These days nearly every person has a smartphone and if you’re under the age of 50, you probably couldn’t survive without it. Soldiers deploy in harsh conditions. And frankly, most smartphones aren’t meant to be carried by soldiers on combat operations. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I have broken a phone or looked over, and my kid has a phone with a broken screen.

So I wanted to find out what’s the best non-standard smartphone that a soldier might carry in such an environment, using a local sim card so they could communicate back home.

Having been to Africa several times, I can say that even the poorest of the poor have a phone. I have seen a tribal recharge site where everyone brought their phones to get charged because the village didn’t have power.

So I want to examine and compare two phones that I think might be the best and worth looking into. To narrow down my search, I chose to stick to phones under $700. I don’t want to be taking my $1,000 smartphone out on missions, after all.

The Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR Rugged Smartphone

The Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR Rugged Smartphone
The Ulefone Armor 9 FLIR (Ulefone North America)

Right off the bat, I like this smartphone just because of its name, FLIR. This phone has a great-sized screen and comes at a great price. The Forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras are typically only used on military and civilian aircraft. They use a thermographic camera that senses infrared radiation. Therefore, allowing you to take better pictures during limited visibility.

The downside of the phone is that it comes with very little storage, only 128GB. So those eight million photos of you doing hoodrat stuff with your hoodrat friends will be limited. But this is only stock.

It runs on Android 10, has a 6,600mAh long-lasting battery. It can use GPS, GLONASS, BEIDOU, and Galileo positioning systems. Lastly, it is waterproof, dustproof, and drop-resistant meeting the military standard [MIL-STD-810G].

This phone on Amazon goes for about $530 bucks and, in my opinion, is a top contender for the best smartphone for a soldier.

The Blackview BV9900 Pro Rugged Smartphone

The Blackview BV9900 Pro
The Blackview BV9900 Pro

It runs on Android 10 and has a great screen that is 5.84-inches. 

The screen resolution is excellent at 2,280 x 1,080 pixels. So basically crystal clear packed into a little bundle. Its internal storage space is also limited to 128GB.

It performs well with its MediaTek Helio G90 chipset, paired with 8GB RAM, and can take on many tasks with ease.

It’s also very well protected for a rugged phone. It meets the military standard [MIL-STD-810G] for waterproof, shockproof, impact-proof, and dustproof devices and protection against humidity, solar radiation, and temperature extremes.

Sure, the phone is a bit behind in a few ways: its battery life could be better and we would have liked to see 5G connectivity. But it’s still the best-rugged smartphone you can get right now. And if you’re going to Africa, you won’t be on 5G anyway, so it may not matter.

You can find the Blackview BV9900 Pro for about $500 on Amazon.

So there you have it, folks, my top two picks for rugged smartphones that would be a great choice for soldiers.

You also want to always keep in mind security and what you’re putting on your phone. Read this article in which we address the science behind vulnerabilities.