Easily one of the best things about Android is its ability to cover the entire market: whatever your hardware or budget needs are, you can probably find a phone that fits them. The Samsung Rugby Smart is now on sale at AT&T, and it presents a fascinating little section of the market: mid-range hardware and specifications combined with a true ruggedized chassis for a small but tough Gingerbread phone. Samsung was kind enough to send us a review unit, and we immediately set to trying the Rugby Smart out.

Two years ago the Rugby Smart might have been a top-of-the-line phone, but today it’s in the shallow end of the Android pool. And speaking of pools, this little guy might be the perfect companion for a day in the sun: its water and dust-resistant frame can be submerged in up to a meter of water for thirty minutes without damaging the internals. Samsung manages this with a design that locks all the essential ports and pieces underneath swinging tabs and a back battery plate with a turning lock – yes, even with all that, you can still replace the battery yourself.

Aesthetically the phone isn’t much – it looks kind of like what an M-16 would if it were a phone. A 3.7-inch 480×800 screen is surrounded by impact-resistant plastic, and the familiar Android navigation buttons are real buttons, something I haven’t seen on a slate Android phone since the Droid X2. They’re pleasantly coated with the same rough, bumpy texture that covers the back. Other than the tank-like build, it’s a typical Samsung phone, with the power button on the right side and the colume on the left. The rear camera is 5 megapixels and shoots 720P video, while the front-facing cam is a generous 1.3.

Removing the back cover can be tricky – it’s possible to do it with your thumbnail, but a handy coin will make it a lot easier. Once you get it off the bay for the 1650mAh battery presents itself, along with a precariously empty MicroSD card slot. It looks like the card is actually held in place by the weight of the battery above it, which might be tricky to line up. Thankfully the camera gets the standard LED flash, so the Rugby Smart can take better pictures and double as a flashlight.

Inside you get a single-core Snapdragon processor running at 1.4Ghz, backed up by 512MB of RAM. That’s not going to smoke any of the recent superphones, but it’s more than enough to get around Gingerbread and TouchWiz. There’s no word on Ice Cream Sandwich, and with the target market it could take quite some time. The phone runs on AT&T’s HSPA+”4G” network, and comes with just 4GB of internal memory, though you can add a MicroSD card for more. As usual, the Super AMOLED panel is excellent, with bright, rich colors and great viewing angles.

Check the video below for the unboxing experience, and stay tuned next week for our full review. If you’r already convinced, the Samsung Rugby Smart is going for $99.99 with a two-year contract at AT&T stores.

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