For a rugged Android phone the Galaxy xCover has quite a nice feeling in hand, after all it is just 100 grams and 12.1mm thick. This makes it the thinnest and lightest of the three main rugged Androids, the others being the Motorola Defy+ and the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active.
Like any other smartphone worthy of your hard earned cash, the front is dominated by the screen. Seen here is a 3.65 inch capacitive touch-screen TN display, which as you might be thinking already, is not all that pretty. Whites and even dark greys take on a blue-hue and colours aren’t all that vibrant. The panel is nowhere near even a basic Super LCD display found on many of HTC’s phones, let alone Samsung’s usual Super AMOLED displays.
I am not sure if it was just my review unit but viewing angles were fairly decent except when viewing the display at a horizontal angle where the back key is closer to you than the menu key. At this angle there is a dead spot in the display where colours become inverted and completely washed out. Whereas if you flipped the phone around, looking at it with the menu key closer to you colours would be viewed as normal. This also caused a woeful 3D layering effect that was disorienting at times.
Discussing the screen some more, it has a measly 320×480 (HVGA) resolution that has been previously found on early editions of the iPhone and smaller phones like the LG P500 and the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active. Thanks to this there is some obvious pixelation occurring; to the extent where the display struggles to differentiate the signal bars of the Wi-Fi indicator in the status bar.
The Motorola Defy which is virtually the same price has a screen that is ever so slightly bigger and a much more eye-friendly resolution of 480×854.
Looking into the PPI counts of competing phones, the xCover being used as a benchmark has a PPI count of 158. Even the HTC Sensation XL, which is often bashed for its silly resolution on a big screen has a comparatively impressive PPI count of 199. “Retina” displays are generally considered to have PPI counts of over 310. This includes recent iPhones and the recently launched HTC One X.
To add to the pain there is no auto-brightness setting, nor is it enabled into the software by default. Requiring a painful trek to the display settings when going from a dark theatre to a day full of sunshine.
It should be said that there is a massive amount of bezel area surrounding the display. The front of the phone itself is as large as the HTC Incredible S while having a screen that is noticeable smaller (the Incredible S’ screen is 4 inches across.)
Moving away from the disappointment of the display, above the screen it is some Samsung branding and a rather small speaker grille. There is no notification LED found here, something I dearly missed coming from an HTC phone.
Below the screen there are three Android buttons, menu, home and back. These buttons are in fact actual physical buttons and are not capacitive buttons like those found on most Android smartphones. There is no search button but it was never truly missed. However a long hold of the menu key does this job for you if you find yourself in need of it.
These physical buttons were surprisingly pleasant to use but because they are not backlit it does make the operating system slightly harder to navigate in the dark. But because they have a raised profile and a faux-metallic rim you should get used to where the home button is pretty quickly. I still never mastered using the buttons in the dark it should be said.
Outside the screen and the surrounding bezel area is the colourful portion of the phone, in my case a nice bronze colour. It is also available in silver. This plastic rim is where the main microphone is located.