The Cat S52 is the First Rugged Phone Designed for Mass Appeal

By Tom Pritchard on at

Rugged phones are incredibly useful, since they don't need cases and are capable of handling a lot of torture that your average premium phone couldn't dream about handling. But they're not exactly pretty, and Cat's past line-up is no exception - which is why they've changed that with the S52.

The point of the phone is to offer a phone that still stands up to the same rugged standards as past devices, but actually looks like the kind of phone someone would buy if they didn't work on a building site or some other place that is notoriously dangerous to phones.

The first thing here is that the S52 is thinner than other Cat phones, and even mainstream premium phones inside a heavy-duty case. It's 9.69mm, and while that's no ultra-thin iPhone it's still noticeably thinner than Cat's S61 and S41. It's also lighter than normal at 210 grams. And unlike some rugged devices it doesn't have caps over the ports - this time they're actually waterproof.

Why? Because caps over the USB port and headphone jack look terrible. And yes it still has a headphone jack. Sadly the thin form factor means the battery is smaller, and is only 3,100 mAh - though it's still rated to last a day and a half on a single charge.

The rugged credentials are still there though, with IP68 water resistance, drop testing from 1.5 metres onto steel (30 times), and conforms to Mil Spec 810G (thermal shock, vibration, humidity, and salt mist). It also has a Gorilla Glass 6 display and a screen protector out of the box. That testing was done without the screen protector, but with it Cat also drop-testing from the usual 1.8m with the screen protector on.

Because of the mass market target audience, Cat has done a lot of work in the camera - especially in low light. So this time there's a dual pixel Sony 12MP sensor (f/1.8, 1.4µm) with auto-focus and EIS on the back, plus an 8MP front-facing camera. There's only a single lens, and Cat says it's focussed on quality over quantity.

On top of that there's a 5.65-inch HD+ display with 18:9 aspect ratio, 4GB of RAM, 64GB storage, dual SIM, a microSD card slot, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor (another first), and a Mediatek Helio P35 octa core processor. When asked why they chose Mediatek, Cat said that their stuff has improved a lot over the past few years, and it offers a bit more power efficiency than Qualcomm. The usual physical navigation buttons are gone too, in favour of virtual buttons seen on most Android devices.

It comes with Android 9 out of the box, though Cat promises an upgrade to Android 10 will arrive in early 2020. As is the way with their phones, Cat has also included a curated app store that includes special rugged-use apps.

The phone hits the UK on 12th November, and costs £449