The tough Doogee S90 has power for days and can see in the dark

doogee s90 product impressions in hand
Mark Jansen/Digital Trends

With tough builds and special features suited to a harder life, rugged phones should be the go-to option for those often out in the wilderness or working in hazardous areas. But protection doesn’t come cheap, and rugged phones tend to land on the expensive side, whether that’s the $1,000 Cat S61, or the $800-plus Land Rover Explore. When Chinese company Doogee announced it was initially offering the super-rugged Doogee S90 at the bargain price of $300, it caught our attention.

The S90 stands out with a Moto Mods-style system of additional modules that snap onto the back. You can snap on modules like a night vision camera, a Walkie-talkie, and a battery pack, making it incredible versatile. Does the S90 have what it takes to be a one of the best rugged phones? It’s not perfect, and it’s one of the heaviest phones we’ve ever tested, but we believe it could find a home if you’re in the market for a tough, long-lasting rugged phone.

A super-strong titanium alloy build

You want strength? You got it. The Doogee S90 is made from a titanium alloy, has impact-absorbing rubber corners, along with an anti-slip cover. It feels incredibly solid — like a brick — and when we got it out the box it was cold to the touch thanks to the metal build. The downside is it’s extremely heavy at 300 grams. For comparison, the iPhone 8 weighs 148 grams, and even other rugged phones like the Cat S48c fall short of the S90’s weight.

The weight reassures us the phone is durable, but carry it around for an afternoon and you’ll feel your arms start to drop off. The additional modules only make it heavier. They snap onto the back, and the heaviest — the battery pack — takes the weight to just shy of 450 grams. That’s heavier than a Nintendo Switch, and if you’re looking to do some lightweight backpacking, the weight might mean you pass this over.

It certainly doesn’t fall short on protection though. The S90 comes with IP68 and IP69K ratings for water and dust-proofing, and rubber covers protect the ports — sadly, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack. The corners are protected by the rubber bumpers, and the textured coating gives plenty of grip. There’s a dedicated camera shutter button, and a push-to-talk button that can be used with the Walkie-talkie module (more on that later), but it can also be customized for other uses.

The screen is impressive too, as the S90 has a bright 6.18-inch LCD screen running a 2,246 × 1,080 resolution, with a deep notch cut into the top.

Performance and software

The Doogee S90 is equipped with decent mid-range specs, including Mediatek’s Helio P60 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 128GB of storage space.

Geekbench refused to run on the S90, but we were able to run some other benchmark apps on the phone.

  • AnTuTu 3DBench: 134,922
  • 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 1,114 (Vulkan)

These results place the S90 around the same place as the BlackBerry Key2, another great mid-range phone with the comparable Snapdragon 660 processor. But benchmarks aren’t everything, and the S90’s real life performance is solid, with little stuttering or slowdown throughout our testing period. The facial unlocking and fingerprint scanner are similarly snappy, opening the phone quickly.

But the S90 isn’t up to the challenge of serious gaming. We experienced stutters playing Shadowgun: Legends, and the frame rate was nowhere near as smooth as more powerful phones. Alto’s Odyssey fared a lot better, with no issues whatsoever. The S90 will be able to handle most games, but it’ll struggle with the faster-paced and more demanding competitive games.

You’ll find Android 8.1 Oreo on the S90, with Doogee’s customized skin over the top. The user interface uses a stylized gray metal and gold design for the base apps, but there’s no app drawer. The S90 apes iOS’ home page setup for app storage, and it’s frustrating to not be able to swap over if you prefer an app drawer.

Battery for days

Many rugged phones specialize in packing the sort of battery that won’t quit after a single day, and the S90 fits comfortably within this category. The S90 is big, thick, and heavy, so it’s a relief to know that a good portion of this is probably down to the enormous 5,050mAh battery. Expect battery life to be measured in days, rather than hours. We took the S90 out on a long bicycle ride and used it as an (amusingly over-sized) cycle computer. Five full hours later, constant screen time and GPS tracking had reduced the battery by 50 percent — a big hit, but less than you’d imagine for that level of activity. We’re fairly confident you can throw this into your pack and go for at least two days on a single charge.

But if that’s not enough, you also have the option of attaching the battery module. Attached onto the 24 pogo pins on the reverse of the phone, the battery pack crams in a further 5,000mAh of power, effectively doubling the phone’s battery life. With over 10,000mAh of power, you’ll be able to take this phone (and battery pack) for a weekend of camping without getting battery anxiety. The USB-C port also comes with USB on-the-go support, so you can recharge other phones with the right adapter. The S90 packs Qi wireless charging as well — an unexpected addition to a solid metal phone.

Night vision, gamepads, and walkie talkies

The S90’s add-ons don’t stop there. While the S90 has a decent camera suite, some will be itching to get their hands on the night vision camera module. It’s not “night vision” in the traditional “glowing green” sense, but just a massive lens that lets in a lot more light. Unfortunately, it’s not the best lens around. While it does brighten shots significantly, it also greatly increases noise. While night shots taken with the module are clearer, they are nothing on the level of the Pixel 3‘s software-enhanced Night Sight mode.

The S90 can also slot into a gamepad accessory, which provides a left-hand side joystick and a variety of customizable buttons for your gameplay. We haven’t tried this accessory yet, but we assume it’ll work similarly to the other gaming controllers out there.

The Walkie-talkie module exists in the same “not tested” space at the moment. While we received the physical hardware, the software will not be ready until February at the earliest. Doogee claims it will function like a real Walkie-talkie, using radio bands rather than a mobile network, making it perfect for staying in touch in the wilderness. We’ll update this section when we get a chance to play with both of these modules.

Is it worth it?

If you’re looking for a solid and dependable phone that’ll survive building sites, hazardous environments, and hiking trips aplenty, then the Doogee S90 should be on your list of options. With a solid titanium alloy build and IP68/69K ratings, it’s sure to survive most situations you put it into. But it doesn’t stop there. The huge battery is astounding, especially with the battery pack that doubles the capacity.

doogee s90 product impressions in box with modules
Mark Jansen/Digital Trends

But what about the other modules? The Walkie-talkie module may be good for anyone who uses such gadgets regularly, but unless you’re really sold on one in particular, we see less of a reason to pick up the night vision camera or the gamepad. The good news is you can pick up as many or few of the modules as you want. After a successful Kickstarter campaign,Doogee has launched the S90 for just $300 on its website, Amazon UK, and Ali Express. You can mix and match modules as you like, but if you want the whole lot, you can grab the Ultimate Bundle for $400.

That deal only runs until February 28 though, and after that date the Doogee S90 will be available from Doogee’s website for $500, which makes it a bit of a tougher sell. The Ultimate Bundle will set you back $676. You should also be aware that the S90 works on AT&T and T-Mobile, but not on Verizon’s or Sprint’s networks.

Product Review

Fascinating Finney phone is crypto in a nutshell: Exciting, but also terrifying

The Sirin Labs Finney phone is to cryptocurrency what the iPhone is to Apple Pay. It facilitates the payment, processing, and exchanging of cryptocurrencies on a smartphone, and surprisingly does it in a user-friendly way.
Mobile

You can now pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, or S10e

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is one of the most-anticipated phones of the year, offering a new chipset, beautiful display, and more. Now that the phone has been announced you might be wondering where you can get it for yourself.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Galaxy S9: How much better is Samsung’s new flagship?

You'd naturally expect the Samsung Galaxy S10 to be better than last year's S9, but just how do the two phones differ? We break down the specs and compare Samsung's flagships in various categories to pick a winner.
Mobile

Samsung beefs up just about everything in its Galaxy S10 smartphone range

Samsung has unveiled its 2019 flagship smartphone lineup, and there aren't just two phones as usual -- there are four. There's the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, as well as a new entry called the S10e, as well as the Galaxy S10 5G.
Mobile

Protect and style your Samsung Galaxy S10 with the best cases and covers

If you've splashed the cash for a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S10, then you'll want to take steps to protect your investment. With a metal frame and glass curves, the S10 needs some cover. Check out the best Samsung Galaxy S10 cases.
Health & Fitness

Nike’s Android app is bricking its $350 Adapt BB self-lacing shoes

A firmware update for Nike's new self-lacing Adapt BB shoe appears to be bricking the $350 footwear for some owners. Android users have said the Nike app no longer pairs with the shoe, rendering the tightening mechanism useless.
Mobile

Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e in the U.K.

The Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e have all been officially announced and can be pre-ordered right now, with deliveries expected on March 8. If you're in the U.K., this is where you need to go to buy one.
Mobile

Sony partnership with Light aims to take smartphone photography to new heights

Smartphone photography is in its ascendancy, and a new partnership between Light and Sony hopes to lift it to new heights through the development of multi-image sensor solutions for smartphones. We spoke to Light to find out more.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Google Pixel 3: Can Samsung beat the stock Android king?

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is here, offering modern specs, a beautifully high-resolution display, and an edge-to-edge design with a small cutout in the display for the front-facing camera. But can the phone take out the Google Pixel 3?
Deals

Protect your iPhone or iPad with the IPVanish VPN, on sale through February

One of our favorite virtual private networks for iPhones and iPads, IPVanish, is now offering a huge discount on its two-year subscription as part of its 7th-birthday promotion. Read on to find out more about how this VPN works and how you…
Mobile

Verizon is launching real standards-based 5G in 30 cities in 2019

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.
Deals

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. OnePlus 6T: Can the Flagship Killer survive?

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the new affordable flagship on the block, but at $750, it's $200 more than the OnePlus 6T. Does the Flagship Killer stand a chance against the new generation of flagship devices? Let's take a closer look.
Mobile

Samsung says it has set new standard for mobile tech with the 2019 Galaxy range

Samsung launched a host of new products on February 20, with prices ranging from just $35, all the way up to nearly $2,000. This was not by chance, and the company believes it has something for everyone in 2019.