Caterpillar, the construction company that’s probably best known for its bright yellow bulldozers, dump trucks, and excavators, has been dabbling in the smartphone industry for the past few years — most recently with the Cat S60, an ultra-rugged phone with a thermal camera built in.
At MWC this year, Caterpillar is announcing the successor to the S60, the logically named S61, which updates the specs and brings improvements to the thermal camera. The S61 can show greater image contrast with a larger temperature range that now goes from -20 to 400 degrees Celsius. The biggest change might be in resolution: unlike the S60, which only could pull in 640 x 480 VGA images from the regular rear camera to enhance the thermal images, the S61 can now overlay HD images with the thermal feed.
Also new is the ability to live stream thermal imaging. Caterpillar intends the feature to be for professionals using the S61 to check in on a problem with a co-worker back at the office, not for, say, Facebook Live streams.
This may not seem like much for the average user, but if you’re someone who needs to use a thermal camera for work — like a repairman trying to analyze a fuse box or a contractor checking for leaking pipes — then these improvements are probably pretty useful.
The S61 has a couple new tricks up its sleeve, too, in addition to the improved thermal camera. There’s now an indoor air quality sensor built by Sensirion, which can monitor the air around you and warn you if things are unsafe, and a laser-assisted distance measurement system that can measure distance and area automatically.
Like the Cat S60, the Cat S61 is actually built by Bullitt Group, not Caterpillar, but that doesn’t mean that you’re getting a bad phone underneath all the more technical features.
The S61 offers a 5.2-inch 1080p display, with a touchscreen that’s designed to still work with gloves or wet fingers. Unsurprisingly for an ultra-rugged phone like this, the S61 is rated at IP68 for dust and water resistance. (It can survive underwater up to three meters — roughly 9.8 feet — for up to an hour.) It also features an aluminum-reinforced frame that meets the MIL Spec 810G standard.
On the spec side of things, the S61 ships with Android Oreo (Caterpillar promises an upgrade to Android P, too), 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage (expandable via microSD), and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor. There’s a 16-megapixel camera on the back of the phone, which can shoot 4K video, and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, too. A 4,500mAh battery rounds out the package.
All in all, it’s hardware for a decent midrange Android device in 2018, with the added technical features like the thermal camera and rugged design.
Unfortunately, while the S61 may be specced like a midrange device, it’s certainly not priced like one: at €899 (roughly $1,105 dollars), the S61 is both vastly more expensive than the $599 S60 and comparable to top-tier flagships like the iPhone X and Pixel 2 XL when it comes to price.
The S61 is expected to ship sometime in Q2 2018.