Water, dust and my eleven year old… Three things that will render your average smartphone useless! I was handed the recently released Aspera R9 IP69 rated 4G smartphone and told “Go break it” (well, not really, but you know…) Let me start by saying my 11yo doesn’t have his own phone and likely won’t do for a couple of years yet, but as a relatively ‘early adopter’ of tech, I have considered the options and buying a young person a relatively easily-breakable smartphone for a couple of grand doesn’t really appeal!

I’ve been an iPhone user for some time with a peppering of Android-driven Sony and other phones, my wife is also using a vintage iPhone now (having turned to the dark side from an Android-based device a couple of years ago) so while I don’t feel like I’m the right person to make a call on the OS of the Aspera, I can certainly comment on the gutsy power of the MediaTek A22 2Ghz quad-core processor. Having used the Aspera now for a month, side by side with my iPhone 11 Pro Max, I think for the target audience and price point of this device that it does outstandingly well! I feel like of all the ‘tough’ phones I’ve used in the past that this one is actually a really tough phone, but with a great user experience when it comes to interface speed and overall performance.

The Aspera doesn’t support 5G, and that’s just fine, but it does support dual sim and 4G which was plenty enough for anything I needed to do, that said, I didn’t try the dual-sim as I didn’t have two sims at the time 9or a business case to use it like that, I guess!) A great reason to have a dual sim phone though is as a tradeswoman/man you can have ‘work’ and ‘play’ in the one phone, separate contacts etc – great for tax time “Was that a work call, can you claim that?” Or you could have two totally different networks where one is better in some areas that you travel to than the other. Another option would be to have one sim with a great data allowance that you use as a hotspot when you want to ‘internet’ and another with a good deal for general calls and use, etc. The R9 and indeed most dual-sim handsets are network free, so you could have Telstra and Optus or Aldi and Coles… you know, whatever floats your boat!

Tough phones that I’ve had before now have always had a decent amount of heft to them, bulky surrounds and kinda sticky rubber edges that mean putting the device into your pocket is akin to getting into a wetsuit on a cold morning – not at all fun! Not so with the R9, it’s actually pretty slender for a big, tough phone, you can see my photos below, the pocket shot and side by side with my large iPhone, my iPhone is in a Quad Lock case. (full disclosure, I was one of those ‘lockdown I’m gonna buy a bike, get Strava and get fit…I failed, but the case is good!)



With the Aspera R9 being rated IP69, it can be mistreated with a pressure washer (I didn’t do this, but that’s extreme, eh!) and dropped into 2 meters of water for half-hour – this I did do, well, I took it snorkelling with me over the Christmas break and it had zero adverse effects, though I’ll add, it’s always good to make sure the ports are all securely shut (those little rubber doors) fast before you pop into the water – as with anything, these seals can wear over time and as I’ve only had the device for a month I can’t tell you that they’ll last forever.

The R9 had no issues opening with facial recognition during the time I had it, quick and simple, and even worked fine after a dip in the ocean despite a few wayward water drops on the screen. In terms of toughness, I can’t think of a scenario your regular tradey or rough-and-tumble child would be in that the mighty Aspera couldn’t handle… I took it gardening, concreting, demolishing and making, had it covered in mud, water, dust, sand, compost (don’t ask!) and gave it to my 6yo to film his big brother for a day. The cameras on the R9 are basic but just fine for this price point camera-tough-phone, 13mp main camera and a little 5mp camera for those building-site selfies, the device will happily shoot a full HD video for you to document skate park antics or a customer’s house build.

Reading your emails and messages or displaying your images and videos on the R9’s 5.45” 1440x720px recessed and tempered glass display is clear and bright.
Here’s a quick look at the manufacturer’s specs for all of you numbers boffins:

IP certification

● IP69
● Protected against close-range high pressure
● Protected against high-temperature spray downs
Network frequency
● 4G bands 1/3/5/7/8/28 a+b
● 3G bands 850/900/2100MHz
● 2G – 850/900/1800/1900MHz


● MediaTek Helio A22 Quad core 2.0GHz processor
● 32GB ROM
● Expandable memory SD card to 128GB maximum
● 13MP rear + 5MP front auto focus camera
● Video recording full HD 1920 x 1080
● Continuous shot to 99 shots
● Video AVI/MP4/3GP
● Audio MP3/MP4/ACC/AAC+/WAV
● Video recording

● Size 161 x 77 x 14mm
● Weight 215g
● 5000mAh Li-polymer
● Long usage
● 8.5 hours talk time

My wrap-up summary of the Aspera R9, for a smartphone that you can pick up for around $269, is that it’s easily the best ‘Tough’ smartphone I’ve had the pleasure of using! I’m 100% happy to let my kids take it to make their skating films knowing that it will still be a working phone when I get it back (we don’t mention my last iPhone in this family anymore!!) with a solid feature-set, enough for most that would need a rugged handset, the Aspera R9 goes to the head of the class.