Oh CAT, what were you thinking?
Having impressed us with the B15, you go and spoil it all with the instantly forgettable B25.
The two handsets couldn’t be more different, and we wonder if they were both in fact made by the same manufacturer. It astounds me that CAT allowed its name to be attached to such a handset.
Now, this may seem a little over the top ‘ but when the main features listed on a device are SMS, speakerphone and 2G connectivity you get an instant idea of what we’re dealing with.
The B25 is clearly a phone for those who want a rugged device but aren’t quite ready or indeed bothered with the fun and games of apps, WiFi and the like.
But the features, which wouldn’t have been considered as break through 10 years ago, are not it’s biggest problem.
The design is poor ‘ and fits in to all the traditional stereotypes mentioned in the B15 article which has hampered the rugged market taking off.
The B25 is a blueprint for everything negative about rugged handsets. It’s fat (22mm) and heavy (161 grams) and the features are out of date by about 10 years.
It resembles the classic run of the mill candy bar ‘ adhering to the classic mock up of any pre-smartphone design; a 12 button keypad, and simple navigation buttons.
Around the edges is a thick shock absorbent rubber designed to help the device withstand the knocks and drops the phone is intended to cope against; the phone is IP67 certified, so no fears of water or dust penetration and this is arguably its only redeeming feature ‘ unlike the B15, the tiny 2 inch screen, half the size of the B15’s, is not made with Gorilla glass, so no bold claims of being dropped from different heights on to concrete, although it is apparently scratch resistant.
Curiously, the device has a small gap around the top, giving the impression the rubber casing is too big.
Embedded within the rubber casings are a number of shortcuts ‘ which differ greatly to its smarter relative.
Down the left is a shortcut to the camera ‘ something traditionally positioned down the right, whilst beneath that is the USB charging point protected by a rubber flap.
This we later discovered doubles up for the headphones which come in the box. A very strange decision, and again, this has no consistency with the B15 which includes the standard (even for Apple) 3.5mm jack.
Down the right side was a solitary raised rubber button with a logo which we later realised was a light bulb. Pressing this switches on the torch based around the back next to the silver cases camera lens.
The bulb doubles up as a flash for the camera (incidentally no flash on the B15 ) which we’ll come to later.
Fetch the screwdriver
Those who read the B15 review in full will have noted my criticism of certain manufacturers requiring the user to have a screw driver at the ready whenever they need to open the back of their phone. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what CAT has done here.
And it’s an agonising process. CAT provides a ‘battery door-key’ – basically a small piece of metal with a small edge. Oddly, the key is attached to a small lanyard strap with a cheap looking compass attached (see picture).
The ‘door key’ is too small for easy use and incredibly fiddly for hands of all sizes. It’s made even more frustrating given the screws are deeper than you’d imagine them to be. My advice would be to use a real screwdriver; my advice to CAT would be to redesign the phone entirely. Screws on a handset are Not Good News.
Once open you find the 1300 mAh battery ‘ and you can see where some of the weight comes from because it’s huge. Unsurprisingly, the battery provides a decent 9.5 hours of continuous conversation and a whopping 13 days standby. But battery life for non smartphones was never really a problem.
However, removing it from the device was a task in itself, requiring a coin to prize it out.
Once inside, unlike the B15 there is space for just one standard SIM ‘ and given the difficulty of getting that far, you do not want to be regularly swapping SIM’s.
There is also a MicroSD slot, capable of expanding the memory up to 8GB ‘ which for a phone with so little, seems completely unnecessary.
Switching the phone on is done the old fashioned way through pressing the red ‘reject call’ button. The lack of an Android, or Windows OS means the phone powers up and is ready to use almost instantly.
The CAT logo at start up draws you into a false sense of security, with the white and yellow of the logos seeming crisp and clear. Within about two seconds however, that belief has been put to bed.
The phone uses a 320 x 240 pixels TFT QVGA screen, and is pretty unremarkable compared with modern or even past standards. To draw a comparison, the Huawei Ascend 6300, £30 cheaper, has a screen res of 480×800 pixels.
The screen and menu is pretty minimal, with two shortcuts on the home page and a circular button to navigate an old school-style launch page with square picture shortcuts (see image). Minimal effort has been made here, with each icon displayed in bright yellow against a black background. Fortunately, when highlighting each, the description is provided along the top.
Remember, the B25 includes no apps, thus no direct access to popular services such as Facebook, Twitter of your favourite news and sports sites. There isn’t even a search engine, so unless you know the site domain, you’re out of luck.
Unfortunately we were unable to assess how good or bad the browsing experience actually is, as the review copy we had didn’t appear to include the correct settings, despite a fully working data ready SIM inserted.
The option of WiFi does not apply for this device either ‘ so we were left stuck.
The phone does have a set up for email, Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, which appeared a simple enough process.
Camera / video
Next up was the camera, where our disappointment unfortunately (although not unexpectedly) continued.
Now 2 MP cameras aren’t necessarily a bad thing. I to this day still have several good quality pictures in frames in my home taken from my 2 MP Sony Ericsson K750i from 2005.
However, unlike the Sony, the B25 does not have features such as autofocus and as a result images suffer badly regardless of light conditions. The phone struggles terribly with prominent colours, creating multiple shades, and an almost fuzzy edge. A good description would be images resembling a photograph of a photograph.
Whilst the phone does have a flash, it’s so weak it has little use unless extremely close up ‘ but even then the lack of focus lets it down badly. It doesn’t score any points for simplicity of controls either, with too many barely visible boxes filled with numbers featuring around the screen.
The phone also includes video recording but again, the less said about this the better ‘ with playback resembling a stuttering, poorly recorded low end DVD.
At £130, the CAT B25 is not a cheap, nor competitive phone, which could be its biggest downfall ‘ particularly if customers opt to shop around first. Rivals in the same bracket (non smartphone) such as Sonim with its land-rover S8 phone, JCB RoughNeck tough phone and Samsung’s B2710 are all similar and at almost half the original price in some instances.
Tellingly, Amazon has already reduced the price by £30. For a device which is only now seeing the light of day, take from that what you will.
Frankly, the B25 is an appalling handset, and CAT would do well to pull it immediately given all the good work it has put in to the B15 to avoid damaging its reputation.