This is a review of the Ulefone Armor 3W rugged smartphone to see how suitable it is for hiking and wild camping purposes.
It has turned out to be my favourite piece of hiking gear for navigation, photography and safety in the hills. On one recent trip, I used the phone for two weeks on battery saver mode, and it still had 50% charge at the end. This makes it perfect for long distance walks and wild camping expeditions.
Update September 2020: When in full use during wild camping trips, I can usually get the Ulefone to last about two weeks before it needs recharging. That’s with it on aeroplane mode most of the time, but using the mapping, GPS and camera a lot every day.
Reasons for buying the Ulefone Armor 3W
The Ulefone Armor 3W rugged smartphone is a replacement for my trusty old Tough Phone Defender Pro, which is no longer available. I used the Defender Pro for all my GPS navigation, map reading, with Ordnance Survey mapping on the Memory-Map application. It was also used for all my photography and usual everyday phone usage over the last 3 years. I even had a photograph taken by the Defender Pro published in the TGO magazine.
However, the battery of my Defender Pro was nowhere near as good as it once was (a problem when I can’t charge it often). I had managed to break the screen, compromising its waterproof qualities, whilst on my LEJOG walk. I was happy to replace the screen and battery, but my 20 year old son talked me into buying this new phone instead. He suggested it was better – and cheaper – than the Defender Pro. I had never heard of it!
This review is based on using the Ulefone Armor 3W rugged smartphone for hiking and outdoor purposes in the UK. It will not be a comprehensive tech guide to all the phone’s features (mainly because I have no idea what it all means).
At the time of writing, Amazon is the only place you can purchase this phone in the UK. It was a lot cheaper than my old Toughphone Defender Pro.
The Ulefone Armor 3W weighs 361 grams. This is quite a weight compared to the average mobile phone, if you’re a hiker carrying all your gear. But this should be mitigated by not needing to carry an extra power pack or solar charger. You also don’t need to worry that it will go flat on your hike.
Using the Memory-Map application, I was able to download the OS 1/50,000 mapping for the whole of the UK in just a few minutes. It was also possible to transfer the routes I had saved on my old phone to the new phone fairly easily. This meant I could see the various walks I had tracked on my old phone. This mapping is fantastic and I just can’t live without it now. I can change my route and not have to worry about carrying the wrong maps.
Initial hill-walking test
The battery size of 10,300 mAh is more than twice the size of my old Defender Pro. This is perfect for longer walks without access to power.
The Ulefone Armor 3W phone has done everything that I needed during the hiking trips. The GPS was a lot faster than my Tough Phone. The mapping is really clear and it wasn’t affected by the damp weather either. I’m especially impressed by the quality of the pictures. I was able to download the OS 1/50,000 mapping for the whole of the UK to store and use with the GPS, so I don’t have to worry about navigation wherever I want to go in the UK. This also has great benefits when walking in cloud or if there’s no path, as I can place myself perfectly. This is especially reassuring when my family is with me, and making a wrong turn off a ridge could be life-threatening.
So thanks to my son, I’ve a better phone and saved a lot of money in the process. That’s a win-win for me and a recommendation for the Ulefone Armor 3W.
Picture taken with the phone
Loading OS Mapping
Loading the OS mapping on the device was a relatively simple process. To start you need a licence from the memory-map website, of whichever OS map you want (in this case the 1:50k Great Britain map), then download the memory-map application onto your device. From here you can log into your memory-map account and load the license you’ve purchased.
An important point to note is that initially the mapping will be only accessible when you’re connected to the internet, you have to choose to download the mapping for offline use in the memory-map application.
Android 9.0 Operating System
6GB RAM (Helio P70 octa-core processor) and 64GB internal storage
21MP (back) and 8MP (front) Sony Camera
5.7 inch Full HD+ (1080 x 2160 resolution) screen
Dual Sim/NFC/Wireless Charging
GPS: Glonass and Beidou positioning
Battery: 10,300 mAh with 1,300 hours standby time and 66 hours talk time
The Ulefone Armor 3W is now my favourite piece of hiking gear. It does everything my old phone did and has a much longer battery life, I’ve managed to go a whole month without needing to recharge it and like my old phone, it’ll give me the confidence to do expeditions like my LEJOG and 3 Peaks walk. I also tested it extensively on my Dover to Cape Wrath and Skye Trail walks in 2020.
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