WHO WE ARE:
The Outdoor Phone Store, Best Rugged Phones, Rugged Phones Australia and Rugged Phones Direct NZ are trading divisions of Investigate Magazine. When you purchase from us it will appear on your credit card statement as “InvestigateDaily” or “HATM Magazines Ltd”. We have been an authorised Visa/Mastercard merchant in NZ since 1995.
Our mission is to bring you the best rugged outdoor phones, using our expertise to sort through the hundred or so models from a dozen manufacturers to ensure that no crud gets sold to you. We offer a boutique selection that have to meet these standards:
- They have to be reliable
- They have to be serviceable by our tech team (unless expressly stated)
- Parts have to be available
- They have to offer the widest range of features and frequency bands in their class
- They have to be the best phone in their class
If a phone ticks those boxes the Outdoor Phone Store will supply it and stand behind it. If it doesn’t, you won’t find it on our site.
WHAT YOU NEED TO LOOK OUT FOR:
Cheap sites with worthless warranties: The Outdoor Phone Store pioneered rugged phones in NZ. We’ve been so successful that a number of TradeMe sellers have now set up copycat rugged phones websites in NZ to quickly cash in on the popularity of these phones. Be warned: they are deliberately selling you phones (Ulefone, Doogee, HomTom) which CANNOT be repaired or serviced in NZ. We stopped selling those models because virtually every unit we sold failed before the year was up. Admittedly most failures were caused by user accidents or misuse, but because the Ulefones and Doogees are glued shut you can’t get into them without breaking open the phone and destroying the waterproofing and sometimes breaking the screen. Even if the copycat sites were to honour the warranty (newsflash, they don’t), the moment the 12 month warranty expires you’ll have to throw the Ulefone or Doogee away if anything further goes wrong. It’s frustrating, because quality phones like AGM and Blackview (models above $500) are fully serviceable and can last for years with the right care. Tiny problems that make Ulefones and Doogees worthless are easily fixed on Blackviews and AGMs.
The warning you should take from this, however, is that if another store is trying to sell you Ulefones and Doogees as an ordinary consumer (knowing these phones fail more quickly and can’t be fixed), it’s a sign to run for the hills – if they are not trustworthy on this then their warranties on better phones will be tainted by the same attitudes to customers: they’re only after a quick sale to a gullible buyer…don’t let it be you.
Cheap prices = expensive repairs: Some stores offer super-low prices to snare a sale, but then charge you double or even triple what we would charge for repairs. We subsidise our own customers’ repairs so the work gets done cheaper by our own techs, but we generally don’t fix non-customer phones. Here’s an easy test: ask other retailers how much they would charge (parts and labour) to replace a screen on the phone you like.
24 month warranty: As of mid January 2020, all AGMs and Blackviews should be carrying a 24 month warranty. If a site is not offering you a 24 month warranty on Blackviews or AGM phones, avoid them.
Screen breakage/accident warranty: Believe it or not the most common faults on phones are caused by users, not warranty failures. Buying a phone at the recommended retail price from the Outdoor Phone Store gets you accident coverage. We are the only store in NZ that offers it. But if you decide you don’t need that peace of mind, choose one of our discounted price offers instead
Overseas websites: They all offer phones at wholesale prices with a “12 month warranty”. Here’s a clue as to what that great deal on Aliexpress or Gearbest is really worth if the phone turns out to be faulty: we have spent close to a million dollars on importing phones from our suppliers, but the best they offered on a faulty $600 phone that didn’t work out of the box was a $60 credit – not in cash but in store points spread over 10 weeks at a maximum of $6 per week! If we can’t get refunds with the purchase power we have, you certainly won’t. Add in the new Customs rules imposing GST across the board, and the extra inspection fees, and that ‘cheap’ phone suddenly isn’t such a great deal.
Exaggerated claims: Anyone can set up a website and claim to be #1, but if there is no independent verification cited or basis for the claim it is probably a massive warning sign. Be prepared to chuckle at the credibility of stores that boast a majority of their sales are “offline” when there is no way to get hold of them as they refuse to reveal their phone number. If their only point of contact is “online”, how exactly do they sell anything “offline”? How would “businesses and government departments” find them or contact them? And if they’re telling porkies about that….
Fake reviews: Does the online store have a bunch of ‘reviews’ from people whose names don’t have any other real online digital presence? In other words, the first and only time these people have ever posted on the internet was to leave a glowing review about an almost unknown phone store? Have some fun doing your own digging, because it will show you whether a site is trustworthy. Google the names of ‘reviewers’ and see if a pattern emerges. In our experience, outside of Facebook most genuine reviews don’t have full names as people are protective of their privacy. Also in our experience, most customers don’t leave reviews – they just get on with their lives.
No contact phone number? If an online store doesn’t have a phone number, why would you buy from them? Seriously, would you buy a thousand dollar phone from a company that deliberately won’t give you a contact number? The Outdoor Phone Store has real people on the phones. We are unaware of any other rugged phones retailer in NZ that offers phone assistance. Only buy from a site that has clear and direct ways to make contact, like phone numbers and chat support. If a site makes it hard for you to speak to someone about a sale, how much harder will it be to get service help if you need it “now”? Of course, if a store can’t offer technical support that could be why they don’t give a phone number – they couldn’t help you and they can’t be bothered discussing your problem.
Buying from a cut-price retailer could kill you: We continue to get complaints from people who accidentally purchased from different stores and they’re unhappy. Of much more serious concern however are safety complaints – like this poor soul whose new phone’s “NZ” charger blew his switchboard: “Message: I purchased this phone on the 19th of the May. Ord No R711547023 When I plugged it in to charge for the first time after 15 mins it blew a fuse on the power board and since then the usb charger has not worked.” As we explained to the other store’s customer, other retailers lack technical expertise and we suspect they supplied the wrong type of charger for that particular phone. He was lucky the fuse blew before it ignited a fire in the middle of the night. Don’t buy from cut-price sites, it is not worth the risk. If the site you are ordering from doesn’t have “The Outdoor Phone Store” somewhere at the top of the page, it’s not us and you are not protected.
The ‘largest range’ is not your friend: If you are having to scroll through pages of phones, it is a sure sign the store is going for quantity instead of quality. They might offer six different phones all boasting similar specs. But some phones are low quality, and some others have no parts available. At the Outdoor Phone Store we only offer the best rugged phones with the best technical support, not the biggest selection. If we don’t offer a model you’ve seen elsewhere, it’s because we’ve already established it is inferior to a model we stock. If it was good enough to make our grade, it would be on our site. More to the point, if a rival store doesn’t know how to select only the best, do they really know anything about these phones at all?
Your first choice: should always be a phone carrying the “full service” assurance on our site. These are phones we can fix for you cost effectively without harming the factory waterproof seal (IMPORTANT NOTE: just because we can service these phones does not mean that other resellers can offer the same service on those same phones. Don’t assume that buying that phone elsewhere gets you the same protections. If in doubt, ask a retailer what they charge for screen replacement or charge port replacement.) On our site, phones listed as “hermetically sealed” may be serviceable, but it is more expensive. If that’s an issue, choose a full service phone in the first place.
Social media feedback: Only buy from a site that has a Facebook page as well. Stores that have no social media presence may not be willing to subject themselves to customer scrutiny and that should be a red flag.
Don’t buy: from any site that tells you it will send your faulty phone back to the manufacturer for service – they are lying to you. Ever since the Samsung batteries problem in 2017 it has been impossible and illegal to post phones overseas to their manufacturers (all mail is now scanned), you can only use express courier at around NZ$150 one way. And even when you pay that price, the Asian manufacturers refuse to accept courier deliveries because they incur customs fees. So any site telling you they send phones overseas for repair is feeding you mushroom fertiliser. Some sites offer you lower prices with a “12 month manufacturer’s warranty” and make it your responsibility to send the phone back to the manufacturer. Read this paragraph again if you aren’t clear on how that story ends! That’s why the Outdoor Phone Store has in-house techs, because the buck stops with us. Our prices may be slightly higher than the fly by night dealers, but that’s because we keep parts in stock and actually fix phones ourselves.
Buy: local. Local companies must comply with the consumer laws, whereas you have no protection if you buy from an overseas retailer – you can’t send a dud phone back to them. Buying local gets you a GST receipt, no Customs hassles and extra import fees, and peace of mind knowing a local helpdesk is just a phone call away.
Read the fine print: All NZ and Aussie retailers have warranties, but the devil is in the detail. If a retailer doesn’t have in-house tech support that means it is outsourcing repairs. That means warranty repairs will cost them more so your warranty claim is more likely to be declined. More to the point, if it’s not a warranty claim you will be charged full commercial rates to repair your phone. All to say, our rivals have no direct experience fixing phones so they give you a warranty that is easy for them to get out of. Read the fine print before buying a cheap phone.
Look for: a company that does in-house service and repairs. Why? Because we know the phones intimately and that makes us the tech support experts. Smaller companies that don’t have in-house repair have to pay more to fix your phone using outside contractors and will therefore look for any reason they can to disallow any warranty claim. If it isn’t a warranty claim, they will lack the expertise to repair your phone and instead will try and sell you another phone at your expense. What seems like a cheaper deal now can cost you more in the long run. At the Outdoor Phone Store, we have customers entering their third and fourth years with the same phone, maintained by us. If a company just sells phones and doesn’t service them, how good is any technical advice they give you going to be? Seriously…
Cheap deals: Everyone likes a good deal, but the more “nuts and cola” the price, the more “peanuts and monkeys” will be the warranty support you get. Simple maths is your friend here: if a company is only making 10% margin on your phone…how many phones do they have to sell to replace yours under warranty if something goes wrong? The reason Samsung and Apple flagship phones are expensive is because customers expect full serviceability and technical support, and that costs money. Blackview and AGM make great phones but they have no international customer support network. That’s why the Outdoor Phone Store keeps spare parts at a dedicated service centre in Auckland – so we can give you the aftersales support you expect. Websites offering nuts and cola prices can’t match our service, and the fact that they’re still offering a large selection of second rate phones that can’t be serviced in NZ is proof they are more interested in a quick sale than selling you a phone that lasts.
WHERE WE RANK GLOBALLY (watch out for misleading claims):
The Outdoor Phone Store, as NZ’s largest rugged phone retailer is monitored daily by the giant global web analytics company Alexa, owned by Amazon. It is an official “audit” that allows major corporates to monitor their online advertising reach. We have more than 100 domain names worldwide which all point to either the InvestigateDaily site here, or our RuggedPhones.com.au site in Australia.
The regular Alexa audits, based on Google search data, confirm time and again that this site, the Outdoor Phone Store in NZ, is officially the #1 specialist rugged phones site in NZ.
1. Outdoor Phone Store (NZ) (*Source: Alexa.com, August 2019)
COMPARING APPLES WITH APPLES
Our prices are sometimes more expensive than our smaller competitors, and that’s because we handle parts and service for the phones we sell as required by the Consumer Guarantees Act. Our competitors don’t have parts. Don’t get sucked in by a store’s cheap price only to find that you ended up with a nuts-and-cola “warranty” that won’t be honoured and a phone that doesn’t work. Real technical service costs, and is built into our pricing. Because our time is precious we will usually decline to service phones purchased elsewhere.
WHAT ABOUT BUYING ON TRADEME OR FROM OVERSEAS?
Generally speaking mobile phones purchased from these sources have no enforceable warranty or parts support in NZ, which is why they are usually cheaper. No phone purchased from overseas can be sent back for servicing because of aviation rules on lithium batteries, and no TradeMe seller making a quick $40 markup on an overseas phone is going to refund you $500. Buying at retail price brings you NZ warranty rights if something goes wrong and – if you purchase from the Outdoor Phone Store – exclusive access to our parts and accessories catalogue.
HOW MANY PHONES HAVE YOU SOLD?
The Outdoor Phone Store has sold literally thousands of these phones. We never hear from most customers until they come back to buy a newer phone but there are comments on this site and on our Facebook page.
BOTTOM LINE TIPS:
Look for retailers with GST registration, contact phone numbers, addresses, a public feedback forum like Facebook, full repair service in-house, and one that gets lots of customers as measured independently rather than by self proclamation.