Doogee S90: A Modular Rugged Phone (That’s Actually Useful!)
Whatsapp Pinterest
Advertisement
Our verdict of the Doogee S90:
A massive battery and big screen make the Doogee S90 a solid option for the rugged market, but it really shines when combined with the add-on modules.
810

Modular phones never quite panned out Google's Project Ara Will Make You Want a Modular Phone Google's Project Ara Will Make You Want a Modular Phone Modular smartphones may sound like fiction, but they're closer to reality than you might think. Google is making real progress with Project Ara and it sounds promising. Read More , did they? But in the rugged device market, it turns out they’re quite useful. Doogee has consistently stood out in a sea of Chinese import phones: sometimes with innovation Doogee BL7000 Review: The Biggest Battery Ever, But It Still Doesn't Last Two Days Doogee BL7000 Review: The Biggest Battery Ever, But It Still Doesn't Last Two Days The BL7000 aims to set itself apart by trying to deliver on a fundamental part of a mobile device: battery life. Read More , sometimes with quirky design choices Doogee Mix: Beautiful "Bezel-Less" Phone for under $200 Doogee Mix: Beautiful "Bezel-Less" Phone for under $200 The Doogee Mix is a $200 clone of the Mi Mix, done right. Featuring dual rear sensor camera, almost bezel less display, and few compromises on performance, we might be onto a winner here. Read More . Their latest rugged device—the Doogee S90—is no different.

At launch, the Doogee S90 features 4 interchangeable modules: a 5,000mAh battery pack, “night-vision” camera, walkie talkie, and gamepad. A 5G module is promised later, and there could potentially be more modules if the idea takes off.

Join us as we take a closer look at this intriguing device, and at the end of this review you can win a complete package for yourself!

Doogee S90 Specifications and Pricing

 

  • CPU: MediaTek Helio P60 with Mali-G72 GPU
  • RAM: 6Gb
  • Storage: 128Gb on-board (~100Gb useable)
  • Screen: 6.18″ FHD+ (2246 x 1080px)
  • Battery: 5050mAh
  • Dual-SIM tray (2x NanoSIM or 1 NanoSIM + 1 microSD)
  • Camera: 16+8MP rear, 8MP front
  • Other notable features: NFC, wireless charging, modular interface on rear, two dedicated buttons
  • Price: $470 for the ultimate package, or $300 for the base phone (Delivery estimated February 2019)

Note that this is an active Kickstarter, and there may be small changes to the hardware and software when the final product is delivered. Before agreeing to review pre-order or crowdfunding products, we look carefully at the history of the company, and how far along the production process they are. In this case, Doogee has a proven track record to deliver, so there is little risk involved. We’ve noted in the review where certain features were promised but unable to be tested yet.  

doogee s90 box contents

Inside our test package, we found:

  • The Doogee S90 itself
  • 5000mAh battery module
  • Wireless charging pad (microUSB connection) and power adaptor
  • Walkie talkie and aerial
  • Night-vision camera module
  • USB-C charging cable and headphone to USB-C cable

The Doogee S90 is IP68 rated, thanks to rubber covers over the SIM slot and USB-C port. Bumpers in each corner provide a degree of drop protection, along with the hefty metal rim. Weighing 10.6 ounces (300g), the device measures 6.33 x 3.14 x 0.6 inches (170 x 80 x 15 mm), so it’s a bulky device weighing nearly twice that of some smaller phones. The high capacity internal battery and large 6.18 inch screen are responsible for that difference.

doogee s90 overview shot

On the right side you’ll find the volume rocker, power button, and a camera shutter button. On the left side there’s an additional button that you can customize for both single, double, and long-click. These actions can either open an app, or be set to:

  • Take a screenshot
  • Open sound recording
  • Turn on the flashlight
  • Activate SOS mode
  • Turn on game mode

doogee s90 customizable button

Modular Add-Ons

Doogee has placed a set of electrical contacts on the back of the device and employed a magnetic locking system, allowing add-on modules to be easily attached. It’s incredibly simple to use, and they’re automatically recognised by the system. The modules stay on securely during normal use or in your pocket, but can be pulled off with a little effort. You don’t need any special tools, and the main device doesn’t need to be dismantled. This is the kind of modular approach that could really appeal, so I really hope it’s developed further.

doogee s90 and all the modules

Let’s take a closer look at the current range of modules available.

Battery Pack

Adding around 150g, the 5000mAh battery module effectively doubles the already generous internal 5050mAh battery capacity. It snaps on and immediately begins trickle charging the device. It’s a lot more convenient than lugging around a separate package, and you’re less likely to lose this while camping. The only downside is that you lose the wireless charging feature, as the external battery module itself needs to be charged over USB-C.

Oh, and it turns the Doogee S90 into a massive brick. But if you wanted sleek and sexy, you probably wouldn’t be looking toward the rugged market anyway.

doogee s90 battery pack

Walkie Talkie

Promising to work with standard walkie talkie frequencies in the range of 400-480Mhz and at an unobstructed range of 10km, the walkie talkie module and accompanying app will be able to operate even without a Wi-Fi or cellular network. Again, it adds a good bit of bulk to the back of the device. Unfortunately the module sent for testing was a prototype, so we were unable to fully test the features. However, this isn’t the first time Doogee has added walkie talkie features to a device, so we’re confident they can deliver.

doogee s90 walkie talkie on balcony

Gamepad

Not included in our test package, but available in the ultimate reward pledge or to purchase separately, is the gamepad module. This connects over Bluetooth, and is similar if not identical to the G1 gamepad offered with the S70 model Doogee S70: A Rugged Phone, for Gamers? Doogee S70: A Rugged Phone, for Gamers? The Doogee S70 is a reasonable phone with an outstanding screen, although it could do with losing a bit of weight. Read More . However, I should note that Fortnite is not currently compatible with the device, and even if it were, Gamepads are not currently supported by the game. Other games should be fine.

Night-Vision Camera

If you were conjuring up dreams of using your mobile to navigate in the complete darkness like some kind of super secret agent, I’m afraid that’s not quite the case. The “Night-Vision” camera module is a ultra sensitive wide-angle sensor and lens package, which supposedly amplifies the light 12 times. It’s based on a Sony IMX291 (2mp) sensor, coupled with a 130-degree wide-angle lens.

doogee s90 night vision camera on grass

The operative word is “amplifies”. It does not work in the complete absence of light. There are no infrared LEDs.

Check out the review video for full sample shots from the add-on camera module, but the following side by side comparison should give you an idea of the difference it makes for low-light situations, as well as the distortion from the wide angle lens. This was taken in the early evening with no other lighting; the night-vision camera makes it look like a bright daytime.

doogee s90 night vision camera comparison photo
Left is the standard camera; right is the night-vision module. Not the wide-angle lens distortion, but overall much brighter image.

It’s quite a noisy image and the focus is fixed, but it’s better than nothing at all which is what you’d usually get in this kind of lighting condition. Whether you’ll find a use for extreme low light, low resolution photography and video is another matter. Personally, I would have much preferred a true infrared night vision mode, for wandering round forests in the dead of night, as one is wont to do.

Built-in Camera Quality

Featuring a now standard 16+8MP regular camera in the base phone, the standout feature for me during testing was “aperture mode”, which is where the secondary sensor is used to identify the foreground subject and artificially add bokeh to the rest of the image. In my experience, claims of a secondary sensor are sometimes fake: the software merely adds a circular blur around the point of focus. In the case of the Doogee S90, it’s clearly making use of that sensor, and does a great job of picking out the subject accurately.

doogee s90 camera sample aperture mode
Sample indoor image from Doogee S90 (aperture mode)

On the image above, you can see a slight error where the algorithm included the bottle underneath the camera body in the section of sharp focus, but in fairness I was trying something deliberately difficult for this test shot. More natural shots worked reliably, like these two beautiful rescue hens:

doogee s90 camera sample aperture mode photo of chickens
Sample outdoor image from Doogee S90 (aperture mode)

In standard rear camera mode, photos are passable, but nothing outstanding.

doogee s90 camera sample normal mode
Standard camera mode

The 8MP front sensor tells a similar story, and is fine for selfies and video chatting.

doogee s90 camera sample front selfie
Front facing selfie cam

Doogee S90 Performance

Antutu scored the device around 132,000—not in the top 50 of current smartphones, but not bad. PCMark (Work 2.0) test was a more respectable 6799. In terms of raw power then, it’s roughly equivalent of a Samsung Galaxy S8, or just below that of the Google Pixel 2.

I was able to run Player Unknown Battlegrounds fine—again, sample footage is in the review video. Unfortunately Fortnite refused to install. General UI interactions, web browsing etc was all as smooth as I could wish for, probably helped by the optimizations in Android 8.1.

In terms of battery life, we managed a solid day and then some (on just the phone, not with the backup battery), with average usage. While this may be shorter than you’d expect from such a large battery, but it’s mainly needed to power that gorgeous big screen. If you took the battery module with you, you’d have no trouble getting through a long weekend of camping. With light usage, two or three days from a single charge would not be unusual.

Should You Buy or Back the Doogee S90?

If the modular approach is something that interests you, and the modules on offer are of use, you’ll save on the final retail price by backing the Kickstarter now. The ultimate bundle, which includes all the current modules shown here as well as the gamepad, is available for $470. Or you can mix and match only the ones you want.

It’s a unique approach and one that I hope they continue to release new modules for. The massive battery and large screen in a rugged package are a great combination. Generally, these mid-range import phones are forgotten about quickly, as the next model is inevitably churned out. Don’t expect to get the next major Android upgrade a year down the line; but perhaps the next Doogee modular phone will be compatible with existing modular upgrades. As with any imported phones, check the frequencies will work with your network before purchasing.

If you’re not interested in any of the modules though, you should look elsewhere. The circuitry needed to interface with those modules add to the cost of the device, so you’ll find better performance per dollar on other devices.

Thanks to Doogee, we’ve got a complete pack to giveaway to one lucky reader! Enter below for your chance to win.

 

Enter the Competition!

Doogee S90 Rugged Modular Phone Giveaway

Explore more about: MakeUseOf Giveaway, Modular Phones, Rugged.

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. BOB
    February 3, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    Sooo...Bruce whats your take? ...got any solutions in response to my previous comment/rant? ...is DOOGEE trustworthy? ...and how the h*ll do ya contact them? Is
    there a secret 800# to the USA location?...cause I'm kinda p*ssed about the Oreo update I still have not received.

    Thx Bruce

    • James Bruce
      February 3, 2019 at 10:08 pm

      It's James, actually. I guess Bruce is a common first name there, but's generally a surname in the UK. I often get that.

      No idea about USA support I'm afraid, but as a rule: you get zero support for chinese phones. If you want Apple-grade support, buy an Apple device. As I noted in the conclusion, manufacturers generally don't release major OS updates to these devices either, so you get what you buy. Sounds like you were lied to by some sales rep, but that's hardly unique to a chinese company. Don't buy anything based on a promise of future functionality; I've made it clear in this review which modules I was unable to test for whatever reason.

      I reviewed the Doogee Mix myself, and was dubious about the second sensor, given that it didn't help with the bokeh mode, though it did seem to improve detail (but not by much, so, could have just been circumstance). When dual sensors were first a thing, a lot of chinese phones added fake ones, but it's difficult to confirm for sure. I'm certain the one on this phone is legit, because it was able to correctly identify depth of selected objects, rather than the fake circle blur technique used with a single sensor.

      It's clear you've had a bad experience with Doogee, so thank you for sharing.

  2. BOB
    February 2, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    ''Beware''...I own a DOOGEE MIX ...I was told at the CES show in 2017 by a perfect English-speaking Rep that DOOGEE would update the MIX to Oreo in the first Quarter of 2018....Soooo, I bought the MIX in Feb 2018, based on the 2018 update to come...it is now Feb 2019....I still have not received the update !!!....??? wtf...LIES !!! BTW, the Mix is supposed to have ''DUAL'' camera....more f-ing LIES...it does not....one lense is a placebo...Yes, I've had that confirmed by an professional.

    They tell you what you want to hear....I cant even count how many emails I have sent them...5G ppfff !!! .... dont believe em....they have ZIP, ZERO, NO customer support.....BTW...the wont even respond on the kickstarter Facebook page...its all a ruse...BEWARE...your on your own after you buy it..

  3. Jeff Wassel
    January 23, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    You mentioned nothing about the screen or the screen quality. How is it? How's the brightness? I saw 2 other YouTube videos that reviewed the same package you got, and both screens had very noticeable light bleed. Does yours?

    • James Bruce
      January 24, 2019 at 9:08 am

      It's not something I've noticed, but since you ask: if I look really closely, I'd say there's a little tiny bit of bleed along the bottom edge. But really, it's not to any degree I would ever consider worth mentioning.

      Otherwise: big, bright, beautiful screen. I compared side by side with the Sony Xperia XZ2, and clearly not HDR, but I wouldn't expect that in a mid-range phone.

      • Adam Chad
        January 26, 2019 at 2:01 pm

        Doogee is trying to capture the attention of worldwide customers, therefore they launched too many models in a very short time. I am sorry to say that quality of the devices not good as they advertised. I faced a very bad experience with Doogee S70. Fake battery capacity, fake MP camera, yellowish display, and weak signal. One month used I switched to cheap tough phone Poptel P10 and I am still using the phone.