Sonim XP Strike Review
Direct Connect may not be a pressing issue in the cellular landscape these days, but there was once a time where you couldn’t walk onto a construction site without hearing the familiar shrill “beep beep.” Small business owners thrived on the instant communication it provided for their employees and the rugged, no frills handsets would withstand the harsh treatment of its user base. Nextel and iDEN has gone by the wayside and these days Sprint’s Direct Connect has become a niche service, but Sprint has not forgotten about these customers and have a small lineup of rugged, dependable handsets available. The newest entry to that lineup is the Sonim XP Strike, a basic bar phone that may just be the most durable phone the general market has ever seen.
Sonim has chosen the venerable candy bar form factor for the XP Strike, and with the thick, rubberized black exterior and yellow accenting this device could easily blend into Nextel’s lineup 10 years ago. Of course there are some “newer” features, like a 2” QVGA display and 2 megapixel camera with LED flash, but overall this is a very worthy design for Nextel’s glory days.
You can compare the Sonim XP Strike with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.
That 2” display isn't the brightest and unfortunately can be difficult to read in direct light, but it is covered by 1.8mm thick Gorilla glass to ensure it stands up to the roughest treatment. The speaker grills up front and around back are coated in waterproof GORETM and the external casing is hardened rubber molded to fiberglass.
The XP Strike feels very thick in your hands, which is reassuring for a phone of this nature. There is a lot of grip thanks to the different relief patterns all around. The battery door is held in place by two screws to ensure a water tight seal, and underneath the battery you’ll find an unoccupied microSD slot. The only four openings on the device are the aforementioned speaker grills and the charging and headset ports, both of which are covered by thick sturdy flaps. The charging port is a non-standard pin-style port, though a microUSB adapter is included. The keys taper up to a crest in the middle, and are well spaced (Sonim claims the spacing makes the phone easy to use with gloves on.) Besides the volume rocker on the right, there is a dedicated key on each side of the device; the left is the DC button and the right launches the camera with a short press or the LED flashlight with a long one.
The XP Strike meets military 810G specs for dust, shock, vibration and blowing rain but goes beyond that with IP86 certification for dust proofing and submersion resistance. You can dunk your XP Strike in up to 6.5 feet of water, leave it in there for half an hour and it will come out working perfectly. Sonim is so confident in the durability of the XP Strike that they offer a 3 year manufactures warranty (most devices offer one year), which even includes accidental damage coverage. That is an unprecedented warranty in the cellular world.
Sonim has a lot of faith in its rugged offering, so we had a lot of confidence putting it through the tests. We started it off slowly, dropping it from progressively higher heights, first on carpet and then onto concrete. After about a 12 foot drop the XP Strike power cycled, but kept going after it booted back up. We finally dropped it off of our roof onto the concrete below, and the XP Strike took a good bounce but kept on ticking. We let it sit in the snow for a while and again the XP Strike fought right on through. Finally, we submerged it in water at a depth of about 18”, well below the 6.5 feet the XP Strike is rated for (we didn’t happen to have a 6.5’ barrel sitting around to test with.) After 30 minutes we dumped our bucket out, dried off the Sonim XP Strike and it didn’t miss a beat.
Author’s note: We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the first time we water tested the XP Strike it failed, with water leaking into the battery compartment and singing the circuit. A few days later dew was clearly visible in the camera, and the display. Though the phone worked, when it was booted it gave us an incompatible battery error and warned us it would not charge. We believe this stemmed from improperly tightened screws on the battery door. The warning label affixed to it reminds you that they must be properly tightened, but also warns against over tightening them. We snugged them down, but apparently not enough. With our second XP Strike we were more aggressive on the tightening, so make sure to tighten them more than snug! Sadly, the supposedly watertight seals leaked. The phone kept working, but the next time we booted it up it gave us an incompatible battery error, and when we unscrewed the door sure enough there was a decent amount of water, and the circuitry looked like it was singed. As of now the phone is working, but will not charge and we have a feeling a slow death awaits it.