The CAT S52 is a phone with one goal: survival! The phone is extremely solidly built, it is waterproof and dustproof and can withstand falls up to 1.5m. The build quality makes that true indeed, it is a sturdy and well finished device. The processor is a bit weak; the rest is super.
Caterpillar, also known as CAT, is licensed with Bullitt group consumer electronics. This allows Bullitt to release smartphones with the name of CAT. These are, as you may expect from this brand, smartphones that can take a beating. In general, these smartphones are known for their robust design, long battery life and waterproofness.
In this review we will discuss the CAT S52, a very robust smartphone that will make you as a field engineer happy. This phone can lie quietly in the sand without breaking anything, so just drop it once! We will not judge this phone as a “normal” phone, but as a special phone.
The phone is currently for sale for 465 euros at Amazon.de.
Looking at the specifications, we notice that the battery with 3100 mAh is on the small side. There is also no support for wireless charging. The 5.65 inch screen is fine, but more interesting is that it should be very bright. Whether that is actually the case, we will of course find out in this review. What is also nice to mention, is that the screen still works with wet fingers: very interesting!
More information can be found on the manufacturer’s website.
|Type||Non removable Lithium Ion|
|Capacity||3100 mAh (supports fast charging)|
|Talk Time||Up to 29 hours 3G talk time|
|Stand-by Time||Up to 28 days|
|Display||Super Bright 5.65” Display – HD+ (1440 x 720) 18:9. IPS, wet finger/glove-on working technology**|
|Display Cover||Corning® Gorilla® Glass 6|
|Rear-facing||Sony 12MP sensor, f/1.8, 1.4μm, dual pixel PDAF, EIS|
|Audio Jack||3.5mm (waterproof)|
|NFC||Yes (Android Pay™)|
|Wi-Fi||802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5GHz)|
|USB||USB Type C (waterproof), USB-OTG|
|SIM type||Nano SIM, single and dual SIM variants|
|GPS||GPS, Glonass, BeiDou (variant dependant), Galileo|
|Maximum downlink data rate||300Mbps|
|Maximum uplink data rate||100Mbps|
|ROM Flash||64GB ROM|
|Expandable Storage||Expandable via microSD™ card (separate microSD ™ and SIM slots)|
|Audio||FM Radio, Music Player|
|Video Recording||1080p at 30 fps|
|Video Playback||1080p at 30 fps|
|LTE Bands||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38|
|Type||Mediatek Helio P35 Octacore 2.3GHz|
|Platform (OS)||Google Android™ 9 (with upgrade to 10)|
|Ingress protection||IP68: Sand, dust and dirt resistant|
|Waterproof||Down to 1.5 m for 35 minutes|
|Drop tested||Up to 1,5 m (5ft) onto concrete|
|MIL SPEC 810G||Thermal shock: handles low to high temperature differences between -30°C (-22°F) to 65°C (149°F) for up to 24hrs*, Resistant to vibration: Category 4, Resistant to humidity and salt mist|
|Dimensions||158.1 x 76.6 x 9.69mm|
|Fingerprint Sensor, E-compass, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, accelerometer en gyroscope|
|Office Suite, File Commander, App Toolbox|
|Physical power and volume (up/down) keys|
|High-grade aluminium frame|
|Hard-wearing, non-slip rubberized TPU back|
|LED notification (3 colours)|
On the box we have little to say: the box is made in the colors of Caterpillar. On the side of the box we find the most important features, although not every image is clear to us. For example, we don’t know exactly what the image on the top left means and the image next to it is also somewhat unclear. Furthermore, we also don’t know what the image on the bottom left should show, maybe extra attention has been paid to the camera?
In the box itself we find:
- CAT S52
- 18 W charger
- USB-A to USB-C cable
- Quick start guide
- Warranty guide
- quick start guide, warranty guide, an 18 W charger and a USB-A to USB-C cable and of course the phone.
The design is perhaps the most interesting part with these phones, as the design makes this phone different from the rest. The phone is mainly focused on workmen and field engineers.
You can see that the design has been clearly thought through, so let’s start with the front. First of all, it is noticeable that the edges of the phone protrude so the screen is recessed. That means when you put the phone face-down, you’re less likely to scratch your screen. On the other hand, the display does not extend to the edges, so you still have the familiar black bar at the top and bottom of the screen. The reason for this is not known to us, but there are several reasons to think of (cost, fall resistance, comfort while holding, etc.) At the top right of the screen there is a notification LED which can blink in different colors during notifications.
When holding the phone we notice that the back of the phone seems to be made of some kind of rigid rubber, this gives you a lot of grip and doesn’t scratch easily. When you go over it with your nail, you won’t see a scratch. On the bottom half of the phone a certain pattern has been made so you can get just a little more grip. On the top left we find the camera lens, wrapped in another rubber bumper. The fingerprint scanner is also clearly visible and easy to feel because of the difference in height. This allows your finger to glide naturally towards the fingerprint scanner, making it easier to unlock. By the way, the fingerprint scanner is very fast, so you don’t have to worry about that.
At the edges of the phone we find some interesting points to highlight. At the bottom, for example, we have a USB-C connection with a speaker, on the right side two separate volume buttons and an on/off button. All these buttons are made of metal, just like the entire edge of the device. Striking is that the on/off button has a certain zigzag pattern, so you can’t accidentally press the button while adjusting the volume. This can still be a problem when you are running critical applications. On the left hand side we find the SIM/SD cover, which can hold two SIM cards and a microSD card. Around the edges of this cover there are rubber rings to keep the phone waterproof. On the top of the phone we find a 3.5mm jack and a microphone hole to block out ambient noise.
The phone is thus also certified to survive falls from a height of up to 1.5m. This means that the phone can survive almost any fall, but of course you have to watch out for bumps. By using Gorilla Glass 6, the chance of the screen breaking on impact will be reduced. However, these certification procedures do not test for every possible scenario in the life of the phone, so it is still not recommended to throw up the phone. In terms of watertightness, the phone can be left at a depth of 1.5m for up to 35 minutes without breaking. The Cat S52 is IP68 certified so it can be used safely in dusty and dirty environments.
In terms of screen, this phone has a “Super Bright 5.65” IPS display with a resolution of 1440 x 720 pixels. That’s not a large amount of pixels, but the image still looks sharp enough with 290 pixels per inch. By way of comparison, the iPhone X has 463 pixels per inch, which makes it even sharper. The display is recessed in the housing and appears to be laminated, but there is a thin glass screen protector on it. You cannot remove this screen protector yourself, but it becomes clear when you look at the “selfie-camera”.
We have of course put the display back on the rack and can conclude that the screen with its 573 cd/m² is not inferior to other screens. So the screen is clearly readable, even on sunny days. The contrast is on the high side for an IPS display with 1700:1 and we like to see that with smartphones, especially since there is no OLED panel in the phone. The colour temperature is a bit too high which makes the screen look a bit bluish, but this shouldn’t have a name because it is barely visible. The rest of the screen is actually just as well calibrated with an average color error of 1.04 and a 99% percentile of 1.98 ΔE*00. The screen can continue to display 90% of the sRGB spectrum, although the gamut volume is 97%. So we see that the phone can show a bit deeper orange and yellow than the rest of the colors.
Even with wet fingers or gloves, the phone is still easy to drive. It does depend on the thickness of the gloves, so not all gloves will keep the device controllable. However, it is very handy that you can still control the screen with wet fingers. Imagine you are a plumber, then you can still turn on your lamp for example.
The phone has 2 cameras, a front-facing 8MP selfie camera that we leave out and a rear-facing 12MP sensor from Sony. This sensor has the following properties: f/1.8, 1.4μm pixels, dual pixel PDAF, EIS. Unfortunately this camera does not have optical image stabilization.
The included camera app can take portrait photos in which the background is artificially blurred, shoot regular photos and video. Video is shot at a resolution of up to 1920 x 1080 where the limit is the processor. In the app’s settings you can enable face detection, location history, camera sounds, grid lines and touch capture. You can also set what you want to do with the volume control, so you can use it as a shutter for example. For SD card enthusiasts you can choose to save photos directly to the SD card, a feature we don’t often see anymore.
Unlike a “normal” phone, the flashlight on this device will be used more often and for more purposes. Instead of only turning on the flashlight when you are looking for the lock, this flashlight can be used in more circumstances. Not only because the phone is waterproof, but also because the flashlight is a lot brighter than other phones. Compared to the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro this flashlight gives a slightly greener, but twice as bright light. This allows you to look just a little further and see just a little better. We are glad that a better flashlight has been put in than we normally see with “normal” smartphones of 500 euro.
All photos are resized to a width of 1080 pixels.
Lots of light
In high light conditions, the camera performs well. The colors are quite deep and are sometimes accentuated. Whether you like that is of course up to you, but on the picture with the bed you can clearly see that there are two different lights in the fixture. We caught you, Hotel Westcord Delft. We are satisfied with the amount of depth of sharpness this camera can produce, all in all a camera that is sufficient.
If we look at the pictures with less light, this is actually where the camera should shine with its 1.4 μm pixels. I think we can say that the camera is quite bright, but on the other hand, taking a picture in very dark places can take up to 4 seconds and that is really too long. Because it is difficult to keep the phone still for that time there is a certain blur over the picture and that is just a shame. We think this will be solved in a future update, which will give the camera a better balance between shutter speed and iso values. Where the camera does excel is in situations we refer to as “twilight”. In situations, such as in our house at 10 o’clock in the evening, the pictures are shot within 1 second and a lot brighter than pictures we shot with another phone. So the camera performs sufficiently in low light.
The phone has a small speaker at the bottom of the phone. Interesting about this speaker, is that it is waterproof. Once you have immersed the phone, the speaker will sound distorted, which is normal. The solution is then to let the phone with speaker dry for a while and then it will work again as usual. Below you can hear the soundtrack we recorded with our Red NT-USB studio microphone. From this you can conclude that the microphone speaker does not contain a lot of bass and is therefore comparable with many other speakers on the market. However, the sound can be louder than the average phone.
The microphone in this phone is of unprecedented quality, what a great piece of technology! The bass in voices is well recorded which makes this phone very useful for recording interviews, but it can also be used for analyzing sounds. Precisely because this microphone seems to be more sensitive to heavy tones, they are easier to detect.
This phone has a built-in FM tuner, which allows you to receive radio when you plug an earphone into the 3.5mm jack. As soon as it is plugged in you can choose whether you want to run the audio over the headphones or over the speaker. The latter is especially useful if you are in an emergency situation and need to receive your radio or just don’t want to waste any data. In addition, it is possible to scan for frequencies of radio stations, the phone then picks out the strongest signals itself. You can then listen to it, and with a bit of luck the phone will also know the name of the station or the number. For example, if you like the song Never gonna give you up by Rick Astley and it comes along on the radio, you can record it too! Handy!
The telephone is powered by a Mediatek Helio P35, an octacore at 2.3 GHz. This consists of an ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and an IMG PowerVR GE8320 at up to 680 MHz. This chip supports LPDDR4x and is baked with a 12 nm FinFET production process. However, the architecture of this A53 has been on the market for about 7 years and has been succeeded by the A55. Anyway, a newer revision may have been used for the Helio P35, but that is unknown to us. Despite that it all seems to run quite smoothly, apps start up fast enough, there are actually no hiccups in the interfaces and the phone just does what it’s supposed to do. We don’t know how they did it, but we are impressed by that. Furthermore we find 64 GB storage and 4 GB RAM in the phone, the storage is expandable with a microSD card.
Below you can see the benchmarks we have run: Geekbench, PCMark, AnTuTu, 3DMark. These have been run with the latest versions of the software on December 30, 2019.
The Cat S52 runs on Android 9, but an Android 10 update is promised. For now, despite its weaker processor, the phone works very smoothly. We can’t detect any hiccups and the fingerprint scanner is really super fast! The version of Android seems to be more or less in stock, so few useful resources are used. Because of this, the battery life is also a bit longer than it would be if it were not. In addition, the phone comes with a built-in appstore called “Toolbox”. In this appstore all apps are neatly sorted by target group, for example there is a tab for farmers. You can see how this looks in the screenshot below.
The Cat S52 has a 3100 mAh battery. This battery cannot be removed and uses lithium ions to provide the necessary voltage. The battery becomes up to 35 degrees during charging and we don’t think that’s bad. The battery can be charged with up to 18W using the supplied charger. This results in a half-full battery in 38 minutes. The last few percent (from 90 to 100) go relatively slowly, sometimes you wait 5 minutes. We don’t know if this was done on purpose to keep the battery this long, but it is a possible explanation. The phone is fully charged after 2 hours and 10 minutes. With a waterproof phone we actually expected that it could be charged wirelessly. After all, with a wet phone you first have to wait until it is dry before you can plug it in.
The battery itself lasts 7 hours and 49 minutes with the screen on at full brightness, with the screen off 11 days and combined about 34 hours.
If we look at the sustainability of the product, we start with the packaging. The packaging was quite sketchy and therefore weighed in the Cat’s favour. On the other hand, nothing is said about how the materials are extracted, but extensive information is given on the European requirements for limiting the exposure of the public to electromagnetic fields in order to protect health. There is also talk of US limits on exposure to Radio Frequency Energy (SAR). In addition, it is recommended to keep the phone away from genitals, which is useful advice. At the end of the phone’s life, the phone should not be disposed of as normal household waste, this applies to the batteries and the device, and should be returned to a certified collection site for recycling or proper disposal. For more information on compliance with the EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation, please visit www.catphones.com/certification, a link that does not work correctly.
Another advantage of the phone is that it is made of materials which makes it less likely to break down. For example, the edges are raised, the phone is more or less water and dustproof and the phone can survive falling from 1.5 m high. The phone also gets an update to Android 10 for longer compatibility. On the other hand, it doesn’t have a high-end processor, so people may be tempted to switch to a successor more quickly.
Furthermore, little is clear about the sustainable ambitions of the company and where the components in the phones come from.
The Cat S52 is a solid phone in all structural aspects, you can drop it, let it swim in water or in sand. It lies well in the hand and we think it’s not as heavy as it used to be. In terms of size, it is smaller than most recently released high-end phones. The design is extremely robust and that is accentuated by the raised edges and Gorilla glass 6 less likely to break. In addition, the phone has a number of handy features, such as a quick fingerprint scanner on the back, FM radio through the speaker with headphones as a wire, 3.5mm jack, controllable screen with wet fingers and an extra bright flashlight.
The screen itself is an IPS display and performs well. The screen is well calibrated, bright and has a good contrast. Despite our initial thought, the screen is more than big enough for us with a diagonal of 5.65 inches. As for the screen, even though it is not an OLED, we are very satisfied.
The camera performs fine and even in pitch darkness the camera still manages to shoot some nice pictures, but because of the high shutter speed pictures sometimes become a bit blurry than they should be. We trust that this will be solved soon with a software update. Where the camera is very strong is in situations like dusk. In that case, the shutter speed is still relatively short but a lot of light can be captured, think of pictures indoors. Pictures taken during daylight are not bad either.
About the audio we are pleasantly surprised. The microphone is of unprecedented quality, as we have never experienced before. The speakers are similar to “normal” phone speakers, but can be slightly louder: handy for the workplace.
The hardware in the phone is a bit disappointing in our opinion, despite the fact that we don’t see any hiccups and everything actually goes quite smoothly, we can imagine that with heavy load that might be less the case. Now of course we wonder what you want to run on your phone, as you’ll usually have a laptop with you. We don’t think you’ll be editing spreadsheets of more than 10,000 rows on it, but a little extra power would have been handy. The software is actually great, there is an Android 10 update coming up and everything seems to be based on the relatively light stock of Android. There is a built-in appstore included called “Toolbox” in which apps are sorted by target group, for example farmers. The battery life of the phone is good! You can spend the whole day with the phone and that is probably due to the economical screen and processor. The battery charges 50% within 38 minutes and is then fully charged after 2 hours and 10 minutes.
All in all, the Cat S52 is a very interesting phone for its target group. We can certainly recommend the phone for the target group. We can honestly say that if you don’t have these requirements with regard to water tightness and traps for example, another phone might fit you better. Because the phone meets different certifications, we find this device spaceworthy.
- Good design
- Screen is good and clear
- Great microphone
- Extra good flashlight
- Smooth stock Android experience
- Good battery life
- Many features
- No high-end processor
- Telephone has a specific target group
- No wireless charging
- No OLED screen
- Camera has in pitch dark long shutter speed