Nokia 800 Tough, hands on: A rugged and long-lasting feature phone

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The £109 (inc. VAT) Nokia 800 Tough is a rugged feature phone, with an IP68 certification for dust and water resistance. This means it's 'dust tight' and can handle submersion in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to half an hour. The phone's outer edges are surrounded by a thick, rubberised bumper to help it survive being dropped -- onto concrete from up to 1.8 metres, Nokia claims. The handset is also MIL-STD-810G compliant, which means it can cope with tough environments, including temperatures ranging between -20°C and +55°C.

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The candybar-style Nokia 800 Tough runs KaiOS on a Snapdragon 205 chipset with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage (expandable via MicroSD). It's IP68 rated and MIL-STD 810G compliant.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

There is a large loop on the bottom of the handset, which you can use to secure the phone on a lanyard. On the top edge there's a 198-lumen flashlight that's powerful enough to look into all kinds of dark crevices. Next to the torch is a cover that protects the MicroUSB charge slot and 3.5mm headset jack. A second cover at the top protects the SIM caddy.

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There's a powerful (198 lumen) flashlight on the top, alongside covers for the MicroUSB port and 3.5mm headset jack, and SIM/MicroSD card slot.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The battery will keep this handset going for up to 43 days on standby, Nokia claims, yet it's only rated at 2,100mAh. How does it manage that? Well, it runs a relatively undemanding Qualcomm Snapdragon 205 chipset, which is backed up by 512MB of RAM. And it has a dinky 2.4-inch screen with just 240-by-320 pixel resolution. It's a colour screen, but it's not touch responsive so you'll need to use menu buttons, the D-Pad and the alpha/numeric keys to do what you need to. Or you can use your voice via Google Assistant.

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The 2.4-inch display is not a touch-screen: you'll have to use the keypad, or your voice (via Google Assistant) to navigate the OS.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Typing out texts is excruciatingly slow. Nokia says the buttons are large in order to accommodate glove-wearing users, but they are closely spaced and I'm not sure that every gloved hand will zip around them at speed. Getting the D-Pad to do its directional work could be a challenge too. Work with Google Assistant whenever you can -- it's just so much easier.

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The Nokia 800 Tough runs KaiOS rather than Android, but it does give you access to some Google apps. There's Google Assistant, plus Google Maps and YouTube. Some other favourites are also here, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter. There's an email client, a web browser, a music player, an FM radio, plus calendar, clock, calculator, note taker, unit converter and a voice recorder. The phone book supports 1,000 contacts. There is also an image viewer, though you may find the rear 2MP camera something of a disappointment. 

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There are even a couple of games onboard, including a version of Snake -- the Nokia favourite from when Nokia phones were from Nokia and not licensed to HMD Global. There is an app store with a (somewhat lacklustre) selection of apps -- this isn't a handset for anyone keen on bulking out the software offering. You get 4GB of internal storage, and can add more via a MicroSD card if you don't need the second SIM slot.

The Nokia 800 Tough supports 802.11n wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS and 4G LTE.

The aspiration here -- to produce a near-indestructible phone with battery life measured in weeks rather than days --  is laudable. But the experience is severely compromised because our expectations these days far exceed what this candybar-style handset can deliver.

Field-based workers might relish the solidity, but it's a pain to use the keypad for tasks where voice isn't viable, and it's hard to see much more than just text on the screen. It's certainly not the kind of handset on which field service workers can check their work schedule, look at inventory, tick off jobs as they are completed, or get map-based directions to the next job. 

Battery life is probably the Nokia 800 Tough's saving grace, but a well-protected Android smartphone and a vehicle charger might be a better option for most field workers.

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