REVIEWED: Land Rover Explore smartphone

The first ‘adventure phone’ runs on Android and comes with extra battery power … and augmented reality

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Smartphones were created for indoor types. The sleek-looking glass and metal is way more city than countryside, more office worker than adventurer. Have you ever tried to use a smartphone in freezing conditions? Don’t bother. It won’t work. Or tried using wet hands on the touchscreen. Also don’t bother. Unless, of course, you have the new Land Rover Explore phone, which can cope with all that and much more. All hail the first outdoor phone?

Land Rover Explore smartphone: specs & design

A five-inch 232g phone that runs on Android, the Land Rover Explore doesn’t look that special. It is drop-proof from 1.8m, water-resistant –  even in the ocean – and works in temperatures down to -30°C to 65°C/-22°F to 149°F. Its tough 1920×1080 pixel Corning Gorilla Glass 5 screen can also be controlled with gloves on, or with wet fingers.

Land Rover Explore smartphone: accessories

Also in the box is an Adventure Pack, which transforms the phone into a handheld GPS device thanks to a 25 x 25mm GPS ceramic patch antenna and 3,600mAh of extra battery power. A 4,370mAh battery-only module and a bike mount are also available; if nothing else, the Land Rover Explore is modular, which itself is highly unusual in the smartphone market.

Land Rover Explore smartphone: user interface

It’s built on the Android Nougat OS, has a 16-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera, and a unique Explore Hub that puts apps supplying data on weather, wind, tides, compass, sunset, etc. in one place. It also leaves an icon ‘floating’ on the screen whatever other app you’re using, so outdoorsy data is only ever going to be just one touch away. It’s even got a red-light filter mode built-in to preserve night vision.

Land Rover Explore smartphone: in use

In practice the highlight is its built-in ViewRanger Skyline augmented reality app, which can identify local landscape features through the phone’s camera. It puts labels on the landscape in the camera viewfinder, so you can tell the name of any mountain just by looking at it through the camera. That app also indulges in highly accurate GPS route recording. Latitude, longitude, altitude and the compass work off-grid, and OS maps can be pre-downloaded. However, some of the key outdoorsy data ceases when off-grid, which is a shame. We also noticed that the carabiner on the Adventure Pack slips a lot, so we lost confidence in attaching the phone to a belt loop. That needs to improve before rock climbers can consider this phone.

Land Rover Explore smartphone: conclusion

It’s not perfect – specifically the carabiner on the Adventure Case accessory, and the off-grid ceasing of some of the data – but hikers, bikers, climbers, snowboarders and skiers will adore this extra-tough Android phone especially for its powerful GPS and bags of extra battery power.

Price as reviewed: £599

Buy the Land Rover Explore

 

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