Verizon, Samsung Unveil Convoy 2 Rugged Phone for First Responders

Verizon rolls out a Samsung Convoy 2 push-to-talk mobile phone that's been hardened for use by emergency first responders and the military.

Verizon Wireless has announced its new Samsung Convoy 2 mobile phone, a rugged model featuring push-to-talk communications capabilities for military personnel as well as first responders such as police, firefighters and ambulance workers.

With its support for military specifications 810F on durability, it's suitable for users working in intense heat and humidity. It can survive low-pressure environments, vibration, shock and solar radiation. The unit can also withstand salt fog, sand and dust, which users in first response and the military are exposed to.

"This is a basic phone that has been hardened for a work environment," Rob Enderle, principal analyst for Enderle Group, wrote in an email to eWEEK. "This means the costs associated with it are minimized."

Announced on Aug. 9, the Convoy 2 sells for $79.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate with a new two-year agreement. Push to talk costs $5 per month per line.

The clamshell Convoy 2 is a follow-up to the Convoy, introduced in November 2009.

The Convoy 2 features a 2.2-inch display and a microSD slot that supports up to 32GB data storage cards. It also incorporates a 3.2-megapixel digital camera for photo enthusiasts and dual stereo speakers for audiophiles.

In addition, the phone has dual mics with noise cancellation, a feature that will appeal to construction workers in the field or first responders at the scene of an emergency.

Although the text messaging and push-to-talk functionality over a cellular network are suitable for first responders, more extensive connectivity with enterprise communications systems is required for use in indoor facilities such as hospitals, according to Gregg Malkary, founder and managing director of Spyglass Consulting Group.

"We need more enterprise-wide capabilities to bring the phone into the loop so they can communicate with other members of the care team," Malkary told eWEEK.

Malkary would have liked to see the Android OS rather than Qualcomm Brew incorporated into the phone.

In April, Verizon introduced a rugged Casio G'zOne Commando model that runs Android 2.2 and can withstand similar environments of heat, humidity, dust, fog and solar radiation. It's suitable for health care, construction, retail, manufacturing and transportation.

Push to talk holds promise in health care, Malkary said. "Push to talk is clearly an amazing capability for care teams," he noted.

"The one extra feature, push to talk, is particularly useful for first responders who need to coordinate their activities and where any extra time could cost lives," Enderle said. "However, it does no good if the phone is dropped and breaks during a crisis, and hardened devices are generally preferred because in the excitement of the moment a less robust device likely wouldn't survive."

According to military standard 810F specifications Verizon provided to eWEEK, the Convoy 2 lacks support for rain, ice and immersion in water. Without protection from liquids and the antimicrobial protection of mobile products such as the Motion Computing CL900 tablet, the phone may not be a good fit for hospitals, Malkary explained.

Hospital-based cleaning agents such as bleach could destroy the unit without the proper protection against fluids, he said.