When the going gets tough, XTouch gets rugged

We speak to Tim Chen from XTouch to see what makes the XBot series so tough


We recently had the chance to talk to Tim Chen, Founder and Manager Director of XTouch, and the man behind XTouch’s rugged XBot line-up. A dream project of Chen’s, we decided to pry a little deeper into XBot, and figure out what sets it apart.

What would make a consumer pick a phone from the XTouch XBot line-up, instead of opting for rugged accessories? 

Before we started this project a year ago, we got a lot of feedback from our consumers and clients. These requests were mainly for a fully protected rugged product. While other brands are providing the rugged accessories, they do not fully protect the phone and can limit functionality. However, the customers needed a fully functional rugged product instead.

Secondly, we don’t believe that accessories make a true rugged phone. From the consumer point of view, they need a fresh and niche product. A good example is in the laptop industry where Alienware is known for unique and outstanding designs. We wanted to create another segment for the market but the younger audience are fashionable. They need something different, something special.

How would you describe the market for rugged phones in the Middle East? 

The reason why we are taking this direction as our strategic direction for the company is because, firstly we listen to the market and got feedback. Secondly, we already launched two models over the past month and the feedback was great. Thirdly, nowadays the competition in the mobile industry is quite high, so our strategy is to select a niche market and category.

In the Middle East and Africa, there are no other brands focusing on this sector. Global brands such as CAT or Range Rover, are launching rugged products at much higher prices without providing local services.

We believe in customer demand, so we test the market and get feedback.

When you say niche market, who exactly is your target audience?

This is a very good question. Those young and fashionable people who like to do outdoor activities, extreme sports, and those who are working in outdoor environments such as the sandstorms in the Middle East and Africa. Another target audience are corporations and companies such as those in the oil and construction industry where the working environment is quite extreme, so they need this kind of product. Those are the target audience.

More than just hardware, are there any changes in software for better usage of the phone?

In terms of software, what we did with the rugged phone is bring it together with the hardware. For example, the rugged products are sealed and there is no space to interact with the outside. Naturally, the sound quality was really low, making it hard to listen clearly. We have the software and hardware working together to make sure that the rugged phone is more than the components inside, but the software helps to make it louder on the outside. So this is hardware and software together. Additionally, most of the rugged phones don’t have the functionality of the fingerprint sensor. They also don’t have the capacity of 13MP rear camera and 8MP front camera.

So we put the hardware and software together to make it more customer-centric, and enhance user experience. That is what we are doing, making it rugged, but not that rugged. The previous versions of all the competitors were heavy and very thick, but we made it handy, thin and simply a beautiful craft. In short, this is more consumer design, but industry functionality.

How do you account for heating issues that can come with a 5,000mAh battery?

That took a very long process for us to figure out how to have a higher battery capacity but also be safe. Firstly, it is difficult to make a thin 5,000mAh battery for a rugged phone. Secondly, a rugged phone, based on customer demand, requires longer standby times. For outdoor activities such as hiking, customers need two to three days of standby life. Along with using a higher capacity battery, we also made the software more efficient but less demanding on the battery.

To keep it cool, we used an air cooling system, and chemical cooling. If you look at our tests, in the 80 degrees of the environment it pass 100 per cent, that is what we call IP69.

What do you recommend other brands to do for rugged phones and what makes XTouch different?

We are always welcoming the competition and more players to this industry. We are not only looking at normal smartphones or normal features, but what the market needs. So once there are more players in this rugged industry, it will encourage us to bring more advanced technology, better quality products and new concepts to the market.

If you look at XTouch, we have not only smartphones, feature or rugged phones but also upcoming devices with FaceID unlock for less than Dh400. We also have wireless charging products for less than Dh700, a feature seen only on the flagships of other brands.

This industry is highly competitive. We can keep moving on because we have changed according to how the market have changed. So we are welcoming more competitors to come, and if they want to enter this field, I suggest they should look for and do something different to satisfy the market.

Not only should you see others and then follow but you also need to lead from the supply chain. You need to know the product, the technology, and most importantly you need to be well prepared.