Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
The Cat S60 is thick and hefty with an unapologetically industrial design. In addition to being a tough SOB that can endure 6-foot drops and the most waterproof phone made to date, it also has one thing no other phone possesses: a built-in thermal imaging camera.
If you have to ask why anyone would need a durable, waterproof phone with a thermal imaging camera, the Cat S60 probably isn't for you. Those of you whose ears perk up at the mention of the phone's features should definitely stick around, however.
The phone is available for pre-order in the UK for £529 unlocked. US and Australian pre-orders have yet to be announced, but the UK price converts to around AU$920. In the US it will sell for $599 unlocked and work with GSM networks like T-Mobile and AT&T.
A thermal imaging camera gives you superpowers. It allows you to visualize the temperature of objects, like an animal in the dark or frozen pipes. The built-in Flir thermal imaging camera is located on the back of the phone, above the 13-megapixel rear camera and next to the microSD card and SIM slots. It's the same one found on the Flir One thermal camera accessory, which is available for iOS and Android devices for $250 or £200 (AU$330, converted) -- a bargain considering most thermal imaging cameras cost thousands of dollars.
The Flir camera app takes a whopping 10-15 seconds to launch on the S60. The app offers nine different filters (they range in color palette and help make certain temperatures more visible than others) and you can take photos or videos. There's also the Flir Tools app (free in the Android app store) that allows you to see a variety of detailed data attached to the thermal images (like the temperature of a specific spot or the range of temperatures in the photo) after you take them.
I enjoyed using the thermal camera to take colorful, trippy photos and psychedelic videos, however I, personally, found little practical use for it. It came in handy when a friend needed to know the accurate temperature of her oven while baking a cheesecake (the temperature markings on the stove's knob had faded) and when I wanted to know if my coffee was cool enough to drink, but that's it. If you're a firefighter, independent contractor or work in construction, you're more likely to come across situations where this type of technology comes in handy.
Even with its smallish 4.7-inch screen, the Cat S60 still feels cumbersome. It's almost twice as thick as the iPhone 6S and tired out my wrist when I held it too long.
It's still comfortable to use in short spurts. The smooth, rounded edges afforded it a satisfyingly tactile feel and its buttons are conveniently big and easy to press (like a kids toy). The weaved etching on the back panel also makes it easy to grip and use if your hands are wet or you're wearing gloves.
It's IP68 certified and can withstand a 6-foot (1.8m) fall onto concrete and can be submerged up to 16-feet (5m) underwater for up to 60 minutes -- making it the most waterproof phone on the market.
I didn't take the Cat S60 diving, but I used every opportunity to get it wet. (I splashed it with water numerous times and dunked it 3-feet underwater for the duration of three Friends episodes.) After a quick towel off, it worked fine every time. Sometimes, if the screen was still a bit wet, my swipes and taps wouldn't be recognized, even though the Gorilla Glass 4 touchscreen is supposed to be "wet finger-compatible." Completely drying the screen fixed the problem.
This phone is definitely meant for more than just Snapchat and Twitter.
The SOS button is hidden behind a waterproof flap and when pressed for a few seconds, it activates an app that can send a location alert to emergency contacts.
There's also a programmable yellow button underneath the power button that can perform custom functions, like opening an app or show notifications.
The pre-loaded curated app store feature specific categories -- like sports and outdoors, construction and farming -- and is pre-loaded onto the homescreen.
In comparison to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Motorola Droid Turbo 2, the Cat S60's specs are underwhelming. However, I was never disappointed; games and apps launched within seconds, navigation was swift, web pages loaded quickly and the screen was sharp and bright. The front and rear cameras are a bit disappointing (lots of visible noise and graininess in dark environments), but the rare presence of the FLIR camera makes it somewhat forgivable.
Using the provided charger, it took about two hours to fully charge if battery was completely drained. We're currently testing it in the CNET Lab and will update the review with the final results soon. Anecdotally, the phone's battery comfortably lasted an entire day. With heavy use (lots of downloading apps and playing games) and the brightness jacked all the way up, it lasted me about five hours.
Most thermal imaging cameras cost thousands. If, as an alternative, you were to buy a decent, cheap, waterproof Android phone and added on the Flir One accessory, you'd pay only $50 less than the S60.
Having all those features in one device is worth the extra money in my opinion -- if those extra features appeal to you.
The Cat S60's thoughtfully executed design puts functionality and durability at the forefront. The fact that it's made to work under distressing conditions -- ones that would literally break most phones -- makes it perfect for anyone who works in a precarious environment or has a very active, outdoorsy lifestyle. That said, it's not worth it for someone, like me -- who does none of those things -- to lug around and use everyday.
|CAT S60||Samsung Galaxy S7 Active||Motorola Droid Turbo|
|Display size, resolution||4.7-inch; 1,280x720 pixels||5.1-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.4-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels|
|Dimensions (Inches)||5.8x2.9x.5 inches||5.8x3x.38 inches||5.9x3.1x.36 inches|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||147.9x73.4x12.7 mm||148.8x75x9.9 mm||150x78x9.2 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||7.9 oz;225g||6.5 oz; 185g||6.0 oz; 169g|
|Mobile software||Android 6.0 Marshmallow||Android 6.0 Marshmallow||Android 5.1.1 Lollipop|
|Camera||Main: 13-megapixel; Thermal: FLIR||12-megapixel||21-megapixel|
|Processor||1.5GHz + 1.2GHz octocore Qualcomm MSM8952||2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapgradon 820||2.0GHz eight-core Snapdragon 810|
|Storage||32GB||32GB||32GB or 64GB|
|Battery||3,800mAh (nonremovable)||4,000mAh (nonremovable)||3,760mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||No||Home button||No|
|Special features||Waterproof up to 5m for 60 minutes, dust-resistant, shatter-resistant for drops up to 6-feet, military grade body, SOS and customizable action key||Water and dust-resistant, shatter-resistant for drops up to 5-feet, military grade body, customizable action key||Shatterproof screen, two types of wireless charging, fast wired charging|