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Samsung Galaxy xCover (Extreme) Review

Another fortnight, another farewell to another phone. Sometimes I wish the phone in my possession would somehow be forgotten by the respective PR firm but this was not really a vibe I got from the Samsung Galaxy xCover. I’m not saying it’s a bad phone, it’s just not an amazing phone that I would want as my daily driver.

To give you an idea, the devices I have reviewed previously and also loved for various reasons include; the HTC ChaCha, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active, the Huawei MediaPad, the Motorola Atrix 2 as well as my personal daily driver HTC Incredible S. The xCover kills this streak of fortune sadly.

Sure the xCover has IP67 certification and can survive a good dunking under a tap but while it is percieved as a rugged phone it just doesn’t feel like something I would willingly throw across a field or into a pond. To me this is the pinnacle of a rugged smartphone.

Instead it is more suited for those who want a low to middle of the range Android smartphone that can stand up to water and clumsy drops better than the average smartphone.

The xCover’s plastic build materials and likely other design perks did mean that celluar coverage was more extensive than any other phone I had on hand. However, the plastics do add an overall cheaper feel to the phone.

Browser performance was surprisingly good, probably thanks to some hardware optimisations in the Marvell PXA968 chipset. While the browser benchmarks I conducted don’t reflect this scrolling and text re-flow performance in a real-usage scenario was impressive to say the least. But alas, the display…

The display is beyond poor; colours are washed out from the start and the 480×320 resolution on the 3.65 inch TN display is horrible. Hardware performance, both on paper and in benchmarks fails to impress but as a result battery life was perhaps better than the average smartphone; easily lasting a day and a half with somewhat usage.

The 3.2 MP camera was nothing worth writing home about, or more than this line for that matter.

For the large part the software combination of Android 2.3 Gingerbread and Samsung’s TouchWiz UX interface is bug free; I only encountered two minor bugs in two weeks of usage. However, through getting a relatively bug free experience you get a oversimplified and under-featured interface. You want to sort the applications by alphabetical order? Want to access your alarms or calendar by tapping a clock widget? It’s not going to happen.

Of course this is based purely on stock applications, obviously it is possible but I prefer to keep things as close to stock as possible when reviewing a phone. After all this is how over two thirds (a made-up but realistic figure) of people will see and use the phone for the entirety of its lifespan.

Where To Buy?

The Samsung Galaxy xCover is available for £198 inc vat from Clove.

Other Phones to Consider

The Motorola Defy Plus has stronger hardware, a better display and better official and unofficial (custom ROM) support over the xCover for just an extra 23 quid.

You could also grab the Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo V for just £215 which is better in just about every way, except it doesn’t come with the IP67 certification.

Software Information

My unit was running Android Gingerbread 2.3.6 with build number GINGERBREAD.XXKL3


  • Has IP67 certification; so it is water and dust-proof.
  • Satisfactory hardware performance.
  • Above average radio coverage.


  • Needs a price drop, superior phones available for a similar price.
  • Will never get an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update.
  • The display is just downright bad.
  • Camera won’t replace a 5 year old digital camera.

Kitguru says: The Samsung Galaxy xCover is a pretty nice phone, I’m going to give Samsung that, but in answer to my original question in the introduction header: No, the xCover does not sway my evaluation that anything that isn’t flagship from Samsung is pretty average. Where it does well in real life browser performance and durability, it severely lacks any punch in the display or price categories.

Better luck next time eh Samsung?

Rating: 6.5.

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  • Roger McBridge

    That is one hell of a review blair!

  • davis

    Well I have this phone and I think it sucks. id be harder on the product. I am on my third now via the phone company as the first two started developing problems (call dropout etc).

    Its a pretty looking phone but its not the greatest.

  • Thanks Roger!

    And Davis, I encountered none of the major issues you have mentioned. But trust me if I did you would hear about them

  • Nathan Oconnor

    Like the benchmarks.

    What is it like for playing app games? screen no use?

  • For Angry Birds and the like the display is fine, anything that involves a bit more of a 3D experience it won’t be that amazing. I didn’t really test many games on it to be honest though.

  • Jack

    Unfortunately I have to go with any phone I purchase in 2G mode (T-Mobile USA). I am considering the Galaxy Xcover or purchasing the USA identical (Samsung Rugby Smart). But neither are getting rave reviews as far as I can see.

    When the Motorola Defy continues to beat the Samsung(s), it really makes me reluctant and I don’t want a Defy.

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  • The Rugby is more like the xCover’s long lost cousin, rather than the USA version of it. The Rugby has the better display, processor, camera and by noticeable amounts as well. That being said I have never seen the Rugby in person, nor used the Defy for long enough to say what it is best out of the two. But I imagine the xCover would come in third

  • Kevin Brewer

    I have an Xcover. It is okay, but it occasionally locks up and I have to remove the battery to reboot. The other thing, something I dislike far more than the phone, is the software that backs the phone to my computer is very limited. For instance I can find no way in which I can backup my txt messages and access them on the computer. The phone has too limited memory to be bothered with music. And why would I put a podcast on the thing? But I can and back it up. But no capacity or messages! I won’t be replacing it with another Samsung when my contract runs out in a year. The camera is okay, the images are quite clear even at quite large magnifications.

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