The folks over at Doogee sent me the Doogee S98 Pro which is a successor to the S98, a phone we have not tested, but is almost the same specs-wise, aside from missing out on a slightly better main camera (60MP) and a small circular rear screen that is not included on the Pro. Both are rugged phones, which have IP68, IP69K, and MIL-STD-810H, the latter of which is a military grade certification for ruggedness, something they are well known for by now.
The company says that the design is "heavily influenced by the fictitious visitors from outer space" adding that:
The camera bump serves as the alien's head, the cameras as the alien's eyes, and the lines on the case round out the alien ensemble
Okay then, decide for yourself in the image up above.
First up, let's dive into the specs:
|Specification||Doogee S98 Pro|
|Display:||6.3” LCD FHD+, 1080 x 2340, 409 PPI, Corning Gorilla Glass|
|CPU:||Helio G96 Octa Core 2.1 GHz 12 nm
2 x Cortex A76 2.1 GHz + 6 x Cortex A55 2.0 GHz
|GPU:||ARM Mali-G57 Up to 900 MHz|
|Storage:||256 GB, expandable up to 512 GB via microSD|
SONY IMX582-AAJH5-C Sensor chip
SONY 20 MP Night vision camera
|Front Camera:||Samsung 16 MP Front camera
Samsung S5K3P9SP Sensor chip
F/2.0 ± 5% Aperture
|Dimensions:||172 x 82 x 15.5 millimeters|
|Battery and charging||6000 mAh, 33 W fast-charging via USB Type-C|
|Connectivity:||Dual-SIM, WiFi: 2.4G/5G (802.11ac/a/b/g/n), NFC, Bluetooth 5.1|
|Durability:||IP68, IP69K, United States Military MIL-STD-810H|
|Security:||Face unlock, side-mounted fingerprint sensor|
|Material:||Metal and hard plastic blend|
Unfortunately, there's no 5G here, but since my carrier doesn't provide 5G on the prepaid plan I am using in this phone, it's not a great loss. However, in 2022, we should be expecting flagships to be shipping with 5G, and that also includes rugged phones.
The first thing I noticed when unboxing it, is how heavy it is. At 320 g, it's not even one of the heavier rugged phones we've tested, but this thing is chunky at 1.5 cm thick. Now, I'm a big lad with big hands, but I could already see myself struggling to operate this one handed for prolonged periods.
As you can maybe see on the bottom left and top right of the display in the above photo, the phone came with a screen protector pre-installed, which is interesting, since it uses Corning Gorilla Glass scratch resistance, which is supposed to negate the need for such things, I left it on anyway.
I was allowed to throw this thing around, according to my contact, but I was more worried about the damage I could do to my own floors. Dropping it from about a meter did not result in any damage to the phone, which is the minimum expectation you should have for it anyway.
On the right side of the phone you will find the volume rocker, power key and dedicated fingerprint sensor. The keys sit mostly flush with the side bezel only protruding around a millimeter or so in height, but they are easily detected by feel, especially since the power key is textured.
On the left there is the dual SIM and SD card tray, which is really difficult to access. You need something sharp to push into the small groove and then yank out the tray. As you can see in the photo, I have already scratched up the indented groove by removing the tray to insert a SIM card. If you will be swapping out SD cards regularly, this can be a pain point. Thanks to the waterproofing, there is no hole to access the tray, but I feel like maybe a "push down to release" mechanism could have worked far better here.
Next to the SIM tray, there's a "custom key function" button, more on that later.
On the bottom you'll find a mic, (much easier) tab access for the USB Type C charger port for the included 1 m USB Type C to USB Type C cable and 33 W Fast charging brick, and a speaker. There is no headphone jack on this device, but it supports Bluetooth 5.1 for headphones, which is good enough.
Above you can see all of the main points of interaction thanks to the handy and detailed specs sheet that came with this phone on a 8 GB USB stick for the purpose of this review.
The Doogee S98 Pro has a 6.3” LCD FHD+ screen with a maximum resolution of 1080 x 2340 pixels and a 19:9 aspect ratio along with Corning Gorilla Glass protection. It's not fancy by any means, but I didn't plan on watching 4K HDR movies on it anyway. The display is bright and vibrant enough to look at. Unlike its predecessor, there's no 90 Hz screen refresh rate here either, and because it isn't AMOLED, you aren't getting an Always on Display, which is a shame, because the S98 Pro misses out on the gimmicky rear circular display that showed the time and notifications.
The notification LED is housed between the right side and front camera, and on the left side are the barely noticeable proximity and ambient light sensors.
Now I am no camera buff, but it is clear to me that smartphone makers seem to want to concentrate a hell of a lot on camera quality, sometimes at the expense of other features, and here is also no exception. On the rear we have a 48 MP rear shooter with a f/1.8 ± 5% aperture and 90° FOV, there's also a night 20 MP vision camera with F/1.8 ± 5% aperture and 80° FOV both made by Sony.
Unfortunately, there's no optical image stabilization (OIS), which is a common omission on cheaper phones, but this is the Pro we are talking about here, so it is definitely a disappointment. Apparently, Google gets around this with its Pixel phones by using the gyroscope for stabilization, but no such luck here.
When taking photos, I left everything on the default setting, the only thing I (eventually) changed was removing the Doogee watermark, which can be toggled off in the Camera app's settings cog. One thing I did come up against is that it has a lot of trouble focusing when there is a lot of sunlight, even when it doesn't appear to be evident to the naked eye before taking the photo, but this issue isn't limited to the Doogee S98 Pro so we can forgive this trait.
As you can see above, the two selfie pics I took of myself came out okay, there's even a bokeh effect by default (I did not enable this) — but again, as I said earlier, I am not a camera buff and I don't go around taking selfies of myself everyday. On the second row, next to the selfie, you will see what I was talking about earlier when taking photos in direct sunlight. I decided to wait a bit for the sun to start going down before snapping the close ups next to that photo. The detail is good and I have no complaints about the colors or sharpness of the photos. If anything, the reds and purples are a little too oversaturated.
One of the main selling points of this phone is how it includes a Night Vision camera, so I put it to the test in my pitch black bedroom, which faces south and is located at the back of my house where there are no outside street lights. I spent considerable effort to ensure that the morning sun doesn't wake me up, so when the lights are off, it is pitch black. The above photos on default setting are the result; no monster in the room, and from checking, no monster under my bed either!
I also managed to take a few photos that are just black, this happened when I was facing the camera under my bed, which might indicate there was not enough light for the night vision sensors, it kept having to calibrate, but I did manage to snap a couple of decent shots of under my bed.
I also found that you can enable the night vision and use it instead of a flashlight to navigate around dark rooms, it's pretty cool. I mean, most indoor security cameras and doorbells have IR night vision sensors, but finding it on a phone could be useful for any number of job descriptions that require a rugged device. No complaints here.
Another selling point of this phone is that it comes with thermal imaging capability. In the box you'll find a Thermal Imaging User Manual, and because I had previously synced my Note9's apps, I was unable to find the thermal imaging app. I ended up resetting the phone just to be able to find this setting, which is only linked to the Camera app for the purpose of saving snapped images, you can't invoke the thermal setting through the Camera app itself.
Anyway, nowhere in the manual does it mention that the app I needed is called InfiRay, which is kind of a comical omission. It appears to be a custom version of the Google Play version of the app. The company is also located in China and makes thermal imaging equipment.
Anyway, from my brief testing, it appears to only show the temperature of what you are focusing on. As you can see above, when focusing on something in landscape mode, the readings remain in Portrait mode, which seems to be a bug in the software.
I would hardly call it specialized equipment for an engineer and the user guide actually states that it shouldn't be used as a substitute for professional medical equipment. In addition, it also says that the app needs 1-3 minutes to "warm up" for accurate readings. I'd say that if you can remember the name of the app, or have it somewhere handy, this could be used as a first response for thermal imaging needs, and before applying specilized equipment, nothing more.
The Doogee S98 Pro has Android 12 preloaded with the February 2022 security update, which is quite some time ago considering we're now in June, and Google Play is from November 2021 which is even older. Upon checking for updates, there aren't any. I reached out to my contact for clarification on update frequency, and was told that updates happen "about once a quarter".Although Doogee states that all their phones are covered by a 12-month warranty, I was unable to find out how long they support the software. I reached out to my contact and was told they officially support the software for one year.
The S98 Pro comes with a dedicated launcher called Quickstep. I couldn't find much information about it online, although it is mostly near to a stock experience. However, on powering up for the first time, you will find virtual navigation buttons at the bottom of your screen. This can easily be changed to gestures in the Android settings and then you get swipe left from the right edge for back, swipe up from the bottom for Home, and swipe right from bottom left for app switcher.
As mentioned in the Design section, this phone includes an "Easy key" which you can map to an "Easy Shuttle" which I presume is a bad translation for "Actions", and you can also choose to map it to an app, which launches it immediately. As you can see in the above screenshots, I modified the first two actions to "Open flashlight" on a single click, and the Camera on double click since there is no dedicated camera button on this phone; I find that to be an inexcusable omission on phones that love to toot their own horn about camera prowess but then fail to deliver a dedicated button for that purpose, but happily there is a workaround here.
I eventually disabled the single click "Open flashlight" Easy key, because I kept activating the button by accident.
I decided to sync my Galaxy Note9's apps and settings to the Doogee S98 Pro so I'd have all my apps on hand, and after it all completed, I had around 200 apps loaded onto the phone across ten desktops. I wasn't even sure how to search through the apps, but I found an option in Home settings to enable the app drawer. By default it is disabled, so it could be a bit overwhelming for someone who has synced their old phone and has never used the Doogee Home launcher before. Oddly enough, the Home screen layout by default should be the app drawer, since it is named "Default" but I had the "Home" experience which dumped all apps onto the ten Home screen desktops.
I have no complaints about the software, it was fast and everything that you'd expect to find is on hand. I'm pleased to say that the phone does not include any bloatware. It does not force its own assistant or browser on you, I wish the major flagships wouldn't either.
Performance and Battery Life
For those that love benchmarks, there's a few below. I started off by running GFXBench which tests the GPU.
Next up, I ran Geekbench, which returned a score of 1190, which came in 72 points lower than the 2019 Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC.
Last but not least, the AnTuTu benchmark tests, which came in at a measly 251,524 points, which (as of writing) according to the all time V9 performance ranking comes in third from last, beating out the 2021 Redmi 10 - which has a MediaTek Helio G88 SoC.
As can be seen with the above results, you are not getting a powerhouse here, but for most activities, the mid-range MediaTek Helio G96 can be compared to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 series, so expectations here shouldn't be about wanting to use it for heavy and graphically intense game use.
Moving on to battery life, the S98 Pro includes a massive 6000 mAh battery, which is more than enough even for heavy use after almost three days. For example, I last charged the phone fully on Tuesday evening and have been using it on the web, to make some (video) calls, view some YouTube videos, running all of the benchmarks and snapping photos and video. I even reset the phone once fully and as of writing (Friday), the battery shows that there is still 54% remaining.
This phone has a very specific use case, it is especially useful if you're in an environment where your phone is likely to get damaged by dropping it (such as outside) or in places like a construction site, which might cause it to get very dusty, and then you can simply rinse it off under the tap and you're good to go.
As my former colleague, Namerah, said of her Doogee S59 Pro review: You can forget about putting the device in your pant pockets. If you do, however, the ever-present risk of being pantsed by your own phone will haunt you. This is true even for a big guy like myself, it is proper heavy at 320 g.
Doogee itself says that the phone has an 18-day standby. I guess maybe in Airplane mode this would be possible, however, I did not test this. It also claims 10-hour use for constant video viewing or gaming, and 28 hours of talk time. For me, I am just happy that it can get through almost three days of normal use without needing a charger. The Easy key allowed me to map the Camera to it, so we can forgive the lack of a dedicated camera button in this case.
Like I said earlier, this phone is mostly for a specific use case. I would recommend it to construction workers who find it important to have a smartphone on hand, they can toss it around and rinse it under the tap and it will still keep working. However, it is a shame that Doogee makes such a product and then will only back it with support for one year. At $399, it's a good buy, but not for the touted $599.99 MSRP.
Maybe Doogee would be able to offer a better experience if it settled for a mid-range camera experience and with a higher-end SoC and display, but that's wishful thinking. Right now, I'd say this is a good work phone, but I doubt it would replace a main phone for selfie lovers, theme park visitors, and restaurant visits.