CAT S61 – Rugged Smartphone With Integrated Thermal Imaging Camera

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The Cat S61 is not your standard smartphone. It is clearly geared towards people who require a comprehensive digital toolbox to complement their extreme outdoorsy lifestyle. Although pricey, the inclusion of several must-have features makes it a tempting buy for many.

Most smartphone manufacturers are trading in toughness and durability for style and sophistication to appeal to a wide range of consumers. This explains the oversaturation of beautiful glass phones in the market of late. But such delicate devices are not for everyone. Even though many of them come equipped with gimmicky features like dust resistance and thermal resistance, they are unable to withstand extended rugged usage. So, you can forget about using these gadgets for high-intensity activities. Instead, you should go for something a little more functional and outdoorsy, such as Cat S61.

smartphone with thermal camera

Announced at MWC 2018, Cat’s latest smartphone is a follow-up to the popular S60 model. What it lacks in flair, the device more than makes up for in endurance. In fact, it’s one of the most durable phones out there, capable of surviving conditions a lot worse than a drop from your coffee table. Cat specializes in the production of big, yellow construction vehicles. So, the company is perfectly suited to designing a phone that specializes in taking a beating. While it is a fairly average mid- to high-end smartphone, its superior design and build quality help distinguish it from other smartphones in this category.


UK-based the Bullitt Group is familiar with the market, and cashes in on the niche demand for strong phones in demanding environments. The Cat S61 is one of the company’s best flagships yet and what it lacks in flashy features or operating power, it offsets with sheer power. This phone is truly built like a tank, and will survive all manner of dunks, bumps, and falls without putting on a bulky case. Bullitt has left no stone unturned to make this model a considerable step up from its predecessor – the S60 – by including laser measurement, thermal imaging, and air quality sensors for working professionals.

waterproof smartphone

The moment you pick up the Cat S61, you start to notice the difference. The phone has been designed from the ground up for toughness, and its look and feel convey the same. The matte aluminum frame is quite thick with shiny edge contrasts made of black plastic. You will find a unique angled protrusion near the top of the phone bearing the Cat logo.

The three physical buttons situated below the 5.2 inch display help navigate the Android OS even when your hands are dirty or wet. The polycarbonate lip surrounding the screen is a thoughtful addition as it prevents the phone display from touching down even when dropped. The 1920 X 1080 IPS LCD panel allows for comfortable usage. However, readability might be low in sunny outdoors. The USB-C charging port is present on the bottom edge next to the speaker. The orange programmable key on the left acts as a useful physical shortcut for mapping two separate functions, like answer and flashlight, or ending calls with a long and short press.

rugged smartphone

The back of the phone features a textured grip, and the ergonomics on this device are off the charts. It feels comfortable in your hand but the heavy weight might prompt more two-handed operations. This is the best rugged smartphone, capable of handling falls from up to 6 feet onto concrete, temperatures between -25 to 55 degrees Celsius, and salt mist spray as well.

best waterproof smartphone

The phone is also IP68 and IP69 rated, which means it is a waterproof smartphone up to 3 meters for almost an hour. It is protected against close-range high temperature and high-pressure water jets. Using the touchscreen will prove no problem even when your fingers are wet, and there is a highly convenient gloves mode.

This rugged smartphone features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor along with 4 gigs of RAM. The available internal storage space is 64 GB but you can easily expand it via MicroSD card up to 256 GB. Navigation is smooth for the most part. Being designed with functionality in mind rather than entertainment, this is a phone that lacks heavy-duty gaming capabilities but more than makes up for it with useful apps that take full advantage of its specs, such as the indoor air quality sensor. All the information is displayed clearly and such apps are a lifesaver for people working in high-intensity environments.

best rugged smartphone

One area where the Cat S61 shines is battery life. Bullitt has not cut any corners in this department, and the smartphone is equipped with a 4,500 mAh battery. This means your phone can last up to two days between charges, perhaps even three with minimal usage.

The 16-megapixel rear camera on the Cat S61 offers average performance. It loads slowly, captures a shot slowly, and experiences slight delays when processing and saving an image. But overall daytime photography is not too shabby. Some of the close-up shots offer impressive detail, and you can add a bokeh effect to your pictures. Wider shots, however, sometimes seem overexposed, and lowlight photography contain some blurring and noise.

waterproof smartphones

The underwater mode is a big step in the right direction, and users can easily switch between video and photo, front and back with the volume buttons. The 8-megapixel front camera clicks standard selfies, and the performance is on par with other budget smartphones. Overall, the level of photography, while not a complete deal breaker, is nothing to write home about for the Cat S61.

Check out of some characteristics of the Cat S61 below:

  • Dimension: 5.91 X 2.99 X 0.51 inches
  • Weight: 5.74 oz.
  • Build: Aluminum frame
  • SIM: Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
  • Display: 5.2-inch IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
  • Resolution: 1080 X 1920 pixels, 16:9 ratio
  • Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • Platform: Android 8.0 (Oreo)
  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
  • CPU: Octa-core 2.2 GHz Cortex-A53
  • GPU: Adreno 508
  • Internal Memory: 64 GB, 4 GB RAM
  • External Memory: Dedicated microSD slot, expandable up to 256 GB
  • Primary Camera: 16 MP, PDAF, FLIR thermal camera (Lepton module)
  • Front Camera: 8 MP
  • Sound: 3.5mm jack and loudspeaker
  • WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot
  • Bluetooth: 5.0, A2DP, LE
  • NFC: Yes
  • Radio: FM Radio
  • USB: 2.0, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector, USB On-The-Go
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, indoor air quality sensor
  • Battery: Non-removable Li-Ion 4500 mAh battery
  • Durability:
    • – IP68 dust/water proof (up to 3m for 1 hour)
    • – Drop-to-concrete resistance from up to 1.8 m
    • – MIL-STD-810G compliant
  • Color: Black

Some might find the price tag of the Cat S61 to be a bit on the higher side. But considering all the features you’re getting in one nifty package, the Cat S61 is a strong investment for adventurous and outdoorsy customers who desperate needs its niche functionalities. Bullitt’s newest smartphone model was launched recently in June 2018 and it will set you back by £799 or €899, while the US price is $999. Cat throws in a free 2-year warranty to sweeten the deal.

What Will You Get When You Buy the Cat S61?

Cat understands its target audience and gives them exactly what they want. After all, a regular phone user will never be able to appreciate the addition of a thermal camera. They will consider it an unnecessary spec and not find any use for it. But individuals employed in construction, mining, and other get-your-hands-dirty lines of work will be able to harness the full power of the smartphone.

For example, the FLIR camera is capable of sensing heat up to 400 degrees Celsius. So, workers can use the device to analyze faulty electronic equipment, engines, and other tasks. Bullitt, the British phone maker responsible for the S61, has even added a VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) sensor so users can monitor the quality of the surrounding air. This feature is sure to help people who work long hours in sheds and workshops or half-constructed houses filled with wet paint, cleaning substances, and solvents. The phone will take regular readings at 30-second intervals and send an alert if the environment is deemed too unhealthy.

which smartphones are waterproof

Moreover, architects and designers will find plenty of use for the tiny laser system on the back of the S61 capable of measuring distances up to 10 meters. So, the Cat S61 is a great investment for blue-collar workers, like builders, engineers, farmers, and the military. and it’s finally satisfying to see a phone meet a requirement that isn’t being fulfilled by other manufacturers. Anybody who works in extreme conditions or just cannot make a phone last beyond the first couple of months will find some use for this tough-as-nails smartphone.

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Last modified: 14.08.2018

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