RugGear RG970 Android smartphone review

RugGear RG970 is waterproof to two metres, dustproof and resistant to shock.

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RugGear RG970
  • RugGear RG970
  • RugGear RG970
  • RugGear RG970
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5


  • Waterproof and dustproof credentials
  • FM radio works without handsfree
  • Rugged apps


  • Pricey
  • Dated hardware

Bottom Line

We’re inspired by the RG970’s solid construction — it can take a beating — but we’re not sure if its software and hardware are modern enough to keep it going over the years. We're not wanting for brawn, just smarts.

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Hard yakka men who are in need of a rugged smartphone will appreciate the RugGear RG970. It’s an Android tough device designed from the chassis up to withstand the kind of elements that would render everyday smartphones useless.

Two sims, high visibility jacket

At 156mm tall, 83mm wide and 16mm deep, it’s a big smartphone. The sturdy construction brings its weight to a hefty 245g. In the hand, its solid feel leaves you confident that the RG970 can withstand a beating.

The RG970 is a charming smartphone in its own right. Its yellow-and-grey cushioning is built into its chassis with proprietary screws joining it together. The 3.5mm headphone output and micro-USB charging port are sheltered by a protective flap. Even accessing the SIM tray and expandable microSD memory slot requires two flat-head screws to be removed.

As a result of this armour, RugGear claims the RG970 can be submerged in 2m of water for 30 minutes, withstand falls of 80cm on concrete, and is completely resistant to dust.

Dominating the front is a 5.3in LCD screen which has a mediocre 960x540 resolution and a density of 208 pixels-per-inch. These aren’t cutting edge specs, but we doubt that the core audience the RG970 is intended for — which is listed as miners, construction workers and truckies in its promotional material — will fuss over its ordinary screen. Rather, they will appreciate its ability to recognise gestures made by glove-wearing fingers.

Four buttons are evenly distributed on its sides: a lock screen and camera shutter key are located on its left, while volume up and down buttons are positioned on its right. Bordering the bottom of the front are the four capacitive keys used to navigate its Android operating system. These include the typical sub-menu, home, back and search keys.

The RG970 has the distinction of being a dual-SIM smartphone. It takes two full sized SIM cards and is compatible with networks up to 3G. Its incompatibility with the faster 4G networking standard is less than ideal.

Toughness built in

Another trait of value is the RG970’s never-say-die character. The construction of our beta model easily took drops, knocks and kicks in its stride, bar a few markings. Although we don’t advocate mistreating smartphones, the RG970 is one that can handle itself when the going gets tough.

A water test was less forgiving on the device. After submerging the RugGear RG970 for thirty seconds in cold water, our prototype unit emerged dazed and confused as it failed to recognise some of our touch gestures. This was only temporary and wiping it dry with a towel quickly fixed the problem.

RugGear claims the RG970 can withstand waters two metres deep for a period of 30min. If you do take the RG970 out for a dip, be sure the top flap has a snug fit and that the rear panel screws are properly tightened.

Tough apps, Jelly Bean OS

Apart from a few applications and subtle tweaks, RugGear has taken little liberty with the ageing Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean software used by the RG970. Swiping down the application drawer reveals three panes of shortcuts, and its rugged bravado is matched by a suite of adventure-savvy applications. These include an application equipped with various outdoor tools, a file manager, and most impressively, an FM radio that functions without the need to plug in headphones.

Android Jelly Bean may benefit from proven reliability and compatibility with a large number of applications, but its growing age does raise some concerns. The older software will influence the longevity of the RG970’s relevance, and it will also be less likely to benefit from ongoing software updates.

Hardware, high-res cameras

Powering the RG970 is a 1GHz dual core CPU, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of built-in storage, which can be expanded by way of a 32GB microSD memory card. The majority of the experience was seamless as the hardware capably handled the near-naked Android operating system, but there were a few times when the software would stutter.

Photos captured with the 8MP rear camera aren’t cutting edge, but they’ll do for a tough phone. Most photos have healthy colour, but when faced with an overcast day, the camera sells out detail and washes out colour. This problem is also prevalent in the 1080p videos captured by the RG970. There’s also a 2MP front facing camera that can be used for video conferencing over apps like Skype. Similarly, the front camera is simply average.

This photo was taken with the RugGear RG970
This photo was taken with the RugGear RG970
This photo was taken with the RugGear RG970
This photo was taken with the RugGear RG970

Final thought

It’s hard to tell if the RG970 is the kind of device that will keep working when others fail, and frankly that’s the expectation we have from a rugged smartphone. While other smartphones suffer from cracked screens and weakened resolve, a rugged smartphone should keep battling the elements day in and day out.

We’re inspired by the RG970’s solid construction — it can take a beating — but we’re not sure if its software and hardware are modern enough to keep it going over the years. We're not wanting for brawn, just smarts.


The RugGear RG970 has price of $839, and if you're wanting this hardened smartphone, simply call RugGear direct on 1300 4 Tough (1300 486844) or visit the company's website at

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