DeWalt makes a phone you can kick around
The DeWalt MD501 phone. (Supplied)
Visions Electronics ($699.99)
Do you often drop your phone on the floor, accidentally kick it around the room and then, after you finally manage to pick it back up, have it slip out of your hands again and fall into the sink or toilet?
If so, then the DeWalt MD501 might be for you.
Yes, that's right. The company known for its power tools, saws and tape measures also makes smartphones now – or at least it licenses a company, Global Mobile Communications, to make phones for it — drill bits not included.
Well, okay, the DeWalt doesn't take drill bits. You can't use it to install a door frame and I wouldn't recommend using it to hammer in a nail, but it is a surprisingly sturdy device.
At 156 mm x 82 mm x 14 mm and 245 g, the MD501 is thicker and heavier than the average smartphone and kind of looks like it's in an OtterBox case or other brand of rugged, protective cover.
Designed to be used on a construction site, the black-and-yellow DeWalt phone is dustproof, waterproof for up to 30 minutes, two metres deep, and works in temperatures ranging from -20 C to -60 C. While I personally haven't tried dropping the phone off any balconies or tossing it into Lake Ontario, I have tossed it around and submerged it in the sink and it's no worse for wear.
The phone has included other features specifically for people on a work site, such as a gloves mode, an amplified loudspeaker for outdoor use, which, although a little echoey, is still relatively clear, an emergency alert button and a built-in app to let you connect to your DeWalt tools.
Also, on the somewhat gimmicky side, the MD501 comes with multiple ringtones of power-tool sounds pre-installed. Though, as a colleague pointed out, if you used the phone on a construction site, you might not be able to hear a drill ringtone over the sounds of other machinery.
It is also dual-SIM phone, meaning you can add two different lines to the same phone. For example, my loaner had one SIM card for a Rogers phone number and another SIM card for a Telus line. Obviously, this is very useful if you want to have both a line for work and home but don't want to lug around two phones. Dual-SIM phones aren't new but they are rather uncommon in the Canadian market so it's a nice feature to find here.
But on top of being a rugged device, the MD501 is actually a pretty good phone. The phone's speakers offer a nice full sound and the 5-inch 720x1,280-pixel LCD screen offers a clean, crisp image. Videos play smoothly as well on the 4G phone.
The cameras are OK but nothing that special. The DeWalt phone has a 13 MP main camera with dual LED flash and a 5 MP front-facing camera. You can either take a picture using a physical shutter button on the side of the phone or by pressing an icon on the screen. Images taken with the main camera have a bit of a painted look but overall the quality of pictures and video are decent, though the sound on the latter is a little quiet – clear, but quiet. As for the front-facing camera, the image could be a little grainy, depending on the lighting.
Ultimately, I've seen better cameras but I've seen a lot worse too and they do the job unless you're planning on doing a lot of night photography or shooting an action film with, say, Gary Busey or Daniel Baldwin — as he's the Baldwin who'd probably be desperate enough to star in a Canadian action film shot on a cellphone.
Running on Android Marshmallow (6.0), the 1.3 Ghz quad-core ARM Cortex A53 phone has 2 GB of RAM, has 16 GB of internal storage and can take a memory card of up to 64 GB. While these specs don't make it top-of-the-line, it is a good quality phone.
But the phone appears to be a bit of a power suck. It has a whopper of a battery but it doesn't seem to last much longer than comparative phones with smaller batteries. The Li-Ion 3950 mAh battery offers 420 minutes of talk time in 3G and 450 hours on standby. That being said, I didn't personally have many issues with running out of power. And the phone can be charge wirelessly if you have a Qi charging pad or dock.