Doogee S96 GT review

The Doogee S96 GT's underwater camera and indestructible features make it stand out from other rugged smartphones

Doogee S96 GT Review
(Image: © Beth Nicholls)

Digital Camera World Verdict

This ultra-rugged Doogee S96 GT is pretty cool. Aside from being virtually indestructible, it has a night vision camera, shoots 4K video, can record and capture photos underwater, has amazing battery life, comes equipped with a virtual tool kit app, has a customizable button, can withstand extreme hot and cold temperatures, runs the latest Android 12, and features powerful Sony image sensors – what more could you want from your smartphone?

Pros

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    20 MP Night vision camera

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    4K ultra-high resolution video

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    MIL-STD-810H drop-proof compliant

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    Underwater photography

Cons

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    Very bulky design

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    Heavier than most smartphones

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    Not 5G compatible

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If you're looking to buy the best rugged phone (opens in new tab), Doogee Hengtong Technology Co. Ltd is one of the leading manufacturers. It was launched in 2014 and is developing impressive devices with unique camera arrays, equipped with the latest Sony sensors that rival the likes of the best iPhone (opens in new tab) and Samsung camera phone (opens in new tab) devices.

The Doogee S96 GT is one of the company's latest rugged smartphone offerings, replacing the Doogee S96 Pro, which was released in 2020. The design of these devices is similar, with the same dimensions and alien-looking casing.

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The latest GT model in comparison with the S96 Pro boasts an Android 12 OS, slightly increased drop-to-concrete resistance (from 1.5 meters to 1.8), an ever so slightly larger aperture on the 20-megapixel night vision camera, an improved Sony front selfie camera of 32MP, up from the previous 16MP on the Pro, and an upgraded 4K video recording from the previous 1080p.

This powerful new smartphone from Doogee is just one of a whole roster of creative devices produced by the company. But the S96 GT is undoubtedly one of the best rugged phones (opens in new tab) and even one of the best waterproof phones (opens in new tab) currently available on the market right now, and is perfect for those who work in areas of trade and construction, or even if you're just a bit of a thrill-seeker and outdoorsy type who climbs mountains and eats fire. 

Did we mention it's waterproof? (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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Each Doogee phone we've tested so far has left us super impressed with its cool and unique features, and the S96 GT is no different. Aside from being nearly indestructible, this smartphone is capable of underwater photography, is phenomenal in low-light situations with a 20MP night vision camera, and can assist with almost any task, equipped with a handy in-app toolkit.

We recently reviewed a very similar device from the company, the Doogee S98 Pro (opens in new tab), which in comparison has almost all of the same awesome features that make these phones so great, minus the underwater camera modes available on the S96 GT, but the S98 Pro does in fact boast an impressive thermal imaging camera instead. 

Overall, this phone tackled every obstacle and task that was thrown at it, and I only had to charge it twice. For an in-depth look at how this new rugged smartphone performed, continue reading for a dedicated review, otherwise, you can use the section tabs above to navigate your way to a specific area or feature of this phone.  

Doogee S96 GT: Specifications

What's in the box? (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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Release Date: October 13, 2022
Rear cameras:
48 MP f/1.8 (wide), 8 MP f/2.2 130˚ (ultrawide), 20 MP f/1.8 (night vision) with 4 infrared night vision lights, 2 MP f/2.8 (depth).
Front camera:
32 MP f/2.0 (ultrawide)
Display:
6.22 inches, IPS LCD, 720 x 1520 pixels at 270 PPI density
Operating System:
Android 12
Chip:
Mediatek Helio G95, Octa-core CPU, Mali-G76 MC4 GPU
Max video resolution:
4K, 1080p
Touch ID:
Yes (side-mounted)
Face ID:
Yes
5G:
No
Resistance: 
IP68/IP69K dust/water resistant (up to 1.5 meters for 30 min)
Drop-to-concrete resistance from up to 1.8 meters - MIL-STD-810H compliant
Capacity:
256GB internal with optional microSDXC card slot
RAM:
8GB
Dimensions: 167 x 81.4 x 15.5 mm
Weight:
310 g
Charger:
USB Type-C 2.0
3.5mm Headphone port: Yes
What's in the box?:
Type-C to Type-C Cable and charger, anti-explosion film, card user manual, warranty card. 

Doogee S96 GT: Key features

As we've previously mentioned, the Doogee S96 GT smartphone is as new and shiny as it gets for phones at this price point, running the latest Android 12 operating system, with a very capable Mediatek Helio G95 chipset and long-lasting Li-Po 6350 mAh battery. Multi-tasking is no feat for this phone, and it can handle essentially anything you throw at it.

8GB of RAM allows this smartphone to perform smoothly and the large capacity of 256GB internal storage should be plenty to store your photos and apps. It's more than enough memory for most, but should you need any further storage on this device it has a designated microSDXC card slot to expand and even double your storage space.

The formidable phone also comes pre-installed with a Virtual Toolkit app, which contains extremely useful features such as a compass, protractor, wall-hanging tool, magnifier, pedometer, alarm bell, and noise test – making it abundantly clear which type of market the device manufacturer is appealing to.

Virtual Toolkit App (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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With a 6350mAh large battery, and also with smarter AI power management, the Doogee S96 GT fuels your daily work and entertainment needs, and we found that the battery can last up to two full days without needing a charge!

What's also interesting about this device is that it has a "game space" as well as a "children space" app divider that works by limiting the phone to be capable of only operating specifically chosen apps that are suitable for children, with game space ensuring that automatically accelerated functions can be turned on and off for when gaming on the device.

Features such as intelligent scheduling, mobile phone performance optimization, and sound quality enhancements are intended to offer a greater gaming experience when entering the device's pre-installed game space app. 

Outside of game space, the device is still supporting a gaming session with "True Multi-point" (10-Finger) touch controls on the phone's screen. These support Omni-directional recognition of up to 10 fingers at a time tapping away.

These beefy specs, speed, battery power, and overall functionality of this smartphone could easily make it a contender as one of the best phones for gamers, and it seems that Doogee really did its homework and thought of everything when producing the S96 GT and ensuring its suitability for multiple markets.

The phone is also IP68 water-resistant with a sealed casing that makes it totally waterproof, it has an IP69K rating meaning it is completely dustproof, and it meets the Military Standard (MIL-STD-810H) compliance for being certified drop-proof. In practical terms, this device can survive against dust and be submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water for 30 minutes.

Doogee S96 GT: Camera features

The Doogee S96 GT features a 48MP AI Quad Camera, which comprises an impressive Sony 20MP enhanced night vision camera with a sensor that is ultra-light sensitive, plus 4 LED lights for clearer images at night, and 2 times the distance away. The camera unit also features a 2MP Portrait camera with an ultra-wide angle of 130°, plus an 8MP Samsung wide-angle camera offering a f/1.8 aperture.

The front camera of the Doogee S96 GT boasts a Sony 32MP ultra-wide camera, and the device also impresses with 4K UHD recording and playback features, utilizing a Samsung S5KGM1ST sensor with integrated 3D HDR technology which can capture super clear and detailed video in 4K ultra-high resolution. 

Doogee cameras explained (Image credit: Doogee)
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Aside from being equipped with a specialized night vision camera, night mode on the Doogee S96 GT is also very impressive, using AI and advanced camera algorithms from Morpho and BST to make night shots brighter, clearer, and AI smarter.

Photos captured using the main Samsung 48-Megapixel camera with an aperture of f/1.8 are always sharp and detailed, even when used underwater, and with Pro mode, you can tweak your own custom camera settings and use other features such as Panorama, slow-motion video settings, and HDR. 

Doogee S96 GT: Design, Build & Handling

The Doogee S96 GT offers a perfect balance of high performance and excellent design features and construction, with more than 50% of the device body made from metal (including the area around the camera) to completely protect your smartphone from damage, able to withstand sudden drops from impressive heights being military certified to a drop-proof standard, and having been designed with robust Military Grade craftsmanship and durability as a rugged powerhouse. 

The phone feels a little chunky to hold, but not too weighted down or heavy that it's offputting. The phone is constructed using metal, as well as durable TPU paired with reinforced aluminum alloy, offering insulation from dust. 

You would also never need to use a case with this phone, and it might be impossible to find one that fits regardless, as it is ultra-sturdy and protective enough to house your expensive smartphone all by itself.

Bottom of the Doogee S96 GT charging port and headphone jack with sealed cover. (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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Speaking of protection, this ultra-rugged phone seems to be virtually indestructible. Advanced sealing technology and a solid structure make the Doogee S96 GT much more than simply water-resistant, as it can actually be used as a waterproof camera (opens in new tab) for photography purposes, with trustworthy high-density macro-molecule coatings applied to areas of the phone which are exposed to the outside for maximum waterproofness.

Available in the color choices of Sunshine Gold, Volcano Orange, or Classic Black (which still has gold elements) the Doogee S96 GT is a little alien-looking but has a design that you eventually grow to love for its practicality and unique appeal.

Volume keys, power button, and fingerprint scanner on the right side of the Doogee S96 GT (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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The Doogee S96 GT is also conveniently designed with a side fingerprint scanner which is subtle and entirely flat to the device, yet still comfortable and convenient to use every day when unlocking the phone, or alternatively the device screen also has the ability to scan your fingerprint, so there are options for you to choose from.

As for the display, the 6.22” waterdrop display is scratch-resistant with Corning Gorilla Glass that presents sharp and vivid visuals. It also offers an accurate and wide color gamut that is perfect for gameplay and photo editing.

Sim tray, and customizable button on the left side of the Doogee S96 GT (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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A convenient Custom Key situates on the left side of the device and allows for quick access to different functions including activation of the underwater camera. It can be optionally set to record, launch the flashlight, take a screenshot, or send an SOS message to a loved one. You can even program it twice, with one click to operate a function and two clicks to launch one of your regularly used apps.

The Doogee S96 GT has also been designed to stand up to extreme temperatures both hot and cold, and due to its structure, components, and metal frame, it can function between temperatures of -55°C and +70°C.

The charging port of the S96 GT also fits a USB type-C 2 charger (included) and has the capacity to support both 15W Wireless Charging, as well as 24W Fast Charging. As we previously mentioned, the battery life on this device is superb, especially considering the multiple background tasks and games it can run. 

Doogee S96 GT: Performance

Overall, I was amazingly impressed with the performance of the Doogee S96 GT, and nothing let it down beside the lack of 5G compatibility. Sometimes, it was difficult to get internet access when en route to work via the train, or in areas with poor signal. There's nothing wrong with its 4G capabilities, however, and the world kept turning before we were ever gifted with 5G. So while it's a little bit of a letdown, the lack of 5G by no means limits what this phone is capable of.

I found the device to be similar software-wise to that of the Doogee S98 Pro (opens in new tab) which I reviewed last year. This begs the question of whether all devices from Doogee have a similar level of performance, and is that such a bad thing? Almost all Apple and Samsung Galaxy devices have similar features with minor differences and upgrades that set them apart.

Doogee S96 GT back casing (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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Having the headphone jack on the bottom of the S96 GT is a welcome change from most modern smartphones now replacing it with the USB type-C port instead, allowing me to charge my device and listen through wired headphones simultaneously, although admittedly, I didn't have to charge it very often at all and I mostly use wireless Sony Bluetooth headphones with my phone anyway - but it's nice to have the options. 

A lot of things about this device are intended to provide you with all viable options without having to compromise on anything. For example, you can game while listening to Spotify, you can take underwater photos without having to purchase one of the best underwater housings for cameras and phones (opens in new tab), and you can have as much storage as a laptop without needing to subscribe to any cloud storage. 

Camera Performance

The cameras on the Doogee S96 GT each performed brilliantly and fell only a little bit behind the quality of my 108MP Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra device without any issues at all. The main camera especially produced clear images with slight pre-applied sharpening and the ultra-wide camera modules were easy to switch between and produced great results. 

The Doogee S96 GT is not the best camera phone (opens in new tab) on the market by any means, but at this price point and with unique selling points such as a night vision camera and the ability to capture images submerged in water, you can't really complain.

As can be seen from the image gallery above using the main camera, ultra-wide 8MP and 2MP cameras, the results are pretty good. You get the most quality when shooting at a 4:3 ratio, but personally, I always prefer shooting in "full" mode which reduces the Megapixel quality down to only 8MP from 48MP. This is something I would love to see resolved not only with the Doogee S96 GT but with other devices too. 

Choosing the image ratio and size (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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Night Vision Camera 

The night vision camera on the Doogee S96 GT uses the same sensor and maximum aperture as the night vision camera on the Doogee S98 Pro, however, the S96 GT has two additional infrared night vision lights (a total of 4) for enhanced image brightness when shooting in pitch black conditions. 

The image quality when shooting with the night vision camera is superb and even when used during the daytime it captures amazing monochrome shots. The camera is easy to use, with no complicated settings needing to be adjusted, and it works the same way as the regular main camera.

As can be seen from the image gallery above, the camera did struggle sometimes with focusing, and it isn't very good at being discreet as it illuminates the scene around it almost like using a torch before it takes an image. I discovered this the hard way when testing it out during a gig, and accidentally irritating the crowd around me with light pouring out of my phone.

The zoom isn't too great when using the night vision camera either, and you'll need to be extra still or maybe consider using one of the best phone tripods with this camera to produce clear results that aren't heavily pixelated or full of noise.

Underwater camera

At first, when Doogee advertised that this phone had underwater camera modes, I thought that it had either a separate underwater camera altogether or AI modes that would recognize when the device was placed underwater and then make adjustments to the image and settings, but sadly that wasn't the case.

The underwater camera on the Doogee S96 GT uses any of the rear quad cameras, as well as the front camera, to capture photos and record footage exactly as it would if it were above the surface. The underwater camera mode essentially just allows you to use the volume buttons to control the shutter mechanism on the phone as opposed to touching the screen to take an image. 

Message screen before accessing the underwater camera (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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This confused me for a very long time as I would open up the camera and see no such sign of any underwater modes or features as Doogee had advertised, and as it turns out the first time I discovered any mention of the underwater mode was when trying to assign features to the custom button and then it suddenly allowed me to program the button to activate the underwater camera.

Screenshot from custom button settings (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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I first tested out this camera using my kitchen sink (see image gallery and video footage below) and while it performed well, it wasn't much different to the regular above-surface image quality that I was used to and didn't exactly wow me. It did however pick up a clear image of the spoon left in my kitchen sink, as well as smiley the sponge.

It was easy to use the volume button to capture images instead of pressing the touch screen, although it did make it trickier to keep the phone still as I wasn't used to holding the phone this way at all to take photos. 

Sink Shoot

The second test involved using an outdoor fountain in Bath (see video sample below) situated on a busy roundabout, and my hands were absolutely freezing, so I chose not to record for too long or spend much time snapping photos at this location - which turned out rubbish as I couldn't see what I was photographing really. 

Water disperses from the device screen very quickly when lifted from the water, and the touchscreen is responsive again almost immediately to the touch of your hands and able to scan your fingerprint to use your device. 

Fountain Shoot

Admittedly, the underwater camera is pretty cool and would be absolutely perfect for when on holiday and by the pool for underwater selfies, but as an everyday phone I don't think many people would find a use for this unless their occupation involved regular diving or working at an aquarium. Though it would be great if all phones were water-resistant to this standard as we'd never have to worry again. 

Doogee S96 GT Sample video

Doogee S96 GT: Verdict

The Doogee S96 GT from Doogee is an excellent rugged camera phone, provided that you can handle the chunkiness of the device. It's reasonably priced, too, especially given its features, including a great camera unit and compatibility with all of the latest Android apps.

The Doogee S96 GT would certainly be great for those with kids who like to game using their parent's phone, with a designated kids and gaming space to ensure they don't click on anything unsuitable, as well as the indestructible nature of the device making it tantrum-proof for when screen time is over.

The main selling point of the Doogee S96 GT is surely the rugged design, but what Doogee is creating is a very impressive all-around device that can undoubtedly keep up with the latest generation of flagship smartphones at just a fraction of the cost. 

Some consumers might be put off Doogee devices due to its relatively new status in the smartphone industry, but there's no reason as far as we know to be wary of Doogee – although many of its devices do seem too good to be true at such an amazing price. 

Having tested this phone for over a month, I can see how it offers decent camera performance in a virtually indestructible body (although don't take our word for it). If you need a smartphone that can keep up, even after a few drops, knocks, and bangs, the Doogee S96 GT should last for years to come.


You might also like our expert guides to the best 5G phones (opens in new tab) and the best budget camera phones (opens in new tab).

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.