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The #DigitalSkeptic Guide To Mobile Gadgets that Won't Break on You

Tickers in this article: KYO RIMM SNE

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If Mr. Information Age and I ever do a face-to-face, I'm going to ask him exactly this: What is up with all the %^$&*#! failing? I'm not talking about the honest, big-time, systemic failure: Say, the Microsoft Bob or the Apple Newton or the Internet itself.

But what gives with the otherwise reasonably engineered gadget that, oh sorry, just flat out stops working? Like my demo Samsung Galaxy Note, which I loved until it cracked. Or my assistant's iPhone, which both shattered its screen and crashed. Or my wife's Motorola Droid, which ground to a halt not once, not twice, but three times over three separate units.

The thing is, it's not like every digital thing breaks. Plenty of gizmos have chugged along just fine standing up to a skeptic's bashing, crashing and dropping, and as investors head off for some much needed August R&R, here are those that have made the grade here.

Big note: Read it and weep, Apple fanboys, but it's been a bad six months for Cupertino here in Blumworld. No Apple technology is truly tough enough these days.

The list starts here:

Kyocera Hydro XTRM waterproof smartphone ($29 with a two year plan, U.S. Cellular)

There may be other ways to get a legit, rugged, water- and shock-proof phone into your life. Casio, Samsung and others most definitely make such devices. But the Kyocera Hydro line is the category winner for low cost, ease of use and minimal bulk. Hardcore, ruggedized device nerds will sniff at the Hydro; it's far from truly tip-top tough. Drop or drown it enough and it does break. And mainstream users will miss high-end features such as bigger processors and a slick camera -- not to mention the fact the Hydro gets physically hot in your pocket under some conditions. But your $30 can't buy a better tough phone.

Inside tip: U.S. Cellular offers reasonable voice and data service for this device.