Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

Closeup of Doogee S96 GT on wooden post

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

As someone who takes my phone with me on random adventures, I’m a big fan of rugged smartphones. A name that’s synonymous with rugged smartphones is Doogee.

Well, Doogee is back again with another rugged Android smartphone, the S96 GT, a revamped S96 Pro.

Is it any good? Let’s take a look, shall we. 

Also: The 6 best rugged phones

Doogee S96 GT tech specs

  • Display: 6.22-inch Corning Gorilla Glass IPS Waterdrop display
  • Resolution: 1520×720 pixel
  • CPU: MTK Helio G95 Octa Core;2 x Cortex A76 2.1GHz + 6 x Cortex A55 2.0GHz
  • GPU: ARM Mali-G76 Up to 900MHz
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Storage: 256GB
  • Rear camera array: AI Quad camera (48MP+20MP+8MP+2MP)
  • Front camera: 32MP
  • OS: Android 12
  • Battery: 6350mAh
  • Charging: 24W (15W wireless charging)
  • SIM tray: Dual SIM + microSD
  • Satellite navigation: GPS, Galileo, Glonass, Beidou
  • Protection rating: IP68 / IP69K / MIL-STD-810H
  • Biometrics: Fingerprint reader
  • Weight: 310g
  • Dimensions: 167 x 81.4 x 15.5mm
Closeup of Doogee S96 GT on wooden post

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Externally, the S96 GT looks like many of the other ruggedized smartphones I’ve looked at over the past couple of years. It’s a huge display clad in rubber, metal, and sealed ports. 

Colorful metal and plastic are used to try to soften what would otherwise be a very utilitarian look, and for such a chunky handset, you might go as far as to call the S96 GT “stylish.”

Well, if chunky smartphones are your style, that is.

As a smartphone S96 GT is speedy, lag-free, and pleasant to use. The fast octa-core processor helps to keep things moving along nicely, and not once did I experience any lags or hiccups when it comes to performance.

Also: The Doogee S89 Pro could be the first Batman-approved phone

The cameras are OK. Not great, but not bad either. The output is fine for the likes of Facebook and Instagram, or for sharing with friends and family. There are a whole bunch of camera features to play with, ranging from Portrait, AI camera, and Night Mode, to Pro, Panorama, and Time Lapse modes.

One word of warning though. Don’t trust any of the example photos that the manufacturer uses on its website because a quick search shows these to be repurposed stock images.

I really wish smartphone makers would stop doing this.

Rear camera of Doogee S96 GT

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Same as the S96 Pro, there’s a 20-megapixel night vision camera, which uses the four built-in infrared floodlights to capture black and white nighttime images. While it’s easy to “Ooooh” and “Ahhhhh” over this, I’d much prefer a thermal camera, which would be more useful and less gimmicky.

Still, if you want to see what’s happening around you — out to about 20 meters — in the dead of night, this smartphone will give you that superpower.

Battery life is also good, with the 6350mAh unit keeping this going for well over a day of use, though I did feel that the battery life wasn’t as good as what I had with the S96 Pro.

Taking the S96 GT into the outdoors? No problems. 

Review: Doogee V20 rugged Android phone review

The IP68 rating means that it shrugs off wet and dusty environments, capable even of withstanding water immersion at a depth of 1.5m for 30 minutes, and, according to Doogee, a day immersed in concrete at a depth of 1m (not sure how you retrieve it after that).

You can even take photos and video while underwater.

It can also handle temperatures extremes ranging between 70°C (158°F) and -55°C (-67°F).

Closeup of rubber flaps on Doogee S96 on wooden post

Rubber flaps prevent dirt and water entering the smartphone.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

OK, now onto the not so good.

First, the display. A 720p display in 2022 just doesn’t cut it anymore. Yes, it’s OK on a budget phone, but on a phone costing $350, it’s a massive letdown.

Secondly, the microphone is weak, making phone calls frustrating. Add some wind or traffic noise, and it’s virtually unusable without resorting to earbuds.

Also: The 6 best Android phones

That said, how often does anyone make calls these days?

But one thing you do regularly on a smartphone is look at the display, and that 720p display really feels old now.

If you’re looking for a ruggedized, stylish Android 12 smartphone with a decent battery and camera, then the Doogee S96 GT is not a bad buy at all. Yes, there are some limitations, and I’d have preferred a thermal camera to the night vision feature, but it’s still a solid, reliable, well-made smartphone that’s capable of surviving anything the pretty much great outdoors can throw at it. 

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