Nice rugged phone with basic functions and features.

Initial Impressions
The RugGear Mariner Plus is a rugged feature phone that is waterproof, floats, and can handle drops and shocks without fail. It is compatible with any GSM network including AT&T and T-Mobile. It also features dual SIM card support so you can use it on your next extreme international travel trip without taking out your US SIM card, or you can use both your work and personal SIM simultaneously.

Included in the box are a charger with standard USB port, a micro USB cable, a headset with microphone and earbuds, and a quick start guide.

The phone features rubberized edges, thick plastic bezel, what appears to be a hard plastic screen, and rubber sealed ports and battery bay. I find its design appealing and it definitely looks rugged.

RugGear Mariner Plus GSM Phone REVIEW

Rugged Features
While reviewing the RugGear Mariner Plus GSM phone I took it out on the water on a boating trip and threw every situation I could think of at it. This kind of device is very appealing to me as I can bring it with me and not have to worry that it will hold me back or require special treatment. It does indeed float, and it works after a dunk or even while its under water. As a test, I threw it in the water while driving the boat, and was able to easily find it floating after turning back around and going after it.

Even after several drops or missed tosses between friends, it didn’t have any trouble making a call afterwards and no sign of damage to its rubberized case.

We all end up using our smartphones as a flashlight at least occasionally, and while this phone doesn’t have a flash for its camera, it does have a front facing LED flashlight and dedicated button to activate it. I only wish it didn’t have to be unlocked by pressing a couple of buttons to enable it. While camping, I could see this being very useful.

This phone features a built in FM radio which works very well and has strong reception when you have earphones connected. This adds to this device’s usefulness as an emergency device.

RugGear Mariner Plus GSM Phone REVIEW

I will be honest, it’s been quite some time since I’ve used a feature phone or a “dumb” phone as some will call it. It is a pretty limited experience compared to even the most basic entry level smartphone. Its camera is very simple at best and by default captures on 172×220 pixel images. However you can adjust the image settings to capture up to VGA resolution images (640×480) which comes out to about a third of a megapixel. That said it takes serviceable images that you might include in an MMS or to capture maybe some basic underwater shots while in bright sun and clear water.

There is no QWERTY keyboard, only the number pad based entry methods you might remember from the pre-smartphone days. It does have a very functional “smart abc” input mode that will let you only press the number keys once for each letter and it will pretty correctly guess the word you are meaning to input. Be sure to change your input mode to this when inputting text messages if you want to take advantage of this.

Despite the manual’s insistence that it would not support more than an 8GB micro SD card, I was able to load a 32GB card without trouble. When using the simple web browser, you won’t be able to see images in web pages without an SD card installed nor can you capture many images or play MP3s without it, so I consider it a must for this device.

The built in MP3 player software is decent but basic. It was able to play my example MP3 files with no trouble either on the built in speaker, headphones, or to a paired Bluetooth speaker. Audio quality of the built in DAC is limited and I found it pretty lifeless on headphones and it distorted quite easily during bass heavy sections of music. The quality was as you would expect from Bluetooth when paired with the speaker. Volume control while using the MP3 function I learned by guessing and discovered that you had to use * and # keys.

RugGear Mariner Plus GSM Phone REVIEW

When coming from a smartphone, using the menus takes a bit of getting used to. If you’ve ever used a feature phone (like an older Nokia with a color screen), you will remember pretty quickly. The on screen display usually displays 2 functions you can do by showing them at the bottom of the screen right above 2 multi function buttons. Special shortcuts like ringer volume control and messaging are shortcut-ed to the cursor keys when on the main clock screen. The manual outlines these. A simple menu with graphic “apps” gives you convenient links to the most common functions. I had a bit of trouble pairing Bluetooth devices, but the trick is to cancel and try again if it fails to allow you to pair the first time. After learning this, I had no trouble connecting to headsets or speakers.

Call quality was just fine, and I had no issues connecting to Cricket wireless and received good signal quality.

The SIM card slots are the larger standard size (larger than micro or nano), and you might have trouble finding an adapter that lets your SIM fit in place. I recommend the ones that allow the sim card to be perfectly flush on both sides (the ones with full holes in the adapter). Your card will most likely snag before being inserted otherwise.

Final Thoughts
While I’m too entrenched in the smartphone world to use a feature phone as my daily phone anymore, I will be taking this device when I camp, boat, ski, or canoe as either an emergency phone to call 911, or with my SIM card when I need to stay connected but don’t want to risk my smartphone. In my testing, it lives up to its waterproof and shockproof labels. I would recommend this for someone who just wants a basic phone that they don’t have to worry about breaking, and outdoor enthusiast who wants a good backup, or for someone looking for a little piece of mind in case of an emergency.

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