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CAT S60 thermal imaging smartphone review

An armoured tank of a smartphone with Predator-style thermal imaging

Do you spend more hours at work wearing a high vis jacket than a suit jacket? Then the super-tough Cat S60 might be the phone you need.

Yep, that’s ‘Cat’ as in ‘Caterpillar’, the construction company that also makes massive yellow earth movers. Phones for the hard hat brigade are nothing new, but the S60 aims to take ruggedness to a new level.

And that’s not all – it’s also the first smartphone in the world with a built-in thermal imaging camera, so you can live out your Predator fantasies in your lunch break, then use it to spot power lines and hot water pipes when it’s time to get back to work.

CAT S60 DESIGN – BUILT TO LAST

Make no mistake – the S60 is a chunky brute of a phone. That die-cast steel frame doesn’t bend or flex at all, and you won’t ever forget it’s in your pocket. It’s 12.9mm thick – basically two mainstream phones back-to-back.

It’s fully weather-sealed, MIL-STD-810G certified against dust and sand, and built to shrug off drops of up to 1.8m. Good luck killing it on your average building site.

Water’s not a problem, either. It’ll survive a dunking down to 5M for up to 60 minutes, as long as you remember to flip the speaker and microphone lockdown switches before you hit the water. Without them, you’re still covered down to 2M, but better safe than sorry, eh?

The carbon fibre-effect rear and occasional yellow accents are the only bits that stand out in the style stakes, but there’s a lot going on around the sides. Volume buttons on the right, power and a programmable shortcut button on the left, plus flaps to protect the headphone jack and USB port.

There’s also an SOS button – flick open the cover, hold the red button down and the phone will fire off a message to a pre-defined contact, along with your GPS coordinates. Handy in an emergency, as long as you’ve got a phone signal.

Flip it over and you’ll spot the little door that hides the SIM card and microSD card slots.

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CAT S60 PERFORMANCE – STEADY SPEED

CAT S60 PERFORMANCE - STEADY SPEED

The S60 isn’t exactly packed with the latest and greatest components, either.

The Snapdragon 617 CPU and 3GB of RAM are easily fast enough for Android Marshmallow (especially as Cat hasn’t bogged it down with a custom skin), but sometimes it can take an extra second or two to switch apps. Loading the thermal camera always took about 3-4 seconds during testing, which was just a little bit irritating.

At least the S60 gets one thing right: battery life. That mid-range CPU, 720p screen and hefty 3800mAh battery help it squeeze out well over two days of light use, so if you aren’t constantly on Facebook or YouTube (not something we’d expect if you’re working on a building site) you won’t need to bring a charger to work with you.

Even if you hit multimedia apps and games hard, you’ll still get a full day of runtime before you need to look for a mains socket. It’s got Quick Charge 2.0 on board too, so you’ll be good to go in just a few hours.

MID-RANGE MONSTEROnePlus 3 review

CAT S60 CAMERAS – FEEL THE HEAT

CAT S60 PERFORMANCE – STEADY SPEED

CAT S60 PERFORMANCE - STEADY SPEED

The S60 isn’t exactly packed with the latest and greatest components, either.

The Snapdragon 617 CPU and 3GB of RAM are easily fast enough for Android Marshmallow (especially as Cat hasn’t bogged it down with a custom skin), but sometimes it can take an extra second or two to switch apps. Loading the thermal camera always took about 3-4 seconds during testing, which was just a little bit irritating.

At least the S60 gets one thing right: battery life. That mid-range CPU, 720p screen and hefty 3800mAh battery help it squeeze out well over two days of light use, so if you aren’t constantly on Facebook or YouTube (not something we’d expect if you’re working on a building site) you won’t need to bring a charger to work with you.

Even if you hit multimedia apps and games hard, you’ll still get a full day of runtime before you need to look for a mains socket. It’s got Quick Charge 2.0 on board too, so you’ll be good to go in just a few hours.

MID-RANGE MONSTEROnePlus 3 review

CAT S60 PERFORMANCE – STEADY SPEED

CAT S60 PERFORMANCE - STEADY SPEED

The S60 isn’t exactly packed with the latest and greatest components, either.

The Snapdragon 617 CPU and 3GB of RAM are easily fast enough for Android Marshmallow (especially as Cat hasn’t bogged it down with a custom skin), but sometimes it can take an extra second or two to switch apps. Loading the thermal camera always took about 3-4 seconds during testing, which was just a little bit irritating.

At least the S60 gets one thing right: battery life. That mid-range CPU, 720p screen and hefty 3800mAh battery help it squeeze out well over two days of light use, so if you aren’t constantly on Facebook or YouTube (not something we’d expect if you’re working on a building site) you won’t need to bring a charger to work with you.

Even if you hit multimedia apps and games hard, you’ll still get a full day of runtime before you need to look for a mains socket. It’s got Quick Charge 2.0 on board too, so you’ll be good to go in just a few hours.

MID-RANGE MONSTEROnePlus 3 review

CAT S60 PERFORMANCE – STEADY SPEED

CAT S60 PERFORMANCE - STEADY SPEED

The S60 isn’t exactly packed with the latest and greatest components, either.

The Snapdragon 617 CPU and 3GB of RAM are easily fast enough for Android Marshmallow (especially as Cat hasn’t bogged it down with a custom skin), but sometimes it can take an extra second or two to switch apps. Loading the thermal camera always took about 3-4 seconds during testing, which was just a little bit irritating.

At least the S60 gets one thing right: battery life. That mid-range CPU, 720p screen and hefty 3800mAh battery help it squeeze out well over two days of light use, so if you aren’t constantly on Facebook or YouTube (not something we’d expect if you’re working on a building site) you won’t need to bring a charger to work with you.

Even if you hit multimedia apps and games hard, you’ll still get a full day of runtime before you need to look for a mains socket. It’s got Quick Charge 2.0 on board too, so you’ll be good to go in just a few hours.

MID-RANGE MONSTEROnePlus 3 review

CAT S60 ANDROID – SAFETY FIRST

It’s got a mostly stock setup, but Cat has still managed to add a few custom apps to Android to help stand the S60 apart – hardly something it needs considering the spec sheet.

Our favourite is the Hike app, which puts a compass, the weather, longitude/latitude coordinates, a distance calculator and flashlight on-screen. There’s even an SOS button that flashes the torch with morse code for getting attention. Useful if you’re planning to climb any mountains.

You might not need the Speaker Dry app unless you’re planning on getting wet; it plays high and low frequency notes to blast any water out of the speakers once you’re back on dry land. It definitely made a difference in testing though.

CAT S60 VERDICT

The S60 really is the smartphone version of Gordon Freeman’s HEV suit. It ticks every box that will suit a hard outdoor life, and doesn’t seriously skimp out on hardware to make that happen.

OK, so you’re not exactly getting flagship specs, even if you’re paying top-end money, but the thermal camera could make all the difference if you’re in the trade.

If you’re not slinging bricks or unclogging pipes for a living, though, you’d need to be a Mr Magoo-level clutz to need such extreme protection. A waterproof Galaxy S7 should save you from puddles, pools and toilet dunkings, which is about as dangerous as it gets for most office-bound desk jockeys.

It’s a niche phone, sure, but one that won’t let you down when the going gets tough.

Buy the CAT S60 here from Amazon

Tech specs

SCREEN 4.7in 1280×720 LCD
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 quad-core
MEMORY 3GB RAM
STORAGE 32GB on-board, microSD card slot
CAMERA 13MP rear, FLIR thermal imaging rear, 5MP front
BATTERY 3800mAh
DIMENSIONS 148x73x12.7mm
WEIGHT 222g

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

Built to take a pounding and thermal imaging is a killer feature – if spend enough time on a building site

Good Stuff

Better thermal vision than the Predator

Properly rugged, will survive a real beating

Battery life for days

Bad Stuff

Won’t win any style awards

Overkill for most people

Costs as much as a flagship phone