If we were to personify the Cat S60 into one of Marvel’s Avengers, we’d definitely choose The Incredible Hulk. Caterpillar has created one of the most rugged devices ever with a thermal imaging camera.
Caterpillar aren’t known players in the smartphone game, nor are they pushing to be major players like Samsung and Apple. Instead the construction company, who are known for making heavy duty vehicles, are appealing to a niche who are their present customer base. Caterpillar aren’t manufacturing the device themselves, but instead Bullitt Group has taken the reins once again.
The Cat S60 is a phone that feels more solid than a brick, with thermal imaging technology incorporated into the camera. The main feature and one of two reasons why you would buy the Cat S60, is the thermal imaging camera. The camera is made by Flir, who provide thermal imaging software and hardware to institutions such as Formula 1 and the military.
It became very apparent during out hands on, this device isn’t for your average Joe.
The second reason to buy the Cat S60 is the extreme ruggedness. Caterpillar has released rugged smartphones before aimed at construction workers, all of which proved to posess adamantine-like toughness. You’re getting that proven ruggedisation in the S60, its capable of drops from 1.8 metres and can also handle submerging down to 5 metres underwater, for up to one hour.
As a dedicated journalist I carried around the Cat 60 for a while and it’s incredibly funny to get a phone call and drop (lightly) my S60 in a glass of water, then proceeding to carry on socialising without flinching. The reactions aren’t as priceless as when I did it with the S7, but it did the job.
Which brings me to my next point, it’s a pain to play around with a device of such monumental girth, 13mm thickness to be exact. Couple that with the 224g weight, you got a device that makes it quite tiring to simply look at Facebook.
The S60 is made of stainless steel with a carbon fibre frame, which answers why it’s so heavy and quite rightly so to withstand arduous conditions.
Now onto the other reason why you should buy the S60. Coupled with the ruggedness is the thermal imaging camera from Flir, making it a worthy companion for building sites, flooded basements and a towering infernos. You can actually get the Flir thermal camera in the form of an accessory for your everyday phone. But your everyday phone won’t be able to survive extreme conditions like the S60.
During the S60’s London launch event we were shown the camera’s abilities. It’s able to see through smoke and was able to identify heat signatures from other people in the room. The implications are massive, especially for firefighters battling a burning building. The London Fire Brigade do use thermal imaging technology, but the current technology they use is outdated, bulky and only one is assigned per truck. The S60 is portable and can be given to more than one firefighter, which could potentially save more lives.
The thermal imaging camera is only VGA, a camera standard that was present roughly 12 years ago in the Nokia 6230. But there is a accompanying 13-megapixel camera with LED flash and autofocus. Caterpillar claims the cameras work together, to bring the best possible image it can in thermal vision. It still looks quite like VGA, not great quality. You can see the grainy quality of the picture by sliding off the thermal filter in post production.
The secondary 13-megapixel rear-facing is decent enough and can take clear pictures when needing to send a picture of a leaky pipe or damaged installations.
Almost all rugged devices from Caterpillar and other rugged handset manufacturers sacrifice performance and software to focus more on the ruggedisation and extreme features such as the thermal camera. It’s a cost efficient measure and we can’t really blame them for that. Who’s going to complain about how much of a chore it is to play Pokemon Go on the S60?
But the Cat S60 can actually handle intensive games thanks to the Snapdragon 617 processor, complimented with 3GB of RAM. There’s also 32GB of storage on board with the option to expand via microSD. The handy 3,800mAh battery can easily get past a day of use and more some, a feature that will be definitely useful to those with jobs demanding long shifts.
We were surprised to see Android 6.0 Marshmallow as the software of choice, as we were expecting somewhere down the lines of Lollipop. The S60 will ship Marshmallow out of the box.
The display is below par with a 720p resolution screen. Colours can appear dull and lifeless, but then this isn’t a phone for fun, it’s for grafting so the screen can be forgiven.
The Cat S60 is not for me, nor is it for you, unless you’re reading this wearing a hard hat, then it’s most likely for you. It joins a growing collection of rugged phones but it is the first to have a built-in thermal imaging camera. A camera that is impressive but can also be replciated with accessories on ‘normal’ devices.
The S60 will retail for €649 in Europe (approximately £502), a price point that is favourable for those looking for a phone on the construction site, but want a bit of power under the hood. We can see the S60 becoming a great success with it’s niche audience as it will serve them in a number of ways. We’ll be trying to replicate them in our full review.
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