It isn't often in these pages that we review a mobile handset with a sub-£200 price tag, nor one which doesn't offer advanced media-streaming and playback capabilities, fast web browsing, a camera to rival some compacts (plus a second for video chat), and an integrated app store for bolt-on functionality.

But there's a whole market out there for durable phones that do little more than make calls and send/receive texts, and can withstand more than their fair share of daily knocks.

ITTM Monaco's Out Limits rugged handset is designed for extreme conditions and manual labour: its specs boast it’s waterproof to 1m for up to 30 minutes; dustproof; drop-proof to 2m; and press-proof to 100kg. We had no success in destroying it, and a plethora of YouTube videos back up our results.

The International Top Tronic Monaco Out Limits has extra-large keys that can be used while wearing gloves, a noise-cancelling microphone, and an SOS function with a dedicated button on the rear that can call (text) for aid in a man-down emergency.

Should you take a fall and render yourself unable to use the handset, its balance sensor will note the impact and automatically send a predefined emergency text to a designated number.

The outdoor challenge

I took on the challenge of reviewing this ITTM Monaco Out Limits phone with a view of getting my partner to help out with the testing. As a builder and a lover of motorcross, mountain biking and all things destructive, within a couple of months of owning a phone he tends to be missing various buttons and experiencing random restarts, have smashed the screen, and filled up the speaker and microphone with so much sand and grit that it's barely usable.

I had two problems with the ITTM Monaco Out Limits though: first, like many rugged phones the Out Limits doesn't offer 3G connectivity. That’s not so bad for a non-smart phone - but it also means it doesn’t support the 3 mobile network.

Second, our field-test partner absolutely refused to be seen dead with this handset.

Clever it may be, but the ITTM Monaco Out Limits is hideous to behold. It isn't the ugliest in the manufacturer's portfolio - that award must go to the spartan ITTM Easy Call, which is designed with ease of access in mind.

But with its oversized buttons that make a irritating clicking sound, outdated hole at the top for a securing strap, tiny 1.8in screen, basic user interface and cheap-looking plasticky, rubberised casing, it looks like something you'd find in a kid's toy box.

Its waterproof credentials mean the industrial-looking battery cover and flap that conceals the microUSB charging port aren't especially user-friendly, and rather stiff to open. And even basic mobile phones these days offer at least one camera, a large-ish screen and a web browser; the ITTM Out Limits has a torch.

But, of course, that isn't the point of this handset. If you're hiking in a beautiful mountain range and would rather be checking Facebook, you're probably on the wrong type of trip - although the lack of a camera here means you'll likely need to carry a second device.

Interestingly, the ITTM Monaco Out Limits does support Bluetooth and MMS messaging, and comes with a set of earbuds for the phone's 3.5mm headphone jack.

And you can get online, but it's incredibly unintuitive to set up - last century’s WAP is found under Services in the Organizer menu... obviously.

Dual SIM

Worthy of note is the ITTM Monaco Out Limits' dual-SIM feature, which includes dual-standby (letting you turn off reception on either of the SIMs at any time, without needing to open it up and pop one out).

We were supplied this handset with an Orange SIM, and used it alongside our Vodafone card without problems. Reception bars are displayed onscreen for each network, so if one is out of range you can use the other; it also means you can keep your business and personal calls separate. When you make a call or text you're prompted to choose which SIM to use - an extra step, but a neat feature.

This mobile phone is designed to provide only the features you need in extreme conditions, and to that extent it does a good job. The lithium-ion battery is rated at just 900mAh, but there are no power-sapping features here: a claimed 300 hours on standby is shorter than many smartphones, but should endure most excursions.

As rugged phones go, the circa-£179 Out Limits is mid-range pricewise. Samsung sells pretty basic durable handsets from £79, while market leaders such as Sonim and JCB charge closer to £300.

Most have also been hit with the ugly stick, with the exception of Motorola's Defy - a Google Android handset with a 3.7in Gorilla Glass impact- and scratch-resistant touchscreen, a 5Mp camera and GPS. And unlike most, this handset also offers dual-SIM functionality and an SOS feature.

The ITTM Out Limits was supplied with a microUSB cable and UK mains-charger plug; unlike the phone, the charger isn't particularly durable - it made a loud 'pop' and then ceased life when we plugged it into the mains. We were still able to charge the phone via USB, however.

We were surprised to find an inch-thick user manual in the box, with most modern gadgets supplying this information on disc or online. Of course, only the first 60 pages were written in English.

ITTM Monaco Out Limits: Specs

  • Rugged mobile phone
  • available in petrol/black and orange/black
  • GSM/GPRS 900/1800MHz
  • IP57-certified (dustproof and waterproof to 1m for 30 mins)
  • drop-proof to 2m
  • 100kg press-proof
  • 1.8in (262k) TFT screen
  • dual-SIM
  • SOS
  • torch
  • extra-large keys
  • noise-cancelling mic
  • WAP
  • Bluetooth
  • microUSB
  • 3.33Wh (3.7V, 900mAh) lithium-ion rechargable battery
  • advertised battery life: 5 hrs talk time, 300 hrs standby
  • 120 x 60 x 20mm
  • 115g (with battery)
  • Rugged mobile phone
  • available in petrol/black and orange/black
  • GSM/GPRS 900/1800MHz
  • IP57-certified (dustproof and waterproof to 1m for 30 mins)
  • drop-proof to 2m
  • 100kg press-proof
  • 1.8in (262k) TFT screen
  • dual-SIM
  • SOS
  • torch
  • extra-large keys
  • noise-cancelling mic
  • WAP
  • Bluetooth
  • microUSB
  • 3.33Wh (3.7V, 900mAh) lithium-ion rechargable battery
  • advertised battery life: 5 hrs talk time, 300 hrs standby
  • 120 x 60 x 20mm
  • 115g (with battery)

OUR VERDICT

Hideous and in no way 'smart' by modern smartphone standards, the ITTM Out Limits is nevertheless a very clever gadget that could provide just the tools you need in a manual working environment or extreme adventure.

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