Cat phones of the past have never been about having the best specifications, more about having the toughest phone build on the planet.

That is also sort-of true with the Cat S60: a super-tough phone which recently became available for pre-order in the UK. It's still not the most spec-tastic handset around, but there are far fewer compromises than there have been in past models.

As a quick overview: the S60 is built around a a 4.7-inch, 720p-resolution screen, powered by a mid-range Snapdragon 617 processor. It isn't built for high-end, spec-obsessed consumers, more for construction sites and surveyor workers. This market is niche, of course, but for the right user the Cat S60 might well be the perfect phone. Here's why, and how it could improve.

The feature in the S60 to really shout about is its Flir thermal imaging camera. This isn't just for a bit of fun so you can pretend to see like the Predator - it's squarely aimed at professionals.

Plumbers will be able to find a leak under the ground using the heat vision; electricians can find a faulty fuse at a glance; a surveyor can check heat loss on a potential new house purchase. It'll even work up to 100 feet away.

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The S60's camera offers a great function where you can tap an area and be told the temperature. You can add more than one point to the screen, too, just by tapping on it, in case you want to read the temperature in two or three specific locations. You can also select a box and resize to fit where you want and it will read out the point of highest and lowest temperatures. Ideal if looking for, say, a leak.

The Flir thermal camera works for photos, panoramas and videos; any content captured includes the temperature readings. So, unlike in the past when you had to measure temperature then jot it down with a pen and paper to remember it, you can simply snap a picture or shoot a video and save it for later. 

Anything with the Cat name on it is going to be tough. Despite looking a little more like a day-to-day phone than previous models, the S60 still sticks to its hardy Cat heritage.

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Its extra thick diecast frame gives it MIL Spec 810G durability, meaning you can drop the handset from up to 1.8-metres and it'll bounce back just fine. No shattered screens here. We dropped it a number of times from shoulder height onto concrete and, while it sustained some deep scratching around the metal frame, it came through otherwise unscathed. The Gorilla Glass cover held up well with very fews markings, and the phone worked perfectly afterwards. 

Should that drop be into water there's still no need to worry as the Cat S60 is waterproof down to 5-metres - officially for an hour of tme. It's good for 2-metres in normal mode but has physical switches on the speaker and mic to shut them off when going down deeper.

As you'd expect, this waterproofing means the headphone and USB ports are both sealed shut, covered by a couple of detachable flaps. Likewise, the dual SIM trays and the microSD card reader are all sealed shut inside a door on the back of the S60. All this means it's a dustproof handset too.

The camera in the Cat S60 is built to be tough but functional. If you've got a handset that can survive diving down to depths of 5-metres then you're going to want to take advantage of it, right? The 13-megapixel rear camera is fully functional underwater – it even has a dual-flash.

If you want selfies then the 5-megepixel front-facing camera should capture your best underwater face just fine.

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Looking back at the pictures (or any other content, for that matter) is easy thanks to the Cat S60's bright 4.7-inch HD display, which kicks out 540-nits of brightness - which is a lot. Of course this panelis tough, too, with Gorilla Glass 4 coating it for protection. Plus it'll remain touch-sensitive even to gloved and wet fingers - again, indeal for industry workers.

Most of the time during daily use the phone acts fluid and quick - the Snapdragon 617 octa-core processor is paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage to ensure this - but attempt gaming and the frame-rate is slow and a little stuttery. Plus, generally speaking the S60 is often too slow to respond to touchscreen input. 

As for the battery, the 3,800mAh cell is capable of getting through 2-days of use thanks to the underpowered processor and small, low(ish) resolution display. 

On the software side, the CAT S60 is a mostly stock Android Marshmallow experience.

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There are some differences, however, since Cat really wants you to play with its unique features. That means there's an app toolbox for instant access to downloadable farming, construction, outdoor and other specialist apps. 

There's a preinstalled Hike app with information on it like current temperature, upcoming changes in temperature, plus latitude and longitude, altitude and a barometer readings. There's also a compass, trip distance information, a torch, plus the button onscreen that flashes the torch in the SOS morse code pattern.

 

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There's the app for launching the Flir thermal imaging camera app, and a cool app called Speaker Dry which helps speakers dry out if the phone's been in water. 

It's a pretty unique set of applications, one which only strengthens the phone's appeal to its niche audience. 

Verdict

It's clear from the outset that the Cat S60 is a phone built for a niche market, so comparing it to phones like the iPhone 6S or Galaxy S7 would be foolish. The features that really matter on the S60 are the ones that shine through - its specialist applications.

The Flir camera adds thermal imaging capabilities to a smartphone for the first time ever, which is a genuinely useful tool to have on your phone if you're in an industry that needs one. Not having to carry around a separate gadget means greater convenience, while the tough waterproof build means it can be used on a building site, in any weather, without ever having to worry that it'll be broken or water damaged. 

Simply put, for 99 per cent of the population the Cat S60 phone isn't close to good enough. But for the one per cent that it's aimed at, this may well be the ideal smartphone.