You may not have heard of Aspera. Odds are that you’re completely unaware of this Aussie company who have entered the tech market by making a range of rugged devices – from smartphones to tablets – and they’re here in South Africa now. Nice to see something heading from there to here for once, really. But it makes sense that an Australian company is making rugged tech, they probably just need to get spiders to test it that side of the world. If it can survive an arachnid attack there, it’ll survive most things here in SA.
Not everyone gets to spend all day in an air-conditioned office, going to meetings (blech) and chilling by the coffee machine in between actually working. There are a lot of physically demanding jobs out there, especially in SA, and that sort of thing demands a physically durable phone. This is where you might want to consider Aspera’s R6, a mid-range – in terms of price, certainly – handset that is build to be bashed around. Or chomped on by crazy Aussie spiders.
Built Like A Brick Shi-… What?
The first thing that you’ll notice about the Aspera R6, aside from the odd name, is that the chassis looks and feels extremely durable. It’s rubberised, to a greater degree than I’ve seen with the last CAT smartphones to hit Stuff‘s offices, and looks as though it can take a knock. While Aspera’s local reps gave us the go-ahead to run the R6 over with a car, ultimately we settled for intentionally dropping it and lobbing it around the Stuff offices. We had to give it back at the end of the day, unfortunately.
The Aspera R6 comes in black and yellow, in keeping with other rugged devices (besides Samsung’s roster), which only reinforced the idea that this is a phone that could be run over by a piece of mining equipment. The Aspera R6 is rated IP68, so it’ll survive a swim or two, dust and we’d be surprised if squishing it into mud did any damage at all. The ports and slots are all tucked away under seals, so liquids shouldn’t get in. Spiders either.
Inside The Phone From Down Under
All that casing has to be protecting something, right? Right, and it’s guarding a 4.5-inch screen – though you’d guess it was larger based on the width of the phone. Created from toughened glass, the display looks like it’d withstand a knock but the screen itself is just a 1,200 x 720 panel. It still looks clear and bright but to eyes that are spoiled by HD and QHD smartphones, it seems to lack that extra bit of polish.
The processor is a surprise though, a 1.7GHz octa-core that fairly zooms along with its 2GB RAM allocation in tow. It’s more than enough to make the Android 4.4.4 OS perform, though it’s not fast enough to make the bigger names nervous yet.
There are a couple of disappointing specs to be had though. The stock R6 comes with 16GB of storage, some of which is chewed up by Android and while this is alleviated somewhat by the microSD slot, you’re restricted to a max of 32GB of extra space. Boo. At least there’s a 3,300mAh battery to keep it powered on while you’re searching for it underwater.
Aspera have outfitted the R6 with a 13MP rear camera. It’s your stock smartphone photography kit – there’s nothing too special to see here but it’s nice to see the option in a rugged phone. The front shooter is a little 2MP. Not much call for that these days.
Connectivity options are actually a bit better than I was expecting. Bluetooth was a given, as was 3G, but the 802.11 a WiFi support (as well as older standards) and LTE were both a surprise. There’s also NFC, if you actually use it. Browsing with the phone is decently fast, no matter how you’re connected. Location and ISP speed dependent, of course.
What we’re looking at with the Aspera R6 is an unknown quantity, a relatively obscure branded rugged handset with mid-to-high specs and some good connectivity. There are a couple of let-downs, mostly in the storage department, but by and large the R6 comes across as a contender for the toughest phone you’ll ever own. That they’ve done this without dropping too much in the internals department is a bonus. The price should be the decider for you and that would be R5,530. Not shabby at all for something that has a better chance than you do when it comes to surviving an Australian spider attack at eye level.