The new Sonim XP7 handset: Capabilities that cops will appreciate on duty

The XP7 is as close to indestructible as a handset can get

I tested the new Sonim XP7, an indestructible broadband handset designed for public safety. I said handset, not cell phone. It looks like a phone, and can do everything that a mere mortal cell phone can do, but it can also do a lot more.

The XP7 is slightly larger and heavier than a smartphone. Specifically, the XP7 is 137 millimeters x 72.1 millimeters x 20.8 millimeters and weighs 290 grams. It fits fine in my back pocket.

The XP7 is as close to indestructible as a handset can get. To put this into perspective, there are several handheld devices that went back to their companies after my tests in Ziploc bags.  I have returned them with handwritten notes explaining how sorry I was for destroying them.

The screen does not dial underwater, but officers will appreciate that the phone can be washed off. (Photo/PoliceOne, Lindsey Bertomen)
The screen does not dial underwater, but officers will appreciate that the phone can be washed off. (Photo/PoliceOne, Lindsey Bertomen)

Field testing and specifications

Playing the role of the patrol officer looking for his phone the day after a water rescue, I submersed the XP7, then came back more than 24 hours later to a still-working device. The specifications state to only do this for 30 minutes. The screen does not dial underwater, but officers will appreciate that the phone can be washed off. I have used my own cell phone after stepping under the “Police Line” tape, and I wanted to buy a new one or sterilize it. I dumped a bottle of alcohol (and some gun oil, oops) on this device and it still worked perfectly.

The Sonim XP7 runs 4.4 Kit Kat in a quad-core MSM8926 1.2 GHz This allows efficient (battery saving) operations for simultaneous multitasking communication capabilities, like voice, data and location. The public safety version of this handset will handle all of the current and projected public safety bands and commercial 700 MHz Band Class 14 LTE wireless spectrums. In a nutshell, if your agency is considering a communication device that lacks technological obsolescence, this is it.

I beat this phone up, and it never failed. The high resolution daylight readable WVGA touch screen is made of Gorilla glass. The case is a double injected fiberglass for crush and drop resistance. No matter where I was, if anyone noticed this handset, I threw it at them. This was my real-world test that went beyond the “6.5 drops onto hard surface” specifications.

The touch screen does not work underwater, but the PTT button does. The Gore protective vents over the very loud (103db) speaker allows for communication, even while the guys in the red engines are busy in your crime scene.

Compared to my iPhone, the XP7 got better fringe area reception and even held on to Wi-Fi better.

Sonim’s perspective

Tony Martwick, SVP Corporate Strategy and Public Safety at Sonim, told me there has been a tremendous shift in public safety technology. Originally, public safety was predominantly focused on voice communications. When smart phone technology came to the market, public safety augmented voice with broadband. For law enforcement, it’s about situational awareness and perspective. Now there are three levels of mission-critical services – voice, data and video – often integrated into applications.

Martwick said there were four must-haves for a public safety handset:  a loudspeaker, PTT, reliability and a long-lasting battery. The XP7 has all of these, plus four simple programmable buttons and a touch screen. It does have two cameras, plus a pretty good light for stills and videos.

If we look at other things police agencies do, the XP7 is peripheral ready. Think fingerprint scanners, license readers, sensors and drug detection.

Additionally, there has to be some sort of bridging technology for agencies to talk to other agencies in completely different modes, such as LTE to LMR radio.

Martwick told me the majority of firefighters in most regions in the country are volunteer. Giving them a handset that is integrated with the major communication system gives the entire region more operational support than the old pager system. Using the same concept, an officer in a smaller department can be quickly integrated into a major agency’s communications for multijurisdictional operations. This can support something as simple as a pursuit that crosses jurisdictional lines or a series of connected crime scenes.

The Sonim XP7 4800 mAh battery gives 1000 hours of standby and 40 hours of talk time. No, I’m not making this up. I used it as my primary device for a week without charging it.

The XP7 uses open APIs (it can be programmed by the end user/administrator) and the Android SDK (software development kit) allows for custom apps for an agency or a need-specific interface.

How good is this product?  I would gladly replace my not-so-smart phone with an XP7 any day because of its usability.

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