T-Mobile finally has a go-to voice phone in the Sonim XP3plus ($210), a rugged (and ruggedly handsome) flip phone that hits the mark for all-day voice calling. With a tough body, strong signal, and a 3-year warranty, the XP3plus is a voice phone you can really rely on.
Built to Last
Sonim has made rugged phones for decades now. In one of my first YouTube videos, I used an early XP3 model to hammer nails into a board. In 2019, the company put out an XP3 flip with 4G on AT&T and (at the time) Sprint; it was our Editors’ Choice–winning voice phone for a while. That phone is now at the end of its life, replaced by the XP3plus for T-Mobile.
The XP3plus is made of matte plastic with visible rivets. It’s a substantial phone at 4.57 by 2.36 by 1.1 inches closed, weighing 7.76 ounces. Its size and weight aren’t unexpected; phones like this basically come with their own armored cases. The battery door screws shut; under it, there’s a removable 2300mAh battery as well as SIM and microSD card slots. On the sides, the standard 3.5mm headset jack and USB-C port are protected by sturdy rubber doors. On the front is a 240-by-240-pixel, 1.3-inch monochrome IPS LCD display that’s extremely readable in full sunlight. Two buttons just below the display let you do things like pause music or check missed calls without opening the phone.
Pop it open and the illuminated, separated physical keypad looks and feels great. There’s no flex in the flip at all. The only false note is that the 320-by-240, 2.8-inch LCD TFT main display is dim in sunlight.
On the side, there are physical push-to-talk (PTT) and “alarm” keys that can be assigned to any function. The consumer model of the phone doesn’t come with PTT or SOS software, but these kinds of phones sometimes end up with specialized enterprise software loads for big-ticket clients.
The XP3plus is IP68 rugged, resistant to water and dust, and its physical keys mean that you can use it the moment you pick it up out of the water (or even in the water)—there’s no touch screen to short-circuit. A half-hour bath, numerous drops, and some power washing didn’t faze it. Don’t try doing that with your iPhone.
It’s important to note that while this is not a smartphone, it’s also not specifically for “digital disconnectors” trying to avoid the internet. The web browser is slow, clunky, and hard to use, but it exists and you can’t disable it. If you need a phone specifically without web capabilities, look at the Sunbeam F1 or the Nokia 225.
Make the Call
The XP3plus supports all of T-Mobile’s 4G LTE bands, as well as 3G, 2G, and dual-band Wi-Fi. RF reception, especially with 5GHz Wi-Fi, is very good; in my tests, it was able to connect to a 5GHz Wi-Fi network where some other phones couldn’t. The phone’s software supports Wi-Fi calling, but I couldn’t get it to connect, which I think was just a pre-launch verification issue.
The hardware would also work very well on AT&T’s or Verizon’s networks, but we’ll have to wait to see whether it gets certified for those carriers. “Sonim plans to launch the XP3plus through multiple carriers in the U.S., Canada, and Europe in the coming weeks and months,” the company said.
The XP3Plus supports all of the latest voice codecs, including EVS, and calls sound very clear. The speakerphone and earpiece are both loud enough, registering at 98dB in our tests; that isn’t the loudest voice phone we’ve had recently (that’s the Sunbeam F1), but it’s significantly louder than the Nokia 225 and Nokia 6300. The XP3plus is especially a star when transmitting from noisy areas. A call made directly in front of a very loud, idling truck successfully nuked all of the noise; the person on the other end only heard me speaking. A speakerphone call, made with a bus passing by, eliminated the bus noise while not subjecting my voice to heavy artifacting. Well done, Sonim.
It continues to shock me that voice phones don’t generally offer decent contact or calendar sync options. The XP3plus makes you transfer contacts by Bluetooth one by one, or import them from the now-obscure VCF file format. There’s no way to sync its very basic calendar app at all. This phone is running Android 11 and it’s on 4G. It could do better.
The Android-based OS at least lets the phone handle sending and receiving group MMS texts without breaking threads. But because we can’t entirely have nice things, there’s a bug in the texting app: If you’re catching up on a group text, some past messages appear without identifying their senders.
There’s a proprietary voice dialing system that you can attach to the PTT button, which was 100% accurate when I named people in my address book but couldn’t understand me when I attempted to dictate numbers (“One eight hundred, two three eight…”).
Power Under the Hood
The XP3plus has the most powerful processor I’ve seen on a voice phone: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 662, a major step above the Snapdragon 215 and similar processors in other recent voice phones like the Kyocera DuraXE Epic. That said, I’m not sure why Sonim is using such a fast processor. The 215 is perfectly fine for these purposes, and it supports EVS. But hey, the high-quality processor doesn’t hurt battery life, and it makes the user interface very responsive.
Battery life on the 2300mAh cell is impressive: 11 hours, 58 minutes of talk time, and at least several days of standby. The phone charges over USB-C or, using contacts on the back, in special enterprise cradles that can charge a dozen phones at a time.
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The single 8MP camera records 1080p video. As with previous Sonim phones, light is everything. Photos taken in full daylight are sharp, but lack any shadow detail at all; shadowed areas are muddy. Photos taken in low light are miserable, full of graininess and noise. Videos are likewise clean and clear during the day, but full of glum artifacts at night.
For music, there’s an FM radio with auto-scanning, presets, and song-ID text. It clearly locked on to many stations in my area. There is also an MP3/AAC music player that plays local files. The microSD card slot is under the battery, so it’s difficult to get to, but you can use Bluetooth or a wired connection to transfer files into the 10.6GB of internal storage. I loaded my files using a USB-C cable and a Windows PC and had no problem. Music played through the speakerphone has a tinny transistor-radio quality to it. It’s much better through 3.5mm headphones, although it’s still a little muddy with too much mid-bass.
Other apps on the phone include a clock, calculator, and voice recorder.
The One to Beat
At $210, the XP3plus is expensive for a voice phone, but it costs less than the $234 Cat S22 Flip, which T-Mobile also sells. The S22 has a lower-quality camera, a smaller battery, a shorter warranty, a slower processor, and older Bluetooth. The XP3plus is much more expensive than the $69 Nokia 6300 4G and the $49 Nokia 225 4G, but neither of those has the XP3plus’s battery life, voice quality, volume, or ruggedness.
If you’re buying a safety phone for a kid or a simple voice phone to disconnect with, the Nokia 225 4G is probably all you need. But if you need a T-Mobile voice phone you can truly rely on and kick around for the next few years, the Sonim XP3plus is the new choice, and our new Editors’ Choice.
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