When you think about buying a smartphone it’s probably rare that Cat crop up as a viable option. Hell, you probably didn’t even know that they make phones. We didn’t. It’s pretty surprising then to find that they’ve actually been producing handsets for years. Although, if you look at some of the previous models you’ll probably notice that they’ve not exactly been designed for the average consumer.
The reason why you probably haven’t heard of the mobile devices is that Cat have always focussed their efforts on industries where the primary goal is hard-wearing function. Farmers, engineers, park rangers, builders; the kind of jobs where the aesthetics of your phone are a distant second to its ability to hold up to rigorous elements of the task at hand. You know, like dropping it from a ladder, spilling stuff over it or scratching the front with something sharp and inevitably dangerous.
The new model is a bit different though. Not only have they designed a handset that actually looks pretty damn handsome, they’ve also made it a bona fide phone for the every man. It has a 13 megapixel camera, a HD video recorder, 32 gig of internal memory and an additional memory card slot, it runs the latest version of Android OS and has a more than sufficient 3 GB RAM. So yeah, as phone’s go, it’s up there with most of the latest kit you’re likely to find in a phone shop.
But as well as the general phone stats – let’s just assume we’ve ticked those off – the Cat S60 has an array of additional benefits you’re unlikely to find in most consumer models. Firstly it’s waterproof to 5m, to the point where you can actually take pictures underwater, secondly it’ll withstand a drop up to 1.8m, thirdly, and this is probably one if the coolest things we’ve seen on a new handset, the model comes with a secondary camera that reads heat signatures. That’s right, you can take pictures of heat. Like in a spy film.
So we may not work in the industrial sectors, but as outdoor enthusiasts you can see how having a waterproof, damage resistant phone would be pretty useful. Whether that’s for snorkelling, climbing, mountain biking or basically anything where your phone is unlikely to be kept safely in your jeans pocket. We’re still trying to work out a useful case for the geothermal camera though.
We’re big fans of a chunky handset. That feeling when you step up from a chair and know your phone isn’t in your pocket. Saved us buying a new one loads of times. We’re currently using A Samsung S6 with a rubber case on it, the S60 is pretty much the same size as that. Sure, you aren’t going to be able to fit a lot more into your pocket, but that’s fine by us.
Assuming you like a big phone then the S60 a very aesthetically pleasing character. By far the nicest handset ever produced by the crew over at Cat. the front and back are a nice patterned black plastic, with a silver rim which runs all the way round. The addition of the FLIR camera does mean that there’s an extra block at the top. Although it actually looks quite nice. The main buttons are located on the sides, with the waterproofing switches (if you’re fully waterproofed it’ll cut out the external speaker) on the front. The memory and sims cards are accessed by a flip panel on the back.
In terms as other leading models on the market the camera is on a par in terms of megapixels (13mp), although we found that the quality of picture was better with the iPhone 6 and the Samsung S7. But that’s something you need to weigh up in your buying decisions. If you want a ridiculously hardy phone and you’re happy to drop a small level of camera quality, then you’re sorted. Video is also pretty good with a maximum 1080p at 30fps, which is fine, but not as high a spec as the iPhone (1080p at 60fps) and Samsung (2160p at 30fps).
The handset contains 32 gig of memory as standard, and you can up that significantly by sticking in a micro SD. Which is pretty nice as we’re stuck with the 32gig max on our Samsung at the moment and we’re constantly deleting stuff (note that the Samsung S7 allows for additional memory).
As mentioned before, once you’ve flicked the switches on the front the S60 goes from 2m waterproof to 5m. Which means you can do a lot more than just drop it in the toilet. The camera will work underwater for both photos and video. There’s also a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 touchscreen which allows you to operate it even with wet fingers. which is pretty useful if you are going to use it around water.
The phone is strengthened with a die-cast frame, which means it’ll hold up to a drop of 1.8 metres. Which is actually pretty high in normal situations. Not great if you’re at the top of a ladder though. According to Cat it exceeds military exceeds military specifications. So it must be pretty impressive.
Now, the thermal imaging camera is really cool. Like seriously. You feel like you should wearing a tuxedo and solving some sort of international espionage. We tested it in various scenarios, including in a pitch black room, and it worked a treat. You can use the camera to take photos, video and time lapse footage. You can also use the colouring to pinpoint specific temperatures in the image even after you’ve taken it. Which is actually amazing.
The only problem is we haven’t quite found a use for it yet other than the fact it’s a great talking point. Sure we will though. Just bear with us. The only other problem we noticed is that we can’t seem to get rid of the FLIR logo on he photos, which is annoying as it makes any picture look like it’s either sponsored or created using a free app.
The Cat S60 will set you back £529.99. Which, compared to other phones on the market (iPhone 6S: £619.00, Samsung S7: £549), is pretty good considering the ridiculous functions. And if you are looking for a phone as hard-wearing as this, along with the quite specific selling points, you haven’t really got any other choices to be quite honest.
There’s a hell of a lot of functionality on the Cat S60, in many ways it’s a wonder of modern technology. Oddly though our favourite aspect is the handset itself. It’s designed for people who like to hold something tangible. It feels like something you don’t have to worry about. Like a trusty old hammer that always works, when all your new ones have long fallen apart.
With a load of trips coming up which will invariably end up swimming in a lake or the sea, the water resistance is a major factor that’ll be put to good use. And the last thing you want is for your phone to break on holiday because you wandered too close to the pool.
We tested the phone for a couple of weeks and grew pretty attached to it. The operating system, camera and display were almost identical to our Samsung S6 (albeit with a slightly smaller screen), so when we sent the test model back it took us some time to adapt again.
Once we’ve found a use for the thermal imaging camera, aside from general playing, we’ll let you know.
To find out more info about the Cat S60 Smartphone, or to buy one, head on over to the website here.
Picture Credits: Cat
Note: We received tests product for this review.