We live in an era of fast, sleek phones. Most seem to want metal and glass–so much glass that we’re seeing the bezels on phones vanish. Yet there’s are some scenarios where phones like that are a liability. Construction sites or when one is training for the military, for example. One phone aimed at that crowd is the CAT S41. Why review it here, then? Keep reading.
I’ve always been fascinated by the rugged phones at press events, and the S41 is no exception. The tough, rubberized body brings to mind some of the best phone cases out there. It’s not out to turn heads, yet it does. Since phones have been going slimmer and showier, a thick and hefty phone is just different enough. The Bullitt Group has been licensing the CAT name for a few years. If you’ve ever passed a construction site in most of the world, you know what CAT is. Their construction machines are so ubiquitous that it was played for laughs in Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, Wings–I cannot recommend them enough for younger readers btw).
Just about every inch of the rubberized body is well designed. You have a headphone jack on the top, power and volume on the right, USB-Micro port on the bottom, and on the left there’s a customizable button right under the cover for the MicroSD card slot, headphone slot, and reset button (there’s a blast from the past). They’re more than just flaps, by the way. Uncovering any of these will send an alert that your phone isn’t waterproof.
The phone also has large, physical buttons rather than capacitive or virtual, which makes a lot of sense. This phone is made, after all, for people who might have filthy, wet, or gloved hands. For that reason, don’t expect to find a fingerprint reader. A 5″, full HD screen has a layer of Gorilla Glass to keep the ruggedness going, and there are both front and rear cameras (8 MP and 13 MP, in case you were wondering).
It’s easy to focus on the externals of this military-grade rugged phone (it’s MIL-STD-810G compliant), but we should look at the specs too. 32 GB of storage and 3 GB of RAM is not too shabby. I’m not familiar with the Mediatek MT6757 chip that runs everything, but it worked well as I tested the phone. I’m also impressed with how little Bullitt messed with Android 7. It feels almost standard.
One unique feature is Battery Share. Bullitt includes a special cable that lets you use the 5,000 mAh battery as a power bank. It is not a standard cable, so don’t lose it if this is a killer deal.
The phone is rated for 44 days of standby and 38 of talk. In my experience, it took weeks to even get the battery down to 11%, and that was with my son using it on a car trip.
It’s impossible to deny that the S41 is an impressive phone. Is it, however, necessary? And if it’s aimed at construction and military, why even review it at a geek parenting page?
My answer, good sir or madam, is hiking.
The S41 is a fantastic phone for taking out into the world. You don’t have to worry about it getting ruined in the rain or falling out as you cross over a creek. I’d feel safer using it with the iBobber than any other phone (but, oh, would I be mad if it ended up at the bottom of a lake).
The huge battery means you don’t have to worry about being too far from civilization. I’m not saying you need a phone this rugged to hand your kid so they can game or text and ignore you. I am saying you might want a phone this rugged for your Scout. Something they can use as a map, a communication device, or a camera in all sorts of conditions.
Those aforementioned cameras are okay, as the below gallery shows. They’re not a fancy-schmancy dual-lens system, but they get the job done. Heck, there’s even an “underwater mode” for taking photos underwater. Let’s see your typical Android phone do that.
At a little under $510, the S41 not a casual buy. But this is not a casual phone for casual people. This is a commitment, for committed folk.
Which one are you?
Note: Bullitt Group provided a phone for review purposes. I did not get to take it hiking. But then, an NY commute is practically the same thing, right?