Most rugged smartphones represent a compromise between cost, durability, functionality and looks. And by a rugged smartphone, I mean something that is built for the outdoor life, which means everything from water to dust proofing, to being dropped onto concrete from several feet. The cost of toughening up a device is usually a penalty in size and weight, as the devices essentially need padding and protection. It's also true that manufacturers have tended to consider users of toughened handset to be, shall we say, less demanding of their devices. But I'm pleased to see that this may be changing with last Thursday's launch of the upgraded Cat Phones S50 handset. Cat Phones as in Caterpillar.
When it comes to protection, the Cat S50 is IP67, that means it's waterproof to one metre for up to thirty minutes and impervious to dust. Cat Phones also state that the handset is Rugged to Mil Spec 810G with regards to salt mist, impact resistance, vibration, thermal shock and temperature range. But of course, all this protection is a moot point if the device isn't otherwise up to specification and I'm pleased to write that the hardware inside the chassis is respectable. The S50 uses a 1.2 GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage plus a MicroSD card slot. It has a 4.7-inch 720p resolution display with wet finger tracking, also protected by Gorilla Glass 3. You get Bluetooth 4 Low Energy, 802.11n WiFi plus 4G networking. There's a rear mounted speaker that comes with "performance enhancing audio technology for unparalleled sound performance developed by Waves." The battery is 2,630 mAh and Cat claim a sixteen hour talk time. It has a 8 MP rear camera and a VGA, or 0.3 MP, front facing camera for video calls. Stock Android 4.4 KitKat runs the show and the only third party application bundled onto the device is the Cat Phones App Store, which has a pre-selected range of approximately one thousand applications that may be of interest to buyers.
The price? $499 or $479 unlocked from Cat Phones and available in a number of different colours, including Forest and Slate. To my eyes, the 'phone has a certain rugged appeal. I wouldn't call it handsome but it's certainly not ugly.