LAS VEGAS -- Like all the best rugged phones, Cat's new B100 looks as tough as it claims to be. With a thick rubberized casing, metal accents, port flaps, and heavy screws that secure the back panel in place, there's little doubt that the Cat B100 will deflect water and dust.
The IP67-rated cell phone is also certified to withstand a 1.8-meter fall (just about 6 feet,) keep water out for up to 30 minutes while submerged up to 1 meter (3 feet), and operate in temperate extremes that range from -25 C to 55 C (-13 F to 131 F.)
Cat's industrial aesthetic is the most important part of its legacy, especially when you consider that this mobile division springs from a company that designs tractors and forklifts. As such, durability is the name of the game here, not fancy features.
Large, rubberized buttons are geared for gloves and grimy fingers. They are indeed larger than usual but seem a little close together for use with heavy gloves. The phone may look heavy as nails, but the 4.8-ounce device feels lighter than you'd think, which makes it seem a little cheap, rather than premium. Between the bright yellow volume keys, a dedicated flashlight button turns the torch off and on. You have to deliberately press and hold a good few seconds to get it going.
A 1,150mAh battery promises up to 10 hours talk time and 23 days on standby. Cat claims that the noise-canceling microphone and speakerphone are also benefits for outdoor workers and enthusiasts.
Hardware features are much simpler, from the 2.2-inch QVGA display with a 240x320-pixel resolution to the 3-megapixel camera, and only 128MB of onboard storage (there's also a microSD card slot that will accommodate up to 32GB more). An FM radio is a nice touch, and there's assisted GPS as well as basic Bluetooth 2.0.
The unlocked GSM phone (850/900/1800/1900 bands) supports 3G as well, on the 900/2100 bands.
Available in Europe in early January for 150 Euros, there's no US pricing yet for the Cat 100, but it will be available here in the first quarter. I wouldn't hold my breath for a carrier announcement, but you will be able to buy it directly from Cat's Web site.