Top critical review
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Good for outdoors use but very limited internal memory for apps
on 16 May 2013
Warning - this review and rating is based on the phones use for outdoor activities ( hiking etc ) rather than general use of the phone.
I didn't buy this to replace my daily phone - I bought it for one purpose and that's to take with me when I go hiking.
It will replace the aging SatMap 10+ which I used for a few years but its slightly bulky and the screen was dated 10 years ago and now its ancient in computer terms with its 3.5 inch screen with 240 x 320 pixel resolution.
I kept hoping SatMap would launch an updated model but this now seems very unlikely.
I looked at the Garmin alternatives but their screen and resolutions are not much better.
I'd been using my "normal" smartphone for a while but concerned about waterproofing and ruggedness. The last thing I need is to be lost up a mountain in the mist and heavy rain and for the phone to pack up due to water ingress. The SatMap is at least waterproof and pretty drop proof too ( as I have tested by accident! )
Anyway the Samsung XCover 2 with its high ( compared to the SatMap ) resolution screen and waterproofing looks ideal.
I installed the excellent ViewRanger app and various 1:50000 and 1:25000 maps of the UK.
I've only had the phone a week and not yet tested it in any rainy misty situations but I have tried in bowls of water without issue.
It seems rugged - though doesn't feel as rugged as the SatMap - though short of throwing it against a wall I can't be sure.
The only downside will be battery life. The SatMap could easily last 12 hours on 1 charge and have some juice to spare.
I very much doubt the XCover 2 will last that long while using GPS but when I get to test it for real on a long hike I'll update the review.
The other thing I've not been able to properly test is how good it is in bright sunlight. Living in the UK it may be some time before I can test that! Strangely its lacking an auto brightness option - which I find quite useful on other phones.
Of course the other advantage of the XCover vs a Garmin or SatMap GPS is its a phone! I'll still be carrying my main phone as back up and its good to have 2 GPS devices which are also phones - just in case one packs up in the middle of nowhere.
One issue that does concern me is the phone does feel slightly slippy - despite the dimpled back plate. Its hard plastic and not rubber - I'd have preferred a more grippy rubber exterior.
Another issue is it does seem fairly easy to switch the phone on. I don't know if this will happen in practice but its a concern.
Size wise its not too bad. Much smaller and lighter than a SatMap but still a little chunkier than many phones these days.
The phone interface is nice and fast - no lag or other issues. Jellybean is a joy to use compared to the old versions of Android which personally I never liked.
One big con is the lack of memory on the phone for apps. Though it says 4GB in the specs - over 3gbs is already used by the Samsumg apps which you can't remove and to be honest I never use.
Which leaves something less than a GB of memory for all your apps and I couldn't find a "Move to SD Card" option for apps as there is for my other phone. I would imagine you can get an APP to do it but not looked.
--- Update 24 May 2013 ---
I had change to do a couple of hikes with the phone to test it out.
Battery life is pretty good. I left on an 8 mile hike and it was at 99%. With the GPS permanently on and tracking my location and occasional use of the screen it was down to 83% when I got back just over 2 hours later.
I'd guess this phone will give 5 - 8 hours of use as a GPS depending on how much you look at the screen as opposed to it being in your bag.
The screen is not that bright outdoors and needs to be on maximum even on a dull summer day. It gave me no problems reading the screen.
The reason I've given the phone 3 stars rather than the original 4 stars is down to the GPS.
It starts off well - with the phone pointing at the sky it was using 18 satellites and giving an accurate location and even height.
When things went downhill was when the GPS was in an outer pocket of my waterproof coat I was wearing. Every so often I checked the track it was creating and was shocked how out it was sometimes! It did a surprisingly poor job of recording exactly where I'd been. Also when I took it out my pocket at a known place it was often a good 30m or 40m out.
My existing phone - a Motorola Razr Maxx was in comparison was spot on with tracking and also my location when I took it out my pocket.
I found accuracy improved if I put the Samsung phone in an outside mesh pocket high up on my rucksack and is very accurate if held in the hand pointing at the sky.
The surprising thing is the Motorola phone often only used 6 satellites but got a much better signal to noise ratio. The Samsung can easily pick up 15 - 18 satellites but with a poorer average signal.
As the Samsung is just a back up emergency phone for me this is not an issue. But I'd be disappointed if I had to use it instead of my Motorola Razr Maxx as my normal phone.