Hard case

While many handset producers are struggling to maintain sales growth, US manufacturer Sonim hopes to make gains in the Middle East with its niche ruggedised handsets.

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By  Administrator Published  October 24, 2008

While many handset producers are struggling to maintain sales growth, US manufacturer Sonim hopes to make gains in the Middle East with its niche ruggedised handsets.

Dust, heat and a never-ending vista of construction sites are not the reason that most people come to the UAE. But for John Burns, former CEO and adviser to Sonim, a US-based manufacturer of rugged handsets, the extreme environment of the UAE is the perfect testing ground for his mobile phones.

Sonim claims that its XP1 handset is "the toughest GSM phone in the world" and is as close to indestructible as a mobile phone has ever been.

Bloggers and mobile phone reviewers around the world have risen to the manufacturer's challenge to "torture test" the device, and so far it has been dropped off a seven storey building, attached to a firework, run over by a car, encased in concrete and even shot at with a Glock hand pistol.

As well as conforming to international engineering industry standard IP54, which means it can withstand a severe dust and water, the manufacturer has targeted an additional six areas that it thinks are essential to make a tough handset.

Sonim claims that its device will still work if dropped from a height of three meters or exposed to extreme temperatures of -20C through to 60C.

It also has a keypad that, in the words of former Burns is "easily reachable by a man with a big glove on", together with an anti-glare, scratch resistant screen and walkie-talkie style push-to-talk (PTT) capability.

As a final convincer that the XP1 is tough nut to crack, Sonim has given the handset a three year unconditional warranty.

"No other device ever in the history of the wireless industry has had a three year unconditional warranty," says Burns, who was formerly CEO of Sonim. "If you break this, period, under any circumstances for any reason within three years of when you bought it, we will replace the device."

Sonim has concentrated on making a tough, easy to use device at the expense of features. As other manufacturers race to include better MP3 players, more gigabytes and an increasing number of mega pixels in their handsets, Sonim has eschewed them.

Bob Plaschke, CEO of Sonim, explains the rationale: "If you're standing on a construction site with a welding tool in your hand, or you are sitting in a catamaran with a hard wind in your face, you really don't need a fashion accessory or a multimedia monster."

Handset expert Ben Wood, of analysts CCS Insight, says there has been a renewed interest in the ruggedised handset market since the start of the year, and he predicts the rugged category to grow "exponentially" in 2008.

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