CAT's Smartphone Range is Getting a Thermal-Sensing Upgrade With the New S61

By Tom Pritchard on at

Back in 2016 CAT launched the S60 smartphone, with a FLIR thermal imaging camera built in - a feature that basically gave the phone superpowers. It's been nearly two years, though, which is an eternity in smartphone time, so the S60 is getting a successor in the form of the S61. With it comes some much-needed upgrades to the thermal imaging camera, along with other tools many of you might be interested in.

The FLIR camera inside the S61 has had a bunch of upgrades to make using it easier to use and more effective. That includes upgrading the image from VGA resolution all the way up to HD (1440 x 1080) for a better quality image, and upping the maximum temperature from 120 degrees Celsius all the way up to 400 degrees. The minimum temperature it can display remains at -20 Celsius.

The main changes involve upgrades to the user interface, however, which doesn't assume that users are actually familiar with the operation of thermal imaging. That means there are tutorials, videos, tips and tricks guides, and even a community forum so people have the support to figure out how everything works. The FLIR camera is also capable of live streaming, which should be particularly useful as an industrial tool or if you want to show the world just how hot it is on the Bakerloo line.

New additions include an air quality sensor which takes readings of the local atmosphere every 30 seconds to calculate the number of pollutants around you, informing users if they're in an unhealthy or poor-quality environment. That same sensor can also take temperature and humidity readings to give a clearer picture of the air you're breathing. The second addition is laser-assisted assistance measurements, which can use the phone's camera to measure point-to-point distances up to 10 metres or calculate a specific area.

Those features might seem a little battery hungry, but CAT has promised that they don't sap the battery when they're not in use. That means the battery is perfectly capable of lasting more than a single day - sometimes more.

Like previous phones in the CAT range, the S61 sticks to ensuring the phone is as rugged as possible - but without feeling too much like the brick-ish phones of old. It's been drop-tested from a height of 1.8 metres, offers IP68 dust and waterproofing (can survive up to an hour under three metres of water), has a touchscreen made from super-strong Gorilla Glass 5 that can be used when wet or with gloves, an all-metal body with a reinforced aluminium frame, and thermal-shock protection that can handle temperatures between -30 and 65 degrees Celsius. All of that is intended to last the full life of the phone, with CAT telling me that even after the two year warranty has expired the S61 will have the same protections as when it left the factory.

The other specs include a 5.2-inch Full HD display, a 4,500 mAh battery, a 2.2GHz Snapdragon 630 octa-core processor, a 16MP rear camera, an 8MP front camera, 4K video recording, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, microSD expansion, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, Quick Charge 4.0 compatibility, a spare programmable button, and a high-powered torch that promises to be 40 per cent brighter than other phones. The S61 itself runs on a vanilla version of Android Oreo (with a P upgrade coming in the future), with a minimal amount of bloatware. Like its past phones, CAT chose to include a curated app store with apps that were suited to the phone's rugged design - rather than  forcing software on people that don't want it.

The S61 is less focused on attracting consumers who are tired of overpriced, overly fragile phones, instead focussing on the S61 as a business tool for tradesmen and other professionals working in environments that might not be suitable for a normal smartphone - even one inside a case. CAT expects that the main reason for buying it will be the FLIR camera, so if you're not interested in that then you'd be better off buying the S41.

The CAT S61 will be available in Q2 2018 for the price of £799. It will also be on show at MWC if anyone at the show wants to check it out for themselves.

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