There’s always an assumption that phones designed to take a substantial beating will be ugly. We generally think tough phones should be like a pair of walking boots, ready to wade through mud, and then be hosed off and thrown in a corner until they’re needed again. The Cat S62 Pro proves rugged phones don’t have to be hideous, and that having a decent design doesn’t mean skimping on the features that matter either, as it manages to hide an impressive thermal camera on the back.
Good design matters, even when looking slick isn’t that important to the phone itself. After all, if the Cat S62 Pro is underwater or tumbling down a rock face, the fact it looks good at the time is largely irrelevant. Where it matters is when you’re holding the phone. The Cat S62 Pro weighs 248 grams, but it hides this substantial weight quite well, remaining balanced in your hand. The large, smooth, curved sides fit snugly when being held, and although it’s quite a wide phone, the buttons are all easy to locate and press.
The 11.9mm thick body is made of aluminum and plastic, and is equivalent in size to the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE or OnePlus 8T. Ergonomically, it’s good, but it’s hard to use the touchscreen with one hand due to the overall thickness. I love the security screws that dot the side of the frame, the oversize buttons and their texture, and the grippy rubberized panel on the back to stop it from slipping around. You can drop it from a height of 1.8 meters, dunk it in water, and assault it with sand, salt, and vibration, and it won’t fail thanks to the IP68 and IP69 rating and MIL-SPEC-810G body.
This phone is deliciously over-engineered in places. The sturdy, metal dual-SIM card tray is extracted using a normal tool, but it’s entirely hidden away behind a thick door that seals tightly against the body. Below it is a bright orange programmable button, ready to be linked to the app or feature of your choice. It adds some fun to the otherwise somber color scheme.
On the front is a 5.7-inch LCD with a 2160 x 1080 resolution, which can be used with wet hands and when wearing gloves. I tested it with soaking wet, freshly washed and therefore a bit soapy hands, and it performed without fault. I found it necessary to have the screen at full brightness most of the time, and also found that the viewing angles weren’t quite as wide as those of a phone like the Pixel 5.
Here we’d usually talk about the quality and features of the camera, and while the Cat S62 Pro has a 12-megapixel f/1.8 aperture camera on the back and an 8MP selfie camera, anyone looking at this phone will want to know about the thermal camera. It’s the Lepton 3.5 sensor from thermal camera experts Flir, and is designed to help tradespeople find areas of heat or damp, leaks or electrical shorts, or identify variations in temperature generally. Or find evidence of ghosts, obviously.
The thermal camera is activated separately from the main camera, but it does work in conjunction with it, so there’s an overlay of the real world on the thermal image, making it easier to pinpoint areas of interest. Although I haven’t used it for its intended purpose professionally, the thermal image is easy to follow. While it doesn’t reach very quickly as you move around, the different heat maps that change the colors used on screen (this includes an interesting night mode) are welcome.
You look at a clear and sharp 1440 x 1080 image which can recognize temperature variations of between -20 and 400 degrees centigrade. The on-screen average temperature readout is helpful, giving you a basic idea of the temperatures the sensor is recording, and the app has the option to take stills, video, or even stream to YouTube directly from the camera.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor is paired with 6GB of RAM, and operates Android 10 with very few alterations to the version of Android installed on a Pixel phone from last year. There are quite a few pre-installed apps, including links to Cat’s website, and services like OnGuard Solo, which sets up a “buddy” network for people who work alone in difficult conditions.
Performance is adequate, but again, the experience on most other consumer-driven phones is superior. Scrolling through Twitter reveals some stutters, and also highlights the lack of a 90Hz refresh rate screen. However, it’s never too slow for general usage. The Cat S62 Pro doesn’t have 5G, which may affect longevity for some people. Although Cat says the S62 Pro will receive an update to Android 11, there’s no timeframe given, but at least it will arrive along with regular security updates, too.
A 4,000mAh battery should provide a couple of days of use before it needs a recharge, and although there’s the standard Android Battery Saver mode, Cat has not added any special features to extend the battery life while keeping essential features active. I mention this because the Cat S62 Pro’s battery capacity is lower than the 4,500mAh battery in the Cat S61, and the 5,000mAh fitted to the Cat S41. It does not have the laser distance measure seen on the Cat S61.
The Cat S62 Pro costs 599 British pounds, which converts over to $777, and it is available now. At launch Cat provided a U.S. price of $749, but the company has not yet provided an exact release date. Additionally, Cat warns on its website that the European Cat S62 Pro does not support all network bands required for wide use in the U.S., so import one at your peril. Digital Trends contacting Bullitt, the company that produces Cat phones under license, to confirm when the phone would come to the U.S., and were told a compatible model would be available in early 2021.
The $729continues on as the flagship model in the U.S. for now.
The S62 Pro’s thermal camera is its standout feature, and it’s impressive how the company has fitted the new sensor inside the well-designed, moderately compact body. The phone feels superbly made, and gives you plenty of confidence in its ability to keep going even when treated harshly.
While it’s not going to be an alternative for anyone considering an iPhone 12, those working in an environment that would quickly see a less hardy phone destroyed will appreciate the Cat S62 Pro’s blend of decent looks and ruggedness. The thermal camera is a niche feature, but it’s made by an industry expert and therefore will be of value to those with that specific need, which really sums the phone up well overall. It’s worth your attention only if the thermal camera is a must-have feature for you; otherwise cheaper rugged phones are available.
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