Doogee S95 review: a modular… rugged “jem”


The Breakdown

The Doogee S95 is actually one of the best-rugged smartphones currently available on the market. Overall, the phone did not disappoint in any way in our test and even raised the current standard to a new level in some areas.
Design 85%
Performance 88%
Display 84%
Software 77%
Camera 74%
Battery life 90%
90%

I began using rugged feature phones in various environments. I recently felt that my smartphone was too expensive and precious to be destroyed from a sudden drop, contact with sand or water. Evolution in the area brought us some noteworthy rugged smartphones, a lot of them being presented and reviewed from our pages. To be honest we all know the first true feature of any rugged smartphone: being sturdy, durable, ready to withstand extreme heat, cold, or huge drops from heights – still being able to work at the end of each day. Today we are going to present you a phone that in my humble opinion is as close to a “normal” phone as it gets – plus it offers a complete package that simply cannot be ignored! Meet Doogee S95.

First of all let’s see what’s going on in the rugged smartphone market these days. Rugged devices have two major disadvantages. The first one, is battery life. It’s ok to use it for a weekend but what happens if you need it for longer periods of time? For that reason I usually carry a 10,000mAh battery pack. The second one is price. Most firms are overpricing their phones and I can’t spend 700 and 800 euro every second year for a rugged device I plan to use during my spare time, when I’m swimming, sky diving, mountain hiking etc. In recent years, Chinese firms provided the low cost solution I was looking for. Year after year also, they brought huge batteries in the “game” that removed the extra weight of the aforementioned battery pack I had to carry around.

Last year Doogee debuted the S95 Pro. It’s an excellent rugged smartphone with wireless charging capability. Its price was a bit too much for me, so I looked at its more affordable variant, dubbed Doogee S95. Less RAM and no wireless charge drops the price a lot and it was an instant buy for me, considering that with the extra cash for the “Pro” model, I could buy the full package with two modules – see below.

Yes, modules! What Doogee offers in both models is two magnetic gadgets that stick to the back of the smartphone to enhance its abilities. Both are also rugged and can be used in any “hostile” environment. The first one is a 3500 mAh power bank and the second one is a 6Watt Hi-Fi speaker.

The smartphone itself is an exceptional engineering specimen. It’s fully protected  – with military grade specifications – while offering good performance – something much needed during gaming or using some demanding applications. Let’s see together why this rugged smartphone is so special!

Doogee S95 – Specifications

  • Dimensions: 79.3 x 168 x 13.8 mm
  • Weight: 285 g
  • Display: 6.3 in, IPS, 1080 x 2160 pixels, 24 bit, 403 ppi (pixels per inch), Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • SoC: MediaTek Helio P90 (MT6779)
  • CPU: 2x 2.2 GHz ARM Cortex-A75, 6x 2.0 GHz ARM Cortex-A55, Cores: 8
  • GPU: IMG 9XM-HP8 (PowerVR GM9446), 970 MHz
  • RAM: 6 GB, 1833 MHz
  • Storage: 128 GB
  • Memory cards: microSD, microSDHC, microSDXC
  • Battery: 5150 mAh, Li-Polymer – fast charging at 24W
  • OS: Android 9.0 Pie
  • Camera: 48 MP + 2 MP + 8 MP (depth sensor) + 8 MP (ultrawide angle).
  • Selfie Camera: 8 MP
  • SIM card: Nano-SIM, Nano-SIM / microSD
  • Wi-Fi: a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac, Dual band, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Display
  • Connectivity: UMTS (384 kbit/s ), GPRS, LTE Cat 7 (102.0 Mbit/s , 301.5 Mbit/s ), EV-DO Rev.A (1.8 Mbps UL, 3.1 Mbps DL), TD-SCDMA, TD-HSDPA
  • GSM : 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz, CDMA: 800 / 1900 MHz
  • W-CDMA : 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 MHz
  • TD_SCDMA : 1880-1920 MHz, TD_SCDMA : 2010-2025 MHz
  • LTE 700 MHz Class 17, LTE : 800 / 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 / 2100 / 2600 MHz, LTE : 1700 / 2100 MHz, LTE-TDD : 1900 MHz (Band 39), LTE-TDD : 2300 MHz (Band 40), LTE-TDD : 2500 MHz (Band 41), LTE-TDD : 2600 MHz (Band 38), LTE-TDD : 2000 MHz (Band 34), LTE 700 MHz (B12), LTE 700 MHz (B28), LTE 800 MHz (B19)
  • USB: 2.0, USB Type-C
  • Bluetooth: 5.0
  • Positioning: GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo
  • Sensors: Proximity, Light, Accelerometer, Compass,Gyroscope, Barometer, Fingerprint, Step detector, Step counter
  • Features – Titanium, Polycarbonate Body Design, Loudspeaker, Computer Sync, OTA Sync, GPS, OTG Support, Host, NFC Support, Tethering, Fast Charging Technology, Face ID, IP68, IP69K, MIL-STD-810G, Totally Protected Against Dust, Water and Concrete, Noise Cancellation, 12V/2A Charger Output Power

Doogee S95 – unboxing and modules

S95’s modular package comes in a black big box with blue coloured shiny details. Inside we can find included the normal retail box containing everything we need to… do some serious work. The main package consists of:

  • a Doogee S95 smartphone – black, 8/128 GB in my case
  • a USB-C to USB-A cable for charging and data transfer
  • a User manual
  • a 24Wcharger
  • a SIM tray pin
  • a tempered glass

Under the smartphone retail box there is a place holder for the two modules.

BUY THE RUGGED DOOGEE S95

Doogee S95 – Design

While being rugged, S95 has a panache that is missing from the category. Doogee claims that they have spent a lot of time in the final design, and we can verify that after having used the phone for more than 2 weeks extensively.

First of all single hand use of the device surely, has an impact on us, as it’s evident that we’re holding a somewhat heavy smartphone with a strange shape. It is not brick-heavy, neither is it huge so that people with medium or smaller hands cannot use it. It weighs just under 300 grams – not many rugged smartphones can claim that – at 285 gr. Its size is not bad either, measuring at 79.3 x 168 x 13.8 mm. It looks and feels like a modern smartphone that has been enclosed in an industrial protective case.

The front of the device looks – as we just mentioned- just like a normal 2018-2019 smartphone “trapped” inside a black hardened case. The 6.3 inch display has a rain drop notch at the top and big enough bezels all around, albeit they’re a lot bigger in the bottom part.

The side frames are double the size of the bezels, apart from the top part. Between the display and the frame at the top part, there is a wide grille for the speaker. Wide grilles are perfect to listen to your phone calls, without having to center your ear in a much smaller grille.

The frame, at the point it touches the display at the four corners, protrudes, as to protect the glass panel. That’s a first for me, as I have seen this characteristic only in certain expensive protective cases. The connection between the front panel and the display is perfect.

The frame is from titanium and covered with an extra strong hardened plastic – an unbreakable combination. All four corners are enhanced, hardened enough to survive drops from heights that could prove catastrophic for any other smartphone in the market.

The top part has a microphone hole for external sound cancellation. The lower part has a huge soft plastic seal, to cover the USB Type-C port. The left side has a button in the middle of the frame and a SDcard+SIM tray. The right side has a second SIM tray (that’s impressive!) for a single SIM card, a huge volume button, the power/lock button and a side fingerprint sensor.

The back panel is plastic too, but with a softer feeling that the hardened side frame. It’s design is a huge wide X. In the area above the “X”, there is a square camera installation with 3 sensors and a LED. On the lower part there is a smaller square space that includes pogo pin receivers for the modular extensions. At the right and left side of the receivers, one can see two grilles for the main speaker and a second sound cancellation microphone.

Doogee S95 – Hardware

Doogee S95 has an IPS panel with FHD+ resolution and an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. Brightness is its main disadvantage as I had to create a shadow with my hand under mid-day bright sun in order to check the status bar. Colors are ok, viewing angles too – nothing out of the normal – but surely nothing impressive as well.

The panel has a Corning Gorilla glass 5 protection, plus you can add the tempered glass from the retail package for an even added protection. If you are the type of person who carries around a smartphone in the same pocket with car keys etc, then I’d suggest you use the tempered glass as well.

The main CPU behind this smartphone is the MediaTek Helio P90 SoC. This is a SoC designed on minimizing power consumption. You can play games and run some intensive applications, but this is not a power house. There are 8GB of UFS 2.0 RAM to help with and this model comes 128GB of storage.The hybrid SIM/SDcard tray can fit an SDcard with up to 256 GBs of storage – not bad for storing some films and TV series for a week outdoors, don’t you agree?

Performance is great considering the SoC – benchmarks prove this claim. This is the fastest rugged smartphone on the market with a MediaTek SoC. I had no issues playing PUBG in my spare time. The graphics were set in the lower part but I had no issues with lagging or dropped frame rates. Its performance is close to the old SD835 SoC so there is nothing to worry about.

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UFS 2.0 RAM is an exceptional addition – there are no lags in daily usage.

Sound is good and loud. There are some distortions in maximum volume. Calls and video calls are clear to hear. Note that the Doogee S95 has a FM radio application too but you need headphones (USB-C type) as an antenna and they are not included in the retail package.

An important factor for people that spend time outside is the connectivity. Call quality is excellent and the signal is strong at all times. There is support for multiple bands around the world, so you won’t have to worry about taking it with you during a trip across the ocean.

GPS is perfect at all times. A step detector and a step counter sensor are used from an in house application to monitor your athletic activities – but as always, I don’t think you can fully trust their measurements.

On the right side of the phone, there’s a biometric fingerprint sensor, ready to unlock the device. Truth be told, it takes a while to set your fingerprints but it works flawlessly at all times. Face unlock also works perfectly and is very fast – although it’s not as safe as the fingerprint sensor so I’d suggest you use it carefully.

Vibration is ok, nothing exceptional here. The huge 5150 mAh battery is more than enough to keep the smartphone open all day with heavy usage (maps etc). With normal usage you will get two to three days of usage. Battery is charging through a fast charging protocol at 24W. It needs about an hour and half to fully juice the phone, so take this into consideration when you’re on the countryside or working far from a power plug.

Doogee S95 – Software

The S95 runs on Android 9.0 Pie. As with most rugged smartphones the possibility to update in a newer version in the future is really… slim. Last security update was sent to the phone on the 5th of October 2019, so… you get the point. This is a serious issue with all companies that produce rugged smartphones. Their users are not second category clients and they have all rights to get the minimum of two major updates and three years of security updates.

The version of Android running on Doogee’s S95 is almost stock. There are a few applications and options in settings added by the Chinese company:

  • Side Key Function is used to activate the left side button. There is a menu to add options for one click, long press and double click. The options are No operation, Start Soundrecording, Open flashlight, Screenshots, Open SOS and Open Game Mode
  • Scan Code opens the camera to look for QR Codes
  • Gesture Motion is a menu to select some predefined gestures like three fingers for a screenshot.
  • Gesture WakeUp has a huge menu on predefined gestures when the smartphone is locked. The user can select/deselect a gesture and add an application for it. For example, making a “W” opens the FM radio.
  • Fingerprint is separated from the Security settings menu. What is amazing here is the work added from Doogee to use the sensor for extra functionality. For example on touch, the user can open the Music Player or go back a screen. On touch and hold, the user can answer a call, see the recent tasks or go back to the home screen.
  • ‘Raise Wrist Wakeup Screen’ has a single option to wake the screen when the S90 is raised – useful for the Face Unlock.
  • SOS Call is the menu to set up what the SOS functionality does in case of need. The user can set up the alarm ringtone, open the flash and send an SMS to 3 contacts.

Duraspeed is a MediaTek menu for accelerating application launch. Game mode is used to keep distructions off when playing a game with settings to block Notifications and Incoming Calls. System Management is a menu to do various jobs, such as:

  • Super Power manager – with super power saving mode and smart saving mode
  • Rubbish clean – with cache, AD files, residual files and apk files deletion
  • Freezing room – this is used to freeze an app as to not mendle with rest rest
  • App autoboot – used to autostart applications
  • App lock – used to lock applications in case of extra security
  • Network manager – used to control data trafficking in specific applications

Toolbug is another menu with various functionalities. There is a compass, a sound meter, a pic hanging tool, a gradienter, a height measure tool, a magnifier, a protractor, a plumb bob and a barometer. The barometer is an exceptional addition – one that professionals can enjoy!

Navigation in the UI is fast. No issues were found. I used the smartphone with the stock Android gestures with ease and I cannot say that I saw any lags.

Doogee S95 – Modules

This is one of the most important features of this device – its modules. Both of them have their own battery cells inside (!) and are charged externally so there is no drain on S95’s battery. Both of them are attached to the back of the phone with magnets, with the data connection being made through pogo pins. Both of them have an on/off button, so as you can easily understand are independent from the smartphone – which is great.

The first add-on is a 3,500mAh external battery / power bank which complements the built-in 5,150mAh battery. The phone can charge from this module at 24W (12V/2A) over USB-C.

The second add-on is a speaker module rated at 6 Watt. It comes with its own 2,000mAh battery and Doogee promises 3 hours of music playback! Because the speaker stands in the back, the module has a pivot to stand on. Keep in mind however that when both modules are connected, they increase the weight of the smartphone and make it difficult to carry around as the combo reaches almost 400 grams in both situations!

In any case, I have to admit that I was very happy with the experience while using them both. They are worth the extra cash according to my opinion. Just keep one thing in mind: the 2 modules are not water/sand/drop resistand so be careful while using them.

Doogee S95 – Camera

During the past years, most rugged smartphones are not optimized for photography and video, so there aren’t a lot of things to talk about – or are there? Doogee makes a stand here by adding a triple camera! The main sensor is Sony IMX586. It’s a 48MP sensor that can be found in Oppo Reno4, Realme X50 Pro, OnePlus 8 and the forthcoming OnePlus Nord! It is used along with two more 8 MP sensors for depth and ultra wide angle. The main sensor has x2 optical zoom. In the front side – inside the notch – we can find a 16-megapixel camera, for those who prefer decent selfies.

I have to admit that the main sensor of the device managed to get some very good daily pictures, but they could be better with certain decent software updates. Details are distorted and colours are mixed when taking pictures of trees for example. I have to say that the ultra wide camera of the S95 is… a bit bad – so you can use it just for fun but nothing more. Bokeh effect is perfect. Portraits are good too. Selfies are not bad either!

Low light shots are in the same mode. 48MP, zoom and bokeh are good, ultra wide is bad. There is a Night Mode shot whish is really good and I was not expecting to find in in this smartphone. Video is good both in 1080p and in 4K but there is no EIS or OIS and a good result is achieved only with a tripod. Selfie video is up top 720p so some details are missing.

This is a rugged smartphone that has similar camera qualities with a mid-range smartphone like Redmi 8 Pro. We would like to see some updates and a software fix for the ultra wide camera. Doogee could prove here that she can keep a smartphone supported for two years in that case, an excellent marketing move.

Doogee S95 – Conclusion

Doogee S95 is an excellent rugged phone. It lacks wireless charging and that extra memory slot that can be found in the Pro model but surely the price it packs is unbeatable for its worth.

Externally we have a top choice of materials that make the smartphone a true rugged king while making it beautiful to the eye – for those that “feast” on die hard models like this. Internally the smartphone is designed to offer the best MediaTek performance in the market while aming to minimise energy consumption – possibly at any cost. The modules are an excellent add-on to an already exeptional smartphone and surely add to its value – when asked to pay.

I just wish that Doogee would decide to offer serious software updates to this phone – and their other devices. It may come at a cost for them (more stuff to work on updates, loyalties paid to Google etc), but it’s a pity not to support this rugged “jem”.

BUY THE RUGGED DOOGEE S95

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