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If you're looking for an Android phone that's tough enough for outdoor fun then the Quechua Phone 5 should be on your list. It's definitely bulky, and if you need heavyweight processing power or an HD screen you're out of luck, but the prodigious battery life and tough, waterproof construction are a real bonus for outdoor life.
Made for Quechua by Archos, the Phone 5 is a rugged-looking thing, for a glass-fronted smartphone. The case is rubberised and the two halves bolted together with tiny Torx screws. The hardware buttons on the front are virtual rather than physical, and the various ports (Micro SIM, Micro SD, USB and headphone) are all behind flip-off covers. There's a power button at the top and a volume rocker on the side, both proud enough to be found with gloves on.
All that overbuilding means two things. Firstly, the phone is waterproof. Not quite as waterproof as, for example, a Sony Xperia Z1, but generally waterproof enough. Specifically, it's IP54 rated, which means sealed against splashing of water from all directions and well enough sealed against dust to prevent any ingress causing a malfunction. That means you can take it out in the rain without worrying, or even fix it to your bars for a wet ride.
Secondly, it's big. At 256g and 151x82x13mm, it's edging up towards phablet size. It struggles to fit in the chest pocket of a couple of my riding jackets, and if you like your jeans tight you'll be struggling to trouser it.
Inside the phone there's a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 8225Q processor and it's running Android 4.1, so not bang up to date but fine for everyday use. You get the usual Wifi, Bluetooth (4.0) and GPS functionality and the Phone 5 also has a barimetric altimeter, which promises much better accuracy than GPS.
The phone comes bundled with an altimeter app (assuming you choose to install the 50+ apps that the phone comes with, only a very few of which are likely to be any use to you) but the altimeter won't work with most training software, as it won't expect a phone to have one. While we're talking installing stuff, the 4Gb internal memory is expandable via a Micro SD card to up to 36Gb.
The screen is five inches (obviously) and the resolution is 840x480px. That's some way short of the HD screens you find in some smartphones, but functionally it's fine most of the time. There's a touch of screen lag but it's perfectly possible to watch video, or play games. Quechua have designed the phone to be usable outdoors, in sunlight, and as such it has a very strong backlight (350 cd/m2 min if that means anything to you); you can set the phone to auto adjust, or choose a brightness level yourself. As phones go, it's one of the best I've used for being able to see what's going on out of doors.
Mostly I've been using the Phone 5 as I would any other phone: social media, surfing, ride recording, navigation (bike and car), as a Wifi hotspot, texting, playing games... erm, and phoning people very occasionally. I have to say that I'm reasonably impressed with it as an all-rounder. Coming off the back of using an HTC One, which is widely regarded as one of the best of the current batch of smartphones, I didn't often consider that the Phone 5 was giving that much away. Okay the screen definitely isn't as clear, and the frame rate in Temple Run isn't quite as high, and sometimes the data connectivity wasn't quite as good, but overall it's been just fine. Certainly it's usable as your day-to-day phone, assuming you can cope with the size.
One of the best things about the Quechua is the battery life, which in an age where we're conditioned to plug our smartphones in every night is simply outstanding. Using the Phone 5 normally, with everything turned on, I'm averaging three to four days between charges. If you're a bit careful (turning off wifi and GPS when you don't need it, dimming the screen a bit) you can make the charge last a whole week of normal use. A full week, not a working week. Charge it on Monday, charge it again the following Monday.
That big 3500mAh battery lends itself well to navigating too. There's been some discussion on road.cc (/content/forum/108899-smartphones-and-long-rides-strategy) as to whether a smartphone can cut it against a standalone GPS for navigation duties. Well, this one can. You can get seven or eight hours of screen-constantly-on mapping from Viewranger without doing anything clever. Turn off the connections you don't need and wake the screen up only when you need to check you're going the right way, and you're good for around a whole day, which should do you for anything up to a 400km Audax.
You can't carry a spare internal battery for the Phone 5 as the case is sealed, but you can carry an external battery; I use a New Trent 5000mAh one I paid about £20 for and that'll do a charge and a bit.
The waterproofing helps with navigating too, because you can just stick the phone on your bars and not worry too much about it, like you would your GPS. I've been using a BikeCityGuide Finn silicone mount (/content/review/99482-bikecityguide-finn) with the phone in landscape mode on the stem, and it works a treat. I'm currently experimenting with Sugru magnets, and third-party mounts like the Quadlock are available too.
Any niggles? Well, apart from the fact that its sheer size will put some people off, not really. It's a very usable phone and the battery lasts for ages. If you like to have the very most up-to-date specs then it's probably not for you, but for general use it's been great.
All in all you're getting a fair bit for your money. At £199.99 it's neither cheap nor expensive; it seems a lot when most contracts will let you have a phone for nowt, but with unlimited data, SIM-only deals around for not much more than a tenner you'll be quids in in much less than a year if you switch from a £35 contract.
Likeable, larger-than-life outdoor phone with a tough construction and an exceptional battery life.
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Make and model: Quechua Phone 5
Size tested: 5 inch
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Staying connected while hiking (telephone, SMS, e-mail, browse the internet, applications etc.). The world's first "mountainproof" smartphone, the Quechua phone runs the Android OS and has GPS for hiking.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Water resistanceIP54 standard, withstands rain, mud, dust and snow
Impact protectionAnti-shock outer and construction. Withstands falls from heights of 80cm
Autonomy3500mAh ultra long-lasting battery. A whole weekend of hiking without charging
Ease of useRuns Android 4.1.2, access to more than 975000 Applications on Google Play
Fast actingQuadcore processor 1.2Ghz, 3G, Bluetooth, Wifi, GPS
Easy to read840x480 screen, very bright for optimum reading in sunlight
Guarantee : 1 Year
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Waterproofing, battery life.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 102kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium 853
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.