Remember the last time your mobile phone was run over by a tip truck full of coal and you wished someone made a rugged phone designed to withstand more punishment than your standard handset? Maybe not. How about the time you dropped your handset in the toilet in that dodgy nightclub?
Samsung isn't promising the M110 will survive a face-off with a monster truck, but from demonstrations we've seen it can definitely handle a dunking in the dunny. Made from stiff rubber and plastic, the M110 feels sturdy and the grip of the body feels less likely to slip from your hand than some of the glossy plastic finishes we see on phones these days.
The keypad on the M110 is large enough to navigate easily, with the numeric keys raised in the middle for extra definition. The menu navigation keys, including the call keys, are a little bit cramped, but are easy to use with a little care. On the left side of the handset are volume adjustment buttons and a combined charging and headphone port, and on the back is a VGA camera lens and photo light.
On the back of the handset, below the VGA camera module, Samsung has included a half-turn screw locking mechanism for the battery cover. Whether or not locking the back plate actually helps the phone resist the elements is unknown, but it sure lends credence to the suggestion and gives the phone an old-fashioned surety.
As a major feature of the M110 it's worth spending some time understanding what the M110 is resistant to. As per the literature from Samsung, the M110 is able to resist water splashing on to the phone, dust particles or dirt, and some shock, and is IEC 60529 certified — where IEC stands for the International Electrotechnical Commission. What this IEC code indicates is that this product is dust tight and able to resist mild jets of water.
Samsung has been very clear that the M110 is not waterproof, and the handset is not designed to be submerged in water for any period of time. That said, we have seen the M110 survive a quick bath in a vase of water and able to make calls immediately after — hence our confidence with the toilet test.
Aside from its ruggedised body the M110 is otherwise feature poor. There is a VGA (640x480) resolution camera, but no media player for listening to music or watching videos. The M110 is a dual-band GSM handset (900/1800MHz) which means no 3G data speeds. There is a simple WAP browser tucked away in the menu, but you'd be stretched using it other than to check your prepaid account balance.
Our favourite feature is having the LED photo light double as a flashlight. With older model phones this was a common tool, but being able to leave this light switched on has gone the way of the Dodo with newer style camera flashes actually flashing. This light isn't very bright, and certainly won't compensate for house lights during a blackout, and it'll likely chew quickly through the remaining battery, but in the event that you lose power this photo light will certainly help you find your regular flashlight.
Samsung has made sure the basics are in place, which is lucky considering there is little else to do with the M110 short of making calls and sending text messages. Not only is the internal speaker clear during calls it's also very loud — deafeningly loud would be stretching it a bit, but it's certainly heading in that direction. This seems to perfectly compliment the idea of the M110 being used next to loud machines on a construction site or down the mines.
While it's not winning any beauty pageants, the M110 may win hearts with it's Crocodile Dundee-like rugged charm. Tech-heads may scoff at its feature poor specifications, but the target market of tradies and extreme sports enthusiasts will embrace the durability. The flashlight is a bonus, if only it were brighter.
When compared to other phones in this price range the Samsung M110 trades off standard luxuries, like a larger, sharper display and basic media playback, for the added security of its ruggedised form factor. People who have broken a handset or two in the past will probably jump at the durability without a second thought for the missing MP3 player. Parents could also consider the M110 for clumsy teenagers; they may hate being without music or its chunky shape, but the M110 is bound to hold its own against the inevitable teen spirit.