Review: CAT S60 epitomizes ruggedness, and is meant for more than WhatsApp chats
Every year we have flagship phones, flagship killer phones and the more affordable Android phones trying to raise the performance and user experience stakes. The CAT S60 smartphone seems completely not bothered by all this, however. It has an unabashedly rugged design, a near indestructible chassis and is the first phone with a thermal imaging sensor. But all this doesn’t come cheap, with a price tag of Rs64,999 and is ideal for someone who works in a hazardous outdoor environment.
What makes this rugged?
This is a phone that does not follow the conventional design rulebook—it is industrial, and proudly so. It is 12.7mm thick, and isn’t going to win any awards if ever there were any, for the sexiest phones. The CAT S60 is designed to withstand 6-foot drops, thanks to a frame that is strengthened with die-cast metal. The phone is IP68 certified which makes it dustproof, shockproof, waterproof and MIL-SPEC 810G-certified for ruggedness. This is also a truly waterproof phone—it can be submerged in water up to a depth of 5 metres for 60 minutes. On the phone, itself, you’ll see two lockdown switches (one next to the earpiece grille on the top panel) and one below the screen for the second speaker—you need to flick this to close these speakers for the 5-metre waterproofing to work, because of the extra pressure, otherwise the phone can withstand depths of 2 metres under water without any damage. Despite the rather chunky look, the CATS60 looks rather unique. The ruggedness aspect doesn’t end here, and the touch screen can be used even if it is completely wet, you have wet fingers or you are wearing gloves. The footprint, despite the thickness, isn’t uncomfortable to manage and remains easy to use.
Thermal imaging, built-in
FLIR a well-known American company that specializes in cameras and optical sensors, has built the thermal imaging camera for the CAT S60. This camera module sits just above the 13-megapixel camera on the rear of the phone. This phone has the feature built in, while the same accessory for Android phones and the iPhone costs around $250. The Flir app takes about 5-7 seconds to load, and you get different filters for different temperatures. There is very limited usage for this in the real world, unless you are a construction worker or a firefighter. How many times would you use the CAT S60 to detect what part of the electrical appliances in your home’s circuit board are overheating?
Compact display on a phone meant for the outdoors
The CAT S60’s 4.7-inch display has a resolution of 1280x720 pixels, and is the Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angle (AHVA) screen type. AHVA is derived from IPS display technology, but it stumbles at multiple places. The black levels aren’t that great, which means the other colours also don’t look as rich as they otherwise might have. Also, while the text in general is sharp enough for comfortable reading, there is still some pixilation and distortion that becomes apparent at certain angles. Overall, this is a dull display, save for the excellent viewing angles and how easily it manages to negate any shadows when used under bright sunlight.
Performance, but not what you’d expect
The CAT S60 walks down a different path, where performance means different things. For the S60, performance is more about ruggedness, the ability to work in the harshest conditions and remain useable all through. Performance for the S60 does not mean the latest processor or software. Which is why you shouldn’t be too shocked to find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage. That’s not all, because once you switch on the CAT S60, you will find that it runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow), which is now old, whichever way we look at it. While all this just works, it isn’t exactly meant for anyone who wants the latest hardware and software. Like most limited edition phones, the S60 also looks to put a point across, and not worry about the newest silicon or software. The 3,800mAh battery just lasts a really long time because it has a fairly compact display to power and not the most powerful processor to run—this should be ideal for those who really need it for field jobs.
Do you need this reinforced phone?
The CAT S60 just takes it to a different level when it comes to redefining a rugged smartphone. It can take tremendous amounts of abuse, and none of that would show up on the chassis as dents or scratches. This is brilliant news for some professionals, who need a rugged smartphone to carry around for their daily routine. The rest of us will perhaps be enthralled by its uniqueness for a few days, but once that wears off, the compromises in terms of the specifications and the software will be hard to ignore—even more so with a price tag of Rs64,999.
This is a phone made for a specific purpose, and unless you are working in a mine, on a factory floor or fire-fighting (literally, and not just on emails all day), this isn’t a phone you need. It will be grave injustice for the CAT S60, if all it does is let you browse Facebook or send messages on WhatsApp groups.