A hardy, ruggedized phablet-like phone that is too big to hold and let down by bulky modules with an unreliable magnet-guided connection. With high performance and suitable for hardcore mobile gaming, this is not a phone for everyday use, which may put you off.
How often do you buy a phone and find it’s missing a feature? Perhaps the battery life isn’t quite enough… maybe it’s too easy to break the display.
With a solution to both issues comes the Doogee S95 Pro, available for around $300. A smartphone with a rugged design and Gorilla glass, it boasts top-end performance, external battery pack, and speaker modules. But is the Doogee S95 Pro a workable alternative to delicate, low-battery smartphones, or just a bit of a faff?
Unboxing the Doogee S95 Pro
Shipping in a smart black box with a magnetic lid and electric blue typeface, the packaging conveys a strong message. The inference is that you’re about to open the box on a good quality piece of kit.
Opening the Doogee S95 Pro, you’ll find… another box. This is the home of the S95 Pro phone, comfortably packaged alongside a USB Type-C data/power cable and USB adaptor.
The larger box, meanwhile, has space for the modules. With the Doogee S95 Pro, you get two modular add-ons: a battery pack, and a speaker. These are designed to attach to the rear of the phone; as such, they are slightly curved for a close fit.
The Rugged Doogee S95 Chassis
As a rugged smartphone, the Doogee S95’s chassis should be of particular interest. While as big as a Samsung Galaxy S10, the S95 has extra bulk to protect from drops. The extra protection results in a device 13.8mm thick. Meanwhile, it weighs a hefty 285g, although some of this can be attributed to the internal battery.
Despite the weight, the S95 is Doogee’s thinnest and lightest rugged phone. We’ve tested our review device in several “dropping scenarios”, banging it against walls, concrete floors, asphalt, and natural walkways in the countryside.
It’s come away with minor grazes to the rubberized exterior, and minimal (if any) scratching. The Doogee S95 comes with Gorilla Glass along with a pre-applied screen protector. This is a phone that is almost certainly ready for anything.
You probably wouldn’t want to be on the end of it, either. It’s a heavy-duty device that might prove useful for self-defense. Similarly, the S95 is hardy enough to smash a window.
It’s not all about how tough the phone is. The Doogee S95 is also waterproof, to the IP68 standard. This means the phone is waterproof to a depth of three meters, for up to four hours. It’s unlikely the phone will end up under such duress away from a river or the sea, of course. But you’ve got the reassurance that it might survive loss from height or in water for a few hours until it can be retrieved
Doogee S95 Specifications and Pricing
A dual-SIM 4G phone with a 6.3″ 1080p IPS LCD display (18:9 aspect ratio), the Doogee S95 Pro measures 6.6 x 3.1 x 0.66 inches (168 x 79.3 x 16.8mm).
Inside, the phone features a powerful Helio P90 octa-core A75 2.2GHz chip, with 8GB of UFS high-speed Samsung flash RAM. This will prove especially useful for mobile gaming, with faster performance and loading times. Meanwhile, 128GB of expandable storage is included, and the unit is powered by a 5150mAh battery.
Capable of holding 30-48 hours charge, this is the on-board power—the battery pack modular is slightly smaller (see below). There’s also support for 10W wireless charging, compatible with most wireless charge mats. Both charge methods are Quick Charge capable.
A 16MP front-facing camera is mounted in the notch, while the back camera combines a 48MP Sony IMX582 camera with an ultra-wide 117-degree 8MP camera, 8MP depth sensor, and a half-inch light sensor. These sensors are arranged in a two-by-two array on the back of the phone. They aim to deliver 10x zoom and macro shots at a 40mm distance.
With wireless charging, a thumbprint reader, and facial recognition, this is a feature-packed phone, running Android 9.0.
Two Modular Add-ons
Doogee has been producing modular phones since 2019 following a successful Kickstarter campaign. Our review of the preceding model, the Doogee S90 , reveals a phone with four bundled modules.
For the S95, however, just two are included: a battery pack, and a 6W speaker with a built-in kickstand.
The 3500mAh module battery is smaller than the internal 5150mAh battery but offers a welcome boost to power. Along with bring additional power to the table when the S95 runs low, the battery module recharges the main battery.
This is clearly an advantage. While you might prefer to use the battery module during periods of expected low usage, this isn’t necessary. The battery module fits the phone perfectly; while it might be bulkier with the battery attached, it’s perfectly usable.
Speaker and Stand
Also bundled with the S95 Pro is a 6W speaker module, with dual 27mm speakers. Like the battery pack, this snaps to the back of the phone. Sound quality is good—certainly better than expected—although you may prefer to keep your phone face down for music.
Thanks to a built-in stand, located between the two speakers, the module converts the S95 into a video entertainment center. Load up a movie, attach the speaker module, prop up the phone with the stand, and enjoy.
Compared with the built-in speaker, the speaker module sounds superb. I tried it out with a movie and the result was great. Meanwhile, playing a podcast in the bathroom was like having the hosts in there with me!
How Do the Modules Connect?
By now you’ve probably gathered that data and power is transferred between the S95 and its modules via the array of pogo pins. But how do the modules stay attached to the phone?
This is thanks to magnets situated inside the body of the phone and modules. These ensure the module stays attached to the phone, as well as securing the two devices around the pogo pins.
That’s the idea, at least. However, it doesn’t always work out that way. Our initial review model shipped with a weak or inverted magnet in the area of the pogo targets. This resulted in the modules not attaching to the most vital point of the phone.
Not ideal. Happily, Doogee were swift to issue a replacement device.
There is one other thing to note about the modules. Without either module connected, the rear of the Doogee S95 is a little ugly. The pogo targets are unsightly, while the “rugged” design is a little harsh.
How Good Is the Camera?
As noted earlier in the review, the Doogee S95 Pro features a 48MP camera with 10x zoom capability. It’s also designed to handle closeup work, with macro support to 40mm. These camera features can result in stunning photos, although the software plays a major part in this.
Overall, the camera is good, although the 10x zoom seems to rely heavily on the software. There’s a slightly unnatural feel to the results, with features you might normally see clearly smoothed out to produce a convincing zoom effect. The snap below was taken from around 10 meters—you can see how it has a slightly “artistic” effect.
Macro mode fares better, however, with some stunning closeup results at 40mm.
The camera also features a night mode and wide angle photography.
Doogee S95 Performance
It’s fast, it plays games and media well, and the display is impressive. The Doogee S95 phone is a nice piece of kit, and ranks 52nd following benchmarking on Antutu.
Battery life for standard use is good too… but it’s not perfect. A phone like this, that relies the existence of modular add-ons, must be judged on them as well. So, while performance is beyond what you might expect from such a rugged, hardy phone, the modules let it down.
They make the phone difficult to hold; the speaker isn’t 100% reliable. The less said about the earbuds, the better—after 30 minutes of trying to get them to connect to the phone and each other, I gave up.
Further, it’s important to take the time to give your Doogee S95 a thorough clean after outdoor pursuits. Our test device found its way into a pond. Although protected from mud and water ingress, those tight little doors are not perfect. Plenty of dirt accumulated around all three, as well as the edges of the rubberized bezel.
Using the Doogee S95 Pro as Your Daily Driver
Having spent a week with the Doogee S95 as my main phone, there is little to complain about. The biggest issue was with the launcher. While it ships with Android 9.0, there’s a version of Launcher 3 installed that doesn’t list apps in the app drawer. Instead, they’re listed in subsequent home screens, iOS-style.
Switching launchers solves this with ease. With all the usual Android apps installed (thanks Google Play!), the S95 substituted my usual phone with ease.
But it is a big phone. It’s not easy to quickly slip it into your pocket or handbag. There’s an instant weight issue, which makes me wonder of the phone and its modules are more suited to travel. After all, enhanced audio and an easily attached battery pack sound ideal for trips to the country or island beach.
Do You Need the Doogee S95 Pro?
No, you don’t. It’s a thick, heavy, rugged phone in an age of foldable lightweight hardware. There is absolutely no scenario in which anyone could possibly need a phone that doesn’t shatter on the slightest impact, or can survive a drop in the sea (or a toilet). In case you can’t tell, that was sarcasm.
So, now you’ve decided that you do need the Doogee S95, when are you going to use it? That’s the thing, you see. It’s simply not a daily driver, it’s too big. If you’re happy with a little smartphone that you can quickly get out to make calls, this isn’t a replacement.
On the other hand, if you’re a construction worker, extreme sports enthusiast, or regular traveler to national parks and island resorts, then maybe the Doogee S95 Pro is for you. You’ve got the speaker module for a bit of quality evening entertainment, the battery for extended photo and video use, and a ruggedized phone that’ll take a beating during your adventures.