Land Rover Explore review: Hands on with the tough-as-nails Android phone

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    This year's MWC has seen plenty of smartphone launches from various quarters. But there’s one thing almost all of them have in common: they're covered in shiny, breakable glass. If

    you're tempted by one of these fragile beauties, it might be wise to invest in some smartphone insurance, just in case you accidentally drop it on the floor.

    READ NEXT:The best smartphones of 2018

    British car manufacturer Land Rover has taken a different tack. The Land Rover Explore smartphone is a rugged device that's just as well equipped to tackle the great outdoors as one of its creator's 4 x 4 vehicles. It’s certainly an interesting approach.

    Land Rover Explore review: UK release date and specifications

    • 5in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) display
    • 2.6GHz ten-core Mediatek Helio X27 processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • 64GB of storage (expandable via microSD)
    • IP68 rated, 1.8-metre drop tested
    • 16-megapixel rear camera
    • Expected price: £599
    • Due for release: April 2018

    Land Rover Explore review: Design, key features and first impressions

    The Explore looks refreshingly different to the usual glass and aluminium smartphone suspects – indeed, it's very Land Rover-esque. The bottom of the phone, for instance, has been sculpted to closely resemble a bonnet:

    Even the speaker grille mimics the front end of a Land Rover. The camera surround on the back, meanwhile, looks just like one of the vehicle’s headlights, and the four vertical ribs on the rear call to mind the roof rails on top. This might all sound silly, but it adds up to a distinctive, characterful design.

    The Explore's rugged credentials aren't just skin deep, mind. It's IP68 dust- and water-resistant – and that includes saltwater as well as freshwater – and has been drop-tested to 1.8m, with a tough, factory-fitted screen protector and Gorilla Glass 5 for good measure.

    There are some thoughtful design touches aimed at the outdoor lifestyle, too. The chunky volume rocker and power buttons on the left edge are large enough to use while wearing a thick pair of gloves, and the phone’s 5in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) touchscreen is also designed to work through gloves – or with wet fingers. The large 4,000mAh battery, meanwhile, should ensure your phone doesn’t reach zero when you’re at the top of Grasmoor.

    If that's not enough, you can expand the phone with a range of Moto Z-style mods. The “Adventure Pack”, for example, adds an extra 3,620mAh battery (bringing the total to 7,620mAh), which snaps onto the back of the phone, and also includes an extra antenna to enhance GPS accuracy.

    You can also equip the Land Rover Explore with a range of practical extras, such as a bicycle handlebar mount and a carabiner clip case to attach your phone to a belt. 

    Technically, the phone is a little unusual: instead of using one of Qualcomm’s latest smartphone chipsets, the Land Rover Explore is equipped with a 2.6GHz ten-core Mediatek Helio X27 processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. It doesn't currently run the latest version of Android, but a scheduled update to Android 8.0 Oreo is in the pipeline. Camera-wise, there’s a 16-megapixel sensor on the back, and an 8-megapixel shooter on the front.

    Land Rover Explore review: Early verdict

    The Explore isn't the fastest smartphone on the block, but it's almost certainly the toughest. It's ideal for those seeking something that'll withstand the elements and keep going long after shinier rivals have keeled over.

    It isn’t cheap, though. Launching on 26 April at £599, the Explore is £50 more expensive than Sony’s recently announced Xperia XZ2 Compact, and only a little cheaper than Google’s Pixel 2. That might hold it back in the mainstream market – but among the adventurous, go-getting types it's aimed at, it ought to be a big success.

    ProcessorTen-core 2.6GHz Mediatek Helio X27
    Screen size5in
    Screen resolution1,920 x 1,080
    Screen typeIPS
    Front camera8-megapixel
    Rear camera16-megapixel
    Storage (free)64GB
    Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
    Wireless data4G
    Operating systemAndroid 8.0
    Battery size4,000mAh

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