The hiking companion – Doogee S86 phone

I miss the good old times where the battery of the mobile phone would carry you through several days before charging is needed. Somehow, the market decided that we rather charge the phones daily and take battery banks, chargers and cables with us than have our mobile phones thicker than a sheet of paper. Doogee breaks this unspoken concept with the entire range of phones. Don’t be put off by the dodgiest name in the market, behind the farcical name hides a gem of a device – meet Doogee S86 – the hiker’s friend!

Everything proof monster – Doogee S86

If not for four cameras, you would be forgiven thinking that you are looking at a rugged battery bank. Although the first impressions suggest a protective case, Doogee S86 doesn’t come with one. It was made to look this way, and take the advantage of pretty much anything that you can throw at it. All that at less than $200.00 package! You can grab it on Amazon stores: US, UK, DE.

I always wondered if these ruggedized phones are any good. Frankly speaking, looking at these and approachable prices I’d envision an optimistic take on (Nokia) 3310ing phones that barely meet Android specs. It’s not the case with Doogee S86. It’s not a flagship in the traditional sense, but might as well be one in its own category. If you can go past the ruggedised aesthetic, you will like what lays ahead.

Hard hardware

Doogee S86 comes with Android 10, which is not going to win you over with, but the ROM isn’t filled with bloat, despite being modded. Other than an optional launcher for technologically challenged and some extended parental controls the phone is pretty close to stock. Let’s hope the Android 11 update is around the corner.

It’s the hardware that supposes to impress you. Instead of dropping all the specs at you, I will list the metrics that I have not seen coming on the device like this:

  • 8500 mAh battery
  • Face and fingerprint unlock
  • 6GB RAM, 128GB storage
  • SD card /dual SIM
  • NFC
  • 5 cameras
  • 3.5mm jack
  • USB-C
  • waterproofing /dust proofing
  • shock proofing

We have to agree, that you are getting the bang for your buck. There is plenty to write about ahead. It’s a good moment to address the elephant in the room. Doogee S86 is big, it is heavy but after some time with Xiaomi Mi 11 and its 6.53″ screen, I’m not going to pretend that is Doogee S86 is more uncomfortable to carry in your pocket. It feels heavier than your usual smartphone, but anyone picking a phone with a larger display is used to the bulk and probably carries it in the back pocket anyway.

Everything-proof

When not used as a defence weapon, the phone feels pretty solid in your hand. Wrapped in metal chassis with plastic reinforcement, Doogee S86 is a thing of beauty (if you are really into diggers, tanks and armoured vehicles). Engraved between shamelessly exposed screws words: “waterproof” and “shockproof” shows you that the phone means business.

That business is reinforced with thick covers for a 3.5 mm audio jack and USB-C charging with QC3.0 support and finished off with metal volume and power buttons, an extra mappable action button and a dual SIM/sd card tray. As a bonus, there is a side-mounted fingerprint sensor. From the design point – it’s a Hummer of mobile phones. Ugly but fascinating.

The four cameras at the back remind you that the phone’s selling point isn’t just size and impressive 8500mAh battery. Even the selfie cam was supercharged with an 8MP sensor, as Doogee knows it is what consumers want.

Do take the “everything-proofness” with a grain of salt, while the phone looks bulletproof, the screen is still the most fragile element of the phone. Dropping the phone on a rocky surface screen down would probably result in lasting damage, but everything else goes.

Don’t drop it, whatever do what you want

In my repeated drops on pure rock slab (something that my other phones would not survive) I got to the point, where I was comfortably dropping the phone on the ground to get a better take. That’s called trust when you are more concerned with how take looks like, rather than the question: if the phone survives the next drop. I’m pleased to say that other than few cosmetic scuffs on protective bits, the phone is fine.

Splash!

As if dropping the phone for slow-motion pleasures wasn’t enough, I decided to try the good old waterboarding torture. Doogee S86 vs garden hose set to high power. It’s not something I’d recommend doing as hosing the phone down has a greater impact than taking underwater shots. After a couple of minutes of bathing, the phone was refreshingly clean, cool and operational.

Doogee S86 is hard to kill.

System

Powered by Android10 and Cortex A53/73 series 8 core processor is fast enough to keep the interface snappy. It’s not stock Android either, while the list of extra apps is kept to a reasonable minimum, the settings menu had a major remap. Extra options include app optimisations features to increase the battery life, handy automation options like flip to silent, lift to wake and 3 finger screenshot – great things to have if operating the phone with greasy hands. Extra hardware button can be mapped to multiple actions as well as speeding up the navigation.

Throw in 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage which is also expandable, and you will never run out of space. NFC is also included – an option often omitted on budget models. To complete the list of things we have a speedy side-mounted fingerprint sensor which is pretty comfortable to use until your phone isn’t on the table. This however is fixed by adding a really responsive screen unlock, leaving me nothing to complain about.

As far as usability goes, this isn’t just a mediocre phone slapped onto a big battery – but a carefully designed phone that plays to its strengths.

Battery

The phone is about the same size as the Xiaomi 10.000 mAh battery I reviewed earlier. It packs 8500 mAh inside. There are 2 ways of looking at it. It’s a lot of juice, or it’s twice as much as regular phone. This “twice as much” approach could be missleading as thanks to the well balanced specification phone can last up to 15 days on a charge.

In my tests, I got to 50% in 8 days while using the phone as my 2nd device and 14 days in total. Granted I’d check the phone a couple of times a day, but it would still receive 100s notifications a day from different apps. Used as a primary driver, I’d expect 3-4 days. It’s the strongest attribute of this phone. It will last you a day even if you decide not to turn off your screen.

It brings the early 2000s nostalgia in me when the phone would last 1-2 weeks on a single charge. I miss those days. Thanks to QuickCharge, you can top it up in about 220 min. 3.5h charge isn’t bad considering the size of this monster.

Cameras – all 5 of them

Doogee S86 packs 4 cameras at the back and an 8MP selfie. The array caters to modern demands with multiple lenses, but close up specification reveals less impressive stats:

16MP AI main camera
· F/2.0 aperture  80° FOV
8MP wide-angle camera
· F/2.2 aperture 130° FOV
2MP macro camera and portrait camera
· F/2.2 aperture 80° FOV

8MP front camera
· F/2.2 aperture 90° FOV

As Google Phones proved, the spec sheet isn’t everything so let’s take a closer look at the camera performance. SPOILER: to truly appreciate the pictures taken by Doogee S86, you have to look at them on another screen. I will touch on that in a second.

Powered by AI the main sensor is a decent contender. To truly appreciate the quality of the photos you have to look at them on another device due to the display (more on that later). The wide lens handles the white balance and exposure ok, although I usually complain about the lack of detail and resolution on wide-angled pictures even on £700 devices like Xiaomi Mi 11.

I really nice addition is the designated macro. It’s not a great sensor, but time over time macro shots proven to be very useful to have. Reading SMD components numbers can be a chore without it.

Anyone asking for the best quality is welcomed to try UHD mode where the combined power of AI and 16MP lens will do its magic to compose a high definition image for you. I’m very pleased that the selfie sensor wasn’t neglected. I’m a sucker for a selfie, mostly cause they make great memories to look back at, and with Doogee S86 you won’t feel like you are missing out. Especially that the price tag is more than reasonable.

Games & performance

Powering the brick, we have a 4xCortex-A53 up to 2.0GHz 4xCortex-A73 up to 2.0GHz combo. It’s fast enough for daily use. The usual apps are snappy, web browsing is fine. The rugged design of the Doogee S86 is backed by a performing processor.

Don’t Starve loads quickly and the experience is great, so casual games are definietly on the table thanks to 6GB RAM and speedy CPU. The game played smoothly so I stepped up the game with a more demanding title.

Despite running Don’t Starve in the background, Minecraft works well as well. With default video settings the gameplay was fluid and frames consistent. Despite the rugged looks, you can enjoy a game or two. Perhaps the phone would bode well among parents who are cautious over their devices becoming victims to their kid’s tantrums.

2 Weaknesses

It’s a budget phone, and despite impressive stats, there are things that are missing from this model to keep the price affordable. One of which I’m able to forgive completely if Doogee S86 would become my spare phone.

Display

It’s jarring, how low resolution this display is. It’s 720p. I’m so used to my QHD+ display with 120Hz on Xiaomi Mi 11 (review) that the difference is stark. I’m willing to forgive it though for a couple of reasons. The screen is perfectly serviceable but reinforces the most pronounced feature of this model – near-perfect battery life. You won’t be enjoying YouTube sessions, anything other than casual games won’t look great either, but the screen isn’t going to chew through the battery life as fast as other phones.

As a secondary phone, I would never hold it against it, but I will admit, if you get this phone as your primary device, you will always be jealous of prettier displays on budget phones like Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 (review). Thanks to unmatched battery life, I’m willing to forgive it.

1080p30FPS

What’s less forgiving, is the maximum recording resolution. I care little about 4K, but 1080P in 60FPS is a must for me. It makes a big difference in experiencing videos. Since the cameras on this thing are pretty decent, I will always feel short-handed with the 1080p limited to 30 frames only. I’d like to see a version of the Doogee phone with this addressed.

Final Thoughts

It’s a beast. Flipping out the latest iPhone doesn’t make a social splash as it used to, but taking Doogee S86 (Amazon: US, UK, DE.)out of your pocket raises instant questions about its size, rather prone to laughs name, but most importantly, awe about the battery life and near bullet-proof utility of the phone. It’s a sure pick for your next camping trip, harsh mountain bike ride or festival. It may never live up to the glam of the flagship phones, but Doogee S86 is a working horse of the mobile phones that deserves attention. Doogee S88 Plus comes close to rugged perfection with a 1080p display, but the camera still lags behind modern standards with 1080p30FPS.

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Mat Zolnierczyk

I am passionate about technology, cycling, and art. This would explain why my bike has more computing power than your average office. I own notenoughtech.com and I write for xda-developers.com and pocketables.com NotEnoughTECH | Facebook | Twitter |YouTube |Instagram | Google+ |Donate |Patreon