because it does not matter to most users, except in the aftermath of those accidental drops and spills at which point the damage is done anyway. At the very least it is true that most people prefer to take their chances with style or good features and do not see the necessary trade-off as worthwhile.
As Samsung and others in this space know all too well, this is a niche product for builders and part-time adventurers and even then it is likely to be a second phone for them, pushed aside for something more feature-laden once in the comfort of their own homes. The fact that it costs relatively little will make this all the more probable.
The Solid Extreme does do what it promises and even some of its more mainstream features, like the camera, are good enough to be worth having. Because of its looks and its restricted functionality, however, the most likely fate of this device is that people buy it and save it for a rainy day. A very rainy day.
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