PCMAG Reviews and Rates the Sonim XP3

Story By:  Sascha Segan    June 25, 2019 8:24AM EST

“People still want flip phones—I know because those people email me. There are some businesses with extreme work environments that smartphones can’t stand up to, parents who want to be able to call their kids but don’t want them surfing YouTube, and older folks who simply want to be able to make calls. Sonim’s XP3 is the best basic phone on the market. It’s a rugged, traditional flip phone that supports 4G calling on AT&T and Sprint. And at $240, it’s our Editors’ Choice for anyone who wants a phone that’s simple, loud, and reliable.

Design and Durability

Sonim has made rugged phones for more than a decade, but most of its phones have had brick-like form factors that weren’t appealing to everyday phone users. The XP3 is handsome—and more importantly, it fits in a pocket. That expands Sonim’s market beyond its usual clientele of building contractors, hotel employees, and forest rangers, and into anyone who wants a good voice phone that won’t break.

The XP3 is made from matte gray plastic, with a casually industrial look. It measures 4.4 by 2.3 by 1.1 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.88 ounces. It’s in the ballpark of classic flip phones from 10 years ago, like the Motorola E815.

It’s also wonderfully tough. The XP3 is IP68 waterproof and MIL-STD-810G ruggedized. Its physical buttons mean it’s fully usable when wet, even underwater. I dunked it for half an hour, and the speaker was a little quiet until it dried out and then it was fine. I then kicked it around like a hacky sack, leaned my full weight on it when the flip was open, and dropped it onto hard surfaces numerous times. If your work or life involves a lot of potential phone damage, this device will pay for itself quickly. Sonim backs all of this up with a three-year warranty. More than anything else, I think this justifies the $240 price.

On the front, there’s a monochrome display showing time, date, signal, battery life, and caller ID. Inside, there’s a perfectly adequate 2.6-inch, 320-by-240 LCD and big, backlit keys with nice separation. There are volume buttons on the side, along with a big, programmable yellow button that in theory is for push-to-talk, but can be set to quickly launch any application.

Under the screw-on back cover, there’s a removable battery and, surprisingly, two SIM card slots, but they don’t both work. If you put two SIMs in, it disables one of them. That’s disappointing, but US carriers don’t like dual-SIM phones.

The XP3 runs a gutted version of Android 8.1 on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 chipset. It isn’t fast, but you mostly don’t notice, except for one odd thing: Many screens start out blurry, and then quickly resolve into sharpness. It’s irritating, but it isn’t a deal breaker.

The home screen can have a custom wallpaper. It also gives you quick access to the camera, messaging, calendar, and settings, with other options hidden behind the main menu; you can change those quick access options in settings if you like.

Android and LTE take a bit of a toll on the removable 1,500mAh battery. We estimate seven hours of talk time within two days of use, so maybe a charge every two or three days on average. The phone charges over USB-C or in an industrial cradle using some pop-port connectors on the back. Additional batteries cost $44.95.