Initial Thoughts & Unboxing
Who the Explore is for…
The Explore Outdoor Phone was developed by UK based tech firm Bullitt – makers of the Caterpillar rugged phones – in conjunction with Land Rover to fulfil the need for a life-proof smart phone which can cope with the dual needs of urban and adventure use. While the Cat phones are designed with construction and engineering uses in mind, the Land Rover Explore phone is intended for people who want all the features of the latest smart phone but with the added bonus of adventure compatible function.
The primary advantages the Explore holds over its standard smart phone rivals is its massive 4 000mAh battery and solid shell which helps provide IP68* dust and water resistance. The solid shell also means the phone can cope with being dropped from 1.8 meters and will still maintain its IP68 rating. It was also designed to handle extremes of temperature, from -30°C to 65°C and ships with an external battery pack which clips magnetically to the back of the phone. The external battery pack, or Adventure Pack as it has been named, provides an additional 3 600mAH of battery life and also includes a Ceramic Patch GPS antenna to improve the accuracy of the phone’s GPS tracking.
Specification wise it features 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, which can be expanded with a microSD card. It weighs in at a fairly hefty 232g, is 152 x 75.3 x 14mm in size, has a 5 inch (1920 x 1080px) screen and runs on the Android Nougat operating system. On the camera front it boasts an 18MP main camera and an 8MP selfie one too.
It comes pre-loaded with a limited number of applications – mostly with outdoor uses – the primary of these are the Land Rover Explore Hub, the Dashboard and ViewRanger. The Explore Hub provides Land Rover content curated. The Dashboard, provides relevant data from the Explore’s sensors like the compass, altitude GPS and weather forecasts from World Weather Online. The data which is displayed on the Dashboard can be personalised for a variety of activities on the device. ViewRanger is arguably the best of the phone’s pre-loaded apps and is effectively Google Maps on steroids, complete with topographical data and access to user generated routes for hikes, trail runs and rides.
Real World Use
All of these features are great but how does the Explore cope in the real world? I took the phone on a number of rides, took photos and tracked on Strava, and then used it while covering the Trans Baviaans Repeat on social media (view the Insta story here) – while riding. What I really liked was the peace of mind it provides, unlike my usual smart phone, I didn’t have to fiddle with a waterproof bag or worry about dropping it while riding and filming. The extended battery life is also a massive plus, in real world conditions it survived 16 hours of taking photos and videos, plus uploading them to WhatsApp and Instagram Stories before I had to ditch the Adventure Pack and plug an external powerbank into it. My Sony Xperia X Compact can usually do about 3-4 hours before I need to power it up again. But that impact resistance and battery life comes with a weight penalty, at 232g it is 58g heavier than the iPhone X – which though slightly smaller boasts a bigger screen.
With its Android operating system I found it very easy to use and almost instantly personalisable, as I could just download my usual apps after logging in to my Google account. I ran Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Strava, a voice recorder for podcating and a slim video editor and was impressed at the Explore’s processing capacity. Perhaps because of its ability to run at high temperatures it does not slow down when running multiple RAM sucking apps at once. My only bug-bear with the operating system was the pre-loaded keyboard which did not automatically include full stops with a double space or provide capital letters at the start of sentences – but that’s easily remedied with a new keyboard app.
Who’s It For:
- Anyone who wants a do-it-all single device for outdoor adventures
- And the clumsy among us
- Huge battery life, even without the Adventure Pack
- Drop and water resistant
- Well thought out features for outdoorsmen and women
- Easy to use with a familiar Android operating system
- Weight is the big one, but it goes with the rugged big battery territory.
* The first number in the IP rating refers to resistance to solids (6 = Protection from contact with harmful dust) while the second refers to protection from liquids (8 = Protected from immersion in water with a depth of more than 1 meter; manufacturer must specify exact depth, which in this case is 1 meter for 30 minutes).