Review: A few hours with Motorola’s Tundra

tundra.jpg

Motorola’s Tundra is a phone built for abuse. Though simply specified given its $200 price tag — and that’s with a two-year contract — you can drop, kick and even get it wet and expect it to survive. Here’s video of it being flung hundreds of feet by a catapult. Here’s video of it being stomped, bashed with a rubber mallet, run under the tap, and driven over by a car.

It’s military-grade, withstanding the benchmarks of dust, rain, humidity and temperature resistance outlined in MIL-STD-810F. According to Motorola, it will operate at between -10C and 55C, survive four-foot drops onto hard surfaces, and 15 minutes of use in heavy rainfall.

That said, it’s still not a particularly great cellphone. It’s got a 3G GSM radio, push-to-talk and GPS. The menus are zip-fast, too, and the unit was perfectly reliable. But with little else to distinguish it from models that come free with cellular contracts, every penny of that stiff price tag is a waste if you don’t have use for the armor.

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Email is dead, but you can try your luck at besc...@gmail.com
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12 Responses to Review: A few hours with Motorola’s Tundra

  1. AllenF says:

    I work in attics and in the summer a phone in the pocket is toast due to humidity. This phone will solve this problem

    I demoed this phone on the floor of the 2009 CES show. I wanted a phone that first and foremost is a PHONE. All the other fru fru gay stuff is secondary and in fact I disable all of the ripoff overpriced sell you a ton of nonsense stuff to both save money and have far less distractions.

    On the CES floor with the huge amounts of noise this phones clear talk II feature was nothing short of amazing. I could hear clearly with no back ground noise drowning out the conversation on both sides of the conversation. The other guy was in a clear acrylic tube with loud football stadium crowd sound being pumped in. All I could hear was clear clean conversation. AWESOME!

    This is done by incorporating a small mic in the back of the flip top which is sampling the surrounding sounds and using noise cancelling technology.

    IMO ALL cellphones should be weather resistant and built for reasonable drops ECT. But since the FRU FRU sells and most could careless to do a little homework before they buy we get what we get.

    The above so called reviewer was more concerned about fluff than substance. Thus his conclusion.

    The Tundra is first and foremost a phone. Bells and whistles are better served and found on the rhinestone encrusted, hot pink, disco ball keyboards with so so phone sound but every ring-tone a disco hound would ever want.

    Me? Just make it work as a phone should and let the call be intelligible. This is what the Tundra is all about. After an accident when I will need it the most it will keep on working. The disco ball phone? Who knows? Wow look at the colors. No thanks.

  2. asher says:

    There’s a difference between “my phone survived being rained on once” and “this phone is guaranteed to survive being rained on, repeatedly”. That’s what the Milspec standard means.

    I’m currently packaging some electronic monitoring equipment (I’m in a water supply research group) and when your devices cost several thousand pounds each and require a several hour round trip to fix them if they fail the difference between something that is probably ok and something that is guaranteed to be ok is important.

  3. dculberson says:

    Asher makes a great point, which is that the official rating for a product is a lot more conservative and rigorous than the anecdotal “I heard of a phone surviving this once” standard. The only reasonable comparison would be to look at spec-for-spec. ie. the iPhone’s operating temperature range is 0 to 35 degrees C, versus this phone’s -10 to 55 degrees C.

    Motorola does make some seriously tough stuff, and the flip is probably not a significant weak spot. I once utterly destroyed a Motorola non-rugged flip phone (including ripping the flip off) after losing my temper with it (long story, post house burglary), and the Nextel service counter replaced some plastic bits and it was back in service.

    My brother’s rugged flip phone has survived 15 foot drops off a scaffolding. Onto concrete.

    But again, those are anecdotes. But the Mil Spec is a set of guidelines, and this phone meets certain ones of them. It should be a great phone for people that put theirs through a lot of abuse. (Hint: probably not most of us.)

  4. Jarvik7 says:

    Surviving a 4ft drop = milspec? My 1ï¿¥ cellphone from 2006 has survived more than that. Is this phone significantly more rugged than something like http://www.casiogzone.com/ ?

    If it was a 40ft drop I’d be impressed.

  5. Rob Beschizza says:

    Did you read the part of the review where it got driven over by car and launched into a field with a medieval trebuchet?

  6. nehpetsE says:

    The main way i kill cellphoness is by exposure the dust of ferrous metals.(ie I put them down anywhere in metal shop.)

    The earpiece and internal speaker (both containing magnets) instantly suck up the iron dust, and loose the ability to produce sound.

    It appears this phone has an open grate at the earpiece that would have the same problem.

  7. Jarvik7 says:

    @2: A lot of non-ruggedized stuff can survive being driven over (my friend’s iPhone for example). I’m betting it would survive a launch into a field too. As for the waterproofing, many Japanese phones are now waterproof/resistant (it was THE feature to have a couple summers ago). My same 1Y phone (not advertised as water resistant) survived being heavily rained on for about 8 hours when I last went mountain climbing with it (just had some condensation for awhile). Wouldn’t a candybar formfactor be more rugged than a clamshell’s hinge as well? Could probably snap that in two without much force.

    “According to Motorola, it will operate at between -10C and 55C”

    Guess I can’t use it then, it regularly drops past -30C w/o windchill during the winter.

    Now, maybe this phone can survive a lot more than what Motorola is saying, but the stats as listed certainly aren’t impressive to me, since typical consumer stuff I own has survived similar. Maybe they are being especially reserved on the warranty.

  8. littlesoda says:

    A friend once told me that he had a Casio cell phone (could have been the Zone). I didn’t even know that they made cellphones so I asked him why he would buy a phone made by Casio and he pulled out his phone, dropped it into the glass of soda he was drinking, and the proceeded to drink the soda with the cellphone in it. It was a pretty cool demonstration but at the same time pretty gross because the reason he needed a waterproof phone was that he’s a plumber. I heard him later on in the day making answering his phone while he was in the shower.

  9. andygates says:

    It’s a flip-phone, so let’s see how tough it is when you try to break its back.

    After seeing my boss kill five (yes, *five*) clamshell Psions back in the age of the dinosaurs, I was scared off anything with a hinge. So, Mr Testy McTestersson, open it up, place it face-down and then sit on it (he did that twice), load some boxes of crap on ot (twice) and for giggles, drive over it. *Then* I’m buying one. Until then, that hinge screams “weak spot” louder than the flashing red highlight in a boss fight.

  10. Chris S says:

    coop @ 8:

    Doesn’t “-30C w/o windchill” mean “minus thirty degrees Celcius WITHOUT windchill”?

    In other words, -30C for the cellphone.

    @Rob: “every penny of that stiff price tag is a waste if you don’t have use for the armor”

    If you don’t have a use for the armour — DON’T BUY IT. The great thing about a diverse market(*) is that we don’t all have to use the same cellphone!

    (*:Which is closer to NOT being true in Canada…)

  11. Anonymous says:

    I would buy this if it was also a SAT phone. In fact I have a hard time seeing the use of the toughness without SAT phone capability given that most places I would expect to run into these kinds of adverse conditions wouldn’t have really good cellular coverage either.

  12. coop says:

    @4

    “Guess I can’t use it then, it regularly drops past -30C w/o windchill during the winter.”

    Windchill doesn’t count for electronics – just people and pets.

    coop

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