Outdoor activities are quite popular with people who aren't like me. Walking, climbing, sailing, they're all the kinds of things people love to do, but the issue has always been that the conditions they come with don't exactly play nice with the comforts of modern technology. Water, rocks, and the cold weather are all things that can destroy your phone, and it's just not worth risking it with an expensive device.
That's where the Land Rover Explore Outdoor Phone comes in. It's designed to handle all the torture and challenges that come with being in the outdoors, but without completely sacrificing the design aspect some people come to expect from their smartphones. The idea is that the Land Rover Explore is a type of rugged phone the budding outdoorsy types can use safely, but without obviously identifying itself as a rugged device. Despite the name it's not a phone specifically designed for Land Rover owners, tough there's nothing stopping those people from buying one.
The phone has been designed to make it a useful tool for the people who do enjoy outdoor activity - regardless of what that activity might be. According to Bullitt, who make the phone, there are 50 million active outdoorsy people in Europe, 9.6 million of which are in the UK. That means people who spend at least one day outside every month, and they need phones that won't crack when a moth flutters past. Those people have apparently been looking at other phones in the rugged handset market, and while tough they're generally designed for other things. That's why the Land Rover Explore is now a thing.
The Land Rover Explore tackles the challenge on two fronts: hardware and software. On the hardware side of things you have a phone that's been drop-tested from a height of 1.8 metres onto a steel plate, IP68 dust and water proofing (up to 30 minutes in 1.5 metres of water), salt water resistance, Gorilla Glass 5, a built-in screen protector, optimisation for extreme temperatures, and a touchscreen that still responds if it's wet or when you're wearing gloves. It also has an all-metal body, and magnetic locks that let you slap extra hardware packs onto the back of the phone.
Three hardware packs are available, with the phone itself coming bundled with an 'Adventure Pack' that offers 3,600 mAh of extra power and a 25mm ceramic patch GPS antenna that replaces your phone's traditional GPS with something comparable to dedicated handheld GPS devices. The Adventure Pack won't be available separately, nor will the phone be available without it, but it's still worth it for the battery alone.
The other two are a 4,370 mAh battery pack, which will be available for £60, and a £30 Bike Pack that lets is essentially a case that attaches the phone to your bike. While the three packs do connect magnetically, they're bi-directional poly magnets which means they won't break away. Instead they only one in two directions for sliding on and off the back of the phone.
On the software side of things, the Explore comes with as close to vanilla Android as possible (Nougat, with an Oreo upgrade coming), with the least amount of bloatware possible. What bloat it does have is a Land Rover-themed app store, with links to useful apps that would be useful with outdoor activities - with different categories based on what you do and what you need. It also comes with an Outdoor Dashboard with customisable profiles, letting you select tools you want quick and easy access to. There are a lot of tools in there, more to list here, but examples include a torch, SOS torch signal, a red light mode (to protect your night vision), freeze height (for climbers), sea temperature (for water people), plus more weather and sensory information that the phone can collect. A floating icon means the dashboard is always on hand, ensuring you don't have to go hunting for it when you need it most.
The Explore Phone also includes mapping app Viewranger, which goes beyond what you can get from the likes of Google or Apple with what was described as "proper maps". Maps from companies like Ordnance Survey and its counterparts around the world, which offer up detailed information on the outdoors that would be represented as blobs of green in your phone's stock maps app. Viewranger comes with standard maps ready to go, but Explore Phone owners will also have a voucher that lets them upgrade to the premium maps at no extra cost. It also has an AR mode that lets you look at the are around you and call up information on what's out there.
Other specifications of note include a 5-inch Full HD LCD display, a 4,000 mAh battery, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, microSD expansion, a deca-core 2.6GHz 64 bit MTK Helio X27 chipset, dual-SIM functionality, 16MP rear camera, 8MP front camera, a 4x digital zoom, Pump Express fast charging, and USB-C. As mentioned before it also has IP68 water and dustproofing, runs Android Nougat (for now), has a Gorilla Glass 5 touchscreen suitable for use when wet or with gloves, a factory-fitted screen protector, and has been drop-tested from 1.8 metres.
The Land Rover Explore Outdoor Phone will cost £599, bundled with the Adventure Pack and a carabiner case, and will go on sale on 26th April. Anyone heading to MWC next week or he Geneva Motor Show in March will be able to see it on display for themselves.