When Caterpillar launched its first Android smartphone, the B15, back in 2013, it was unclear just what the company expected out of a product so foreign to its traditional yellow iron segments.
Was it simply a stab at a licensing success (such as Cat boots and apparel), meant to gauge demand for that CAT logo on the back of a phone? Or was it a commitment to a product category the company thought was being under-designed for in the construction and trades markets, where a phone can die a thousand different deaths?
Just three years later, and with a now company-wide focus on becoming a technology and heavy equipment provider, it’s clear Cat’s intentions were more in line with the latter. After launching an update to the Cat B15 in the B15Q in 2014, Cat has built a full-on rugged smartphone lineup with the launch of the S50, S40 and S50c in the last year alone, scoring an exclusive carrier deal with Verizon on the S50c.
And now, just more than a month after the launch of the push-to-talk-enabled S50c, Cat has announced its latest smartphone in the lead up to the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Spain. And beyond being the best looking, and most premium phone Cat has produced to date, it has a feature no other smartphone on the market can boast; one that is sure to endear it to even more of those working in the trades.
The only FLIR-embedded smartphone
The new Cat S60 is the first smartphone with built-in thermal imaging thanks to an embedded FLIR camera. While FLIR currently offers a dongle for the iPhone and certain Android models (and a case for older models of those phones), the S60 is the first device to benefit from an embedded FLIR system.
The FLIR system highlights temperature contrasts, and displays a visualization of heat invisible to the naked eye on the S60 display. Cat says the camera can detect heat and measure surface temperatures from a distance of 50 to 100 feet. It can also detect these temperature differences through obscurants such as smoke.
Cat says the FLIR camera on the S60 can be used for jobsite applications such as “detecting heat loss around windows and doors; spotting moisture and missing insulation; identifying over-heating electrical appliances and circuitry; and seeing in complete darkness.”
There are undoubtedly many more, and with the growing popularity of jobsite collaboration apps such as FieldLens and Procore, which encourage an almost social-media-like sharing of photos and jobsite updates throughout the day, having FLIR built into the phone could prove incredibly useful.
Still images, panoramas and videos can be taken with the FLIR camera. The system also features changeable heat palettes, a temperature spot meter and minimum, maximum and average temperature data.
The most rugged Cat phone yet
The S60 also has the benefit of featuring the most impressive rugged specifications of any Cat phone to date.
The phone is waterproof in depths up to 5 meters for one hour – that’s a depth 4 meters more than both the S50c and S40 and an increased submersion time of 30 minutes over the S50c. This added waterproofing means the device can be used as an underwater camera for the first time.
The device also survives drops to concrete from nearly 2 meters, as did its predecessors. Unlike its predecessors, the S60 is built with a strengthened die-cast steel frame. The only downside is that with all of this ruggedization the phone is pretty thick: just over half an inch.
Top of the Cat lineup
Cat appears to be attempting to remedy some of its past phones weaknesses with the S60 as well. While the screens on its phones have progressively improved, the 4.7-inch HD display on the S60 is among the largest and brightest yet and still supports use with wet fingers and with gloves.
It also features the largest battery of any Cat phone with a monster 3,800 mAh battery – that’s 27 percent more capacity than the S40, which has great battery life as it is.
But Cat has also tackled performance issues with the improved guts of the S60. While the S40 suffered from mediocre performance with a quad-core processor and only 1GB of RAM, the S60 features an eight-core processor and 3GB of RAM.
The S60 will run the latest version of Android, Marshmallow. We’ll have to wait to pass our final judgment on this device until we get our hands on one, but this is certainly an attractive package for anyone in the trades.
Cat says the phone will be available this spring for $599. Carrier availability has not yet been announced.