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.
Modular phones never quite panned out, 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, sometimes with quirky design choices. 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.
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.
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 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.
Let’s take a closer look at the current range of modules available.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
In standard rear camera mode, photos are passable, but nothing outstanding.
The 8MP front sensor tells a similar story, and is fine for selfies and video chatting.
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.
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Read the full article: Doogee S90: A Modular Rugged Phone (That’s Actually Useful!)