Safe Buying Advice

WHO WE ARE:

Rugged Phones Australia, The Outdoor Phone Store, Best Rugged Phones 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 since 1995.

WHAT YOU NEED TO LOOK OUT FOR:

Choose carefully: Some websites boast “the largest range” of outdoor phones, but many of their phones can’t be fully serviced if something goes wrong or you break them. Which phones? They don’t tell you on their sites which phones are serviceable and which aren’t – they have no technical expertise.  That means you are flying blind on their sites. Some of their brands, like Doogee and VK, were dropped by us because their phones have a high failure rate – they are unreliable. But many of their remaining selection of phones can’t be serviced regardless of reliability. And they don’t tell you which ones are affected. Buying from them is Russian Roulette. Do you want that risk?

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.

Phone numbers: Only buy from a site that has clear and direct ways to make contact, like phone numbers and chat/message response. 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”?

Social media feedback: Only buy from a site that has a Facebook page as well. Sure, social media is the wild west and trolls can spam pages or leave fake reviews, but when you read through ordinary comment threads you can get a feel for a company and the phones. 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 receipt, no Customs hassles and extra import fees, and peace of mind knowing a local helpdesk is just a phone call away. Yes, we are run from NZ (just like the other Aussie-coloured rugged store competitor), but we have technical experience and expertise that our rivals don’t have

Read the fine print: All NZ and Aussie retailers have warranties, but the devil is in the detail. One of our competitors won’t repair or refund your phone if it has a poor reception fault: “Poor coverage and or poor reception issues at your home or work location are not covered.” Aerial problems are actually easy to fix – but only if the retailer has its own tech department like we do. That retailer doesn’t, so they simply say tough luck. They also say downloading your favourite apps can void your warranty: “Downloading and updating of apps other than those on the phone at time of purchase that cause your phone to malfunction will void your warranty”. App conflicts, again, are a common problem on Android and iPhones. Normally owners can fix them by doing a factory reset, but you are not allowed to do that either if you buy from this competitor: “Doing a factory reset of your Android phone without our permission in writing, will void your warranty.” All to say, our rivals have no 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? Then go back and re-read those warranty loopholes above. If the price is too good to be true, there’s probably a reason and there’s probably downstream implications.

WHERE WE RANK GLOBALLY (watch out for misleading claims):

You may have noticed other websites claiming to be “No.1 for rugged phones” or the like based on what some un-named person at an un-named “supply warehouse” supposedly told them. They are misleading you under the Fair Trading Act 1986 and a company that misleads you might not be trustworthy in other ways either. 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 our global site, the Outdoor Phone Store in NZ, is officially the #1 choice for Aussies or kiwis searching for rugged phones online.

1. Amazon (USA) 6.8% of all rugged phone searches globally (*Source: Alexa.com, March 2019)
2. Outdoor Phone Store (NZ) 4.4%
3. Verizon Wireless (USA) 2.08%
4. Parallel Imported (NZ) 2.07%

To put this in perspective, you can see Parallel Imported is actually the #2 ranked NZ site behind us (and #4 globally), and the next NZ site is TradeMe at #3 in NZ, with 0.33% of global search traffic for rugged phones. The self-proclaimed “No.1” site is much further back with only 0.04% of search traffic for rugged phones – a staggering 100 times less than the Outdoor Phone Store.

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 money, and is built into our pricing. Because our time is precious we will usually decline to service phones purchased elsewhere.

WHAT ABOUT BUYING ON EBAY OR FROM OVERSEAS?

Generally speaking mobile phones purchased from these sources have no enforceable warranty or parts support in Australia, which is why they are usually cheaper – there is no risk to the seller. No phone purchased from overseas can be sent back for servicing because of aviation rules on lithium batteries, and no Ebay seller making a quick $40 markup on an overseas phone is going to refund you $500. Buying at retail price brings you 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 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. And remember, if a retailer can only get customers by pretending to be the Outdoor Phone Store, what does that tell you about us – and them?