Android Central Verdict
On paper, the Ulefone Armor 15 performs admirably. The large 6,600mAh battery pushes through a full day of heavy use. However, the Mediatek Helio G35 chipset and mediocre screen detract from the experience.
Still image capture is decent
Built-in wireless earbuds
Dedicated photo capture button
Mediocre 720 x 1440 resolution
Chipset is dated
No 4K video recording
No 5G support
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The whole point of rugged phones is to provide users with capable hardware that doesn't need babysitting. However, Ulefone does things a bit differently with the Armor 15 by including a pair of built-in wireless earbuds.
Ulefone is known for its affordable rugged phones with distinctive designs. While many of its models are designed to fit almost any budget, the Armor series is the brand's most successful line, combining high durability with a massive battery.
On paper, the Ulefone Armor 15 is ideal for adventurers, but how does it fare in the real world? This review will attempt to provide an answer to that question.
Ulefone Armor 15: Price and availability
The Ulefone Armor 15 retails for $300 globally. Fortunately, it is being discounted at the moment, meaning you can snag a unit for only $260. It is available to purchase in North America and Europe.
If you want to add an extra layer of protection for the device, the protective case plus the phone will set you back $284.98 in total. That said, you may hardly need to grab the case given the phone's durable design.
Ulefone Armor 15: What I like
The Ulefone Armor 15’s camera surprisingly holds up well against more expensive alternatives, and the phone takes decent photos, unlike some of the best rugged phones I've reviewed in the past.
Ulefone replaced the Armor 15's primary shooter on the back with a Sony IMX363 sensor, rather than the dated Sony IMX350 found in previous Armor series models. The sensor is supplemented by a Samsung S5K3M3 sensor for the wide-angle camera, and while their performance isn't spectacular, the photos in most of my shots look good.
Close-up shots have a good background blur and clean edges, unlike most rugged phones. Ulefone has clearly made the most of its macro sensor, and for the first time in a long time, I've found this type of sensor useful. As long as there is adequate lighting, the front camera takes good photos for a rugged phone.
Ulefone Armor 15 sample photos
Ulefone didn't forget to include a dedicated photo button on the phone's right side, just below the power button. It is not a common feature in rugged smartphones, so Ulefone deserves credit for making the effort. And it serves its purpose, allowing you to launch the camera with a single press no matter which screen you're on.
The battery is another strength of the Armor 15. On a typical day, I averaged about eight hours of screen-on time. This accounted for the time spent on social media scrolling, Google Chrome browsing, an hour of Netflix shows, some TikTok videos, and light games. The phone quickly pushes through two full days away from a charger, with a little juice left to spare for the next morning. This obviously owes to the lower resolution screen (which unfortunately comes with its own share of compromises).
However, it’s worth mentioning that the 6,600mAh battery is a downgrade from the 10,000mAh unit found in the previous-generation Ulefone Armor 14 Pro. The charging time usually lasts an hour, bringing the phone’s battery from zero to 100% thanks to the included 18W charger.
I’m also impressed by how Ulefone pulled off a unique design that doesn’t compromise the durability of the Armor 15. The phone touts a rugged design with an IP68/IP69K rating for water and dust resistance. Perhaps even without this rating, I would still have a lot of faith in this device’s strength. The body is made of aluminum ridges with rubberized corners and a built-in bumper to protect it from accidental (or even intentional) drops.
The phone also has a MIL-STD 810G certification, which means it can hold up in harsh environments. The takeaway here is that the Armor 15 inspires a lot of confidence regarding durability.
As for the phone's highlight, the built-in wireless earbuds are hidden beneath two weather-resistant rubber flaps at the top. Surprisingly, the sound quality is on par with cheap earphones, although it’s nothing to write home about. You’d be left wanting more if you’re a fan of active noise cancellation or high-fidelity audio. That said, the rubber ear tips help to minimize background noise in most situations but are not powerful enough to drown out crowd noise.
The earbuds’ design is pretty average by my standards, but they fit comfortably in my ears and get the job done. I also never had to worry about its battery, seeing as it often charges once inside the charging case inside the phone. The battery life is commendable as well, considering that it’s only an accessory to a budget rugged phone. In my experience, the earbuds lasted an average of six hours of music playback at 80% volume.
|Category||Ulefone Armor 15|
|Operating System||Android 12|
|Display||5.45 inches, 720 x 1440 pixels|
|Processor||MediaTek Helio G35|
|Rear Camera 1||12MP (wide), f/1.8|
|Rear Camera 2||13MP (ultrawide), f/2.4|
|Front Camera||16MP (wide), f/2.4|
|Security||Fingerprint sensor (side-mounted), face unlock|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||USB Type-C 2.0|
|Protection||IP68, IP69K, MIL-STD-810G|
|Dimensions||170.2 x 79.6 x 18.2 mm|
Ulefone Armor 15: What I don't like
The Ulefone Armor 15's middling processor was a major letdown, ruining my overall experience. The moment I got my hands on the phone, it was clear that the performance was deficient in every way. I had to put up with frequent stutters, freezes, and bumpy interfaces. It's just something I'm not used to, especially after reviewing rugged phones from Blackview and AGM in the past.
The poor performance means a rough experience moving around different apps and games. Switching to a different launcher did not help either, contrary to what I expected when I installed the Nova launcher. I was especially dissatisfied with the phone's gaming performance in titles like PUBG Mobile. The Armor 15 struggled to keep up throughout the game, and there was frequent lag here and there, especially in graphically intensive scenes.
There’s no support for 4K video recording as well, although this isn’t a common feature for rugged phones. The camera is limited to 1080p video recording at 30 frames per second. There’s also an odd sharpening in videos that I recorded with the Armor 15. The phone's camera lacks the quick autofocus capability you'd expect from a phone in this price range, making it one of your last choices when looking for a handset to shoot videos with.
The colors and contrast on the display are other drawbacks if you’re used to an AMOLED display with higher resolutions. That is because the Ulefone Armor 15 sports only an HD screen with less accurate colors by my standards. This is all the more evident when viewing photos in my gallery or watching YouTube videos, for example, which detract from the overall experience. For a rugged phone at this price point, I expected a higher-resolution display.
Ulefone Armor 15: Competition
The Ulefone Armor 15 has quite a number of competitors from our list of the top rugged phones. And of those options, I’d go for the Blackview BL8800 Pro, which offers many more features and a snappy processor. For $400, it touts thermal imaging and a brighter display than the Armor 15. It also has an impressive endurance and a remappable side button. If you need a specific feature like a thermal camera, the BL8800 Pro could serve you better.
You may also consider the AGM H5 Pro if you want a handset with perhaps the loudest speaker ever at 109dB. It has a 6.52-inch LCD display and is powered by a faster MediaTek Helio G85 SoC. Plus, it has a beefier battery and offers a stock Android experience if you hate bloatware. For consumers looking for a phone with IR night vision, the AGM H5 Pro is also right up their alley.
Otherwise, the best rival to the Armor 15 may be another device with a higher-resolution display and a snappier chipset.
Ulefone Armor 15: Should you buy it?
You should buy it if...
- You want a rugged phone that can capture decent photos.
- You like a phone with built-in wireless earbuds.
- You want a rugged phone that really looks like it can withstand extreme environments.
You should not buy it if...
- You're used to high-resolution displays.
- You hate slow performance and a mediocre chipset.
- You want a phone with 4K video recording capability.
The Ulefone Armor 15 has a good number of features for a rugged phone, with the built-in wireless earbuds being the standout. It also has a large battery and an IP68/IP69K rating, but these features are insufficient to compensate for the phone's shortcomings. Although rugged phones don't typically have the most vivid screens, the HD screen, and slow performance ruin the fun.
If you're looking for a rugged phone with good features, the Ulefone Armor 15 should be on your short list. While the screen and processor performance are both disappointing, the phone's extremely sturdy build quality and decent main camera make it easy to recommend.
The Ulefone Armor 15 counts the built-in wireless earbuds as its unique feature while also providing decent cameras for the price. It has a robust build quality that inspires confidence in terms of durability.
Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.