CAT S60 Review: The Rocky Balboa of smartphones
What comes to your mind when you hear the words “Rocky Balboa”? Of course Sylvester Stallone, but I want you to think further. Rugged, unbreakable, heavyweight, one that takes a beating but comes out unscathed every time are few of the characteristics of the Italian Stallion. Enter CAT S60, the smartphone that’s robust, indestructible and is built like a tank. Caterpillar Inc. well known for manufacturing heavy pieces of equipment, licensed Bullitt Group to manufacture a range of rugged smartphones. The CAT S60 is their flagship product whose distinctive feature is that it’s the world’s first smartphone to come with a thermal imaging camera. But that’s not all. The CAT S60 takes ruggedness to a whole new level and it’s unapologetic in doing so. It can even land a few punches of its own.

The Good

Right off the box, a quick glance at the phone will make you forget all the smartphone norms. That’s because, CAT S60 embraces what it is rather than masquerading as a normal smartphone. So, then what exactly is this thing? The CAT S60 is outrageously beefy and is bold enough to carry that weight around gracefully. The chassis of CAT S60 is reinforced with a strengthened die cast stainless steel frame and the back is covered in a carbon fibre shell which enhances the overall rugged look of the smartphone. The CAT S60 achieves this kind of rigidity by overlooking the need for it to be slimmer and lightweight. Even at 223 grams, the phone doesn’t feel like an overweight sibling but instead, it’s herculean build makes it easy enough to carry it around in your pocket. Holding the phone in hand, the CAT S60 makes you feel confident that it’ll survive any drop, courtesy of the military grade MIL-SPEC-810G and IP68 certifications which make it dust and waterproof up to 5 meters for an hour, withstand drops from as much as 1.8 meters in addition to being shockproof and working in temperatures between -25 degree celsius and 55 degree celsius.

Talking about waterproofing, CAT S60 features two Lockdown Switches through which you can select between two depth levels of waterproofing. The default depth has been kept at 2 meters but flipping the switch, one can take the smartphone down to 5 meters of depth. The Lockdown Switch stops water from coming in contact with the speakers and microphone by shutting them down. Even after so many preventive measures, if water did find its way to the internal speakers, the smartphone detects its presence which triggers a pop-up for the user to use the Speaker Dry app. On enabling the app, the speaker starts producing a combination of high-pitched sounds along with vibrations that help the speaker dry out comparatively faster.

The CAT S60 comes with a thermal imaging camera sensor apart from a normal 13-megapixel rear one. The thermal camera has been sourced from FLIR Systems which has been thriving in the infrared imaging market for the past 39 years. The thermal Lepton modules use FLIR’s MSX technology along with a 13-megapixel normal sensor which enables the camera to detect accurate heat signatures for up to 30 meters and from -20 degree Celsius up to 120 degree Celsius. The thermal imaging sensor shows real-time information of the environment with automatic calibrations happening every few seconds.

Along with this, users can just check temperatures of different areas in their surroundings by enabling focus points. So, for example, you want to check temperatures of three different areas in your surrounding, you can add up focus points and compare the temperatures. The FLIR camera app on the CAT S60 also allows users to put up some crazy, psychedelic filters that represent the heat signatures in different heat palettes. The MyFLIR app also enables users to use different modes such as panorama and time-lapse while using the thermal sensor.

The thermal camera on CAT S60 functions really well and is able to differentiate between different heat signatures accurately. CAT S60 is by far the best option available for you to have a thermal imaging system that is also a smartphone.

The CAT S60 features a 4.7-inch HD a-Si (amorphous silicon) AHVA (Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angle) display technology and is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4. The display technology enables accurate picture and colour representation at different angles. It also allows the CAT S60 to be used while wearing gloves or underwater.

Under the hood, the CAT S60 is rocking Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 617 octa-core processor which when coupled with 3GB of RAM and an onboard storage of 32GB works around pretty well and does the day to day job easily. The CAT S60 runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with some CAT specific apps preloaded on the smartphone.

The CAT S60 has a battery capacity of 3,800 mAh which managed to last around a day in our usage. The smartphone does support Quick Charge 2.0.

The Bad

One of the biggest disadvantages of CAT S60 is the price to features ratio. The CAT S60 launched at Rs 64,999 and at that price one would expect top-of-the-line specifications which the smartphone lacks. At least a full HD display, a high-end chipset, an efficient normal camera and a faster rendering of thermal imagery through the MyFLIR app would have made it a much better deal. Currently, we don’t even know if the smartphone will get updated to the next version of Android or not.

That being said, the CAT S60 isn’t for normal smartphone users and is targeted at military personnel, outdoor active segment and emergency services in India. In fact, when I spoke to Pete Cunningham, Senior Director, Product Management, Bullitt Group, before the launch of the smartphone he said that the company was “in conversation with the Mumbai and Delhi fire services and they’re currently testing the product. We think there is a great opportunity in the fire services and with the thermal camera you can see in total darkness, you can see through smoke in rooms which adds to a lot of value to those guys.”

Use cases such as this make CAT S60 a great choice but for an average user, this isn’t the phone to go for.

Should you buy it?

CAT knows that the average everyday consumer won’t opt for the S60 and the company surely isn’t competing with the likes of the iPhone and Galaxy smartphones. It leaves us thinking of the CAT S60 as a thermal imaging equipment that also happens to be a smartphone. The CAT S60 is a lovechild between FLIR’s thermal imaging technology and smartphones. So, if you’re in the market looking for a rugged smartphone or a thermal imaging smartphone, surely go for the CAT S60. Its ruggedness exceeds what’s currently available in the smartphone space for your extreme lifestyle. At one end of the spectrum, there’s the world champions iPhone and Galaxy smartphones and on the other end there’s the Italian Stallion

CAT S60 is “the greatest exhibition of guts and stamina in the history of” smartphones and is in every way synonymous with Rocky.