The Galaxy S4 Active has been wining praise from reviewers since its launch for providing (almost) exactly the same experience as the standard S4, but in a slightly more outdoors and work friendly package. Whilst it might not be as ‘rugged’ as devices like the Cat B15 – I don’t recommend dropping the S4 Active from a height any time soon – it does meet the likes of Sony’s Xperia Z head on with a water resistant and dust proof IP67 rating.
Quite a few devices now are starting to meet this specification and with Samsung and Sony pushing it in their flagships, hopefully it will begin to be the norm. One thing that can get in the way though is the use of flaps to cover the ports on these devices. Sony’s Xperia Z and the companion Z tablet both have a flap to cover the micro USB, micro SD card, SIM card and headphone ports. 4 bits of flappy plastic that although well engineered, feel like they might snap off without due care. For two devices that ooze quality from their design, this seems like a bit of an oversight.
Samsung however have managed to get away with just one flap – on the micro USB port. The SD card and SIM card slots are internal, under the back cover. Part of Sony’s design language is to have a sealed unit but this does result in the annoying flappy bits. Admittedly they wont be opened much after initially inserting cards but it does mean there are three extra ports for ingress that you need to ensure are covered to maintain the IP67 rating.
The bit of magic that I really like though is the S4 Active’s self-sealing headphone jack. The port remains open at all times but is completely water resistant when there is nothing inserted. A little bit of engineering wizardry ensures that when headphones are taken out, the port is sealed up from the inside. Without taking an S4 Active apart (which I don’t have a spare one to do!) I can’t see exactly how it works but I would imagine either a type of valve or spring / pressure related cover that shoots up shut when it isn’t being forced down. Anyone with knowledge of the exact mechanism is welcome to share below!
However it works, it would be fantastic to see it emulated from other manufacturers and possibly even iterated upon, if possible, to make water resistant USB ports. Although these might end up needing to be recessed – something other rugged devices have done in the past – resulting in evil proprietary accessories.
What are your thoughts? Are there other hardware features you want to see in rugged devices that haven’t yet been employed? Let us know below.