Cat Doubles Down on Durability with 2 New Phones

BERLIN — Though it's been out for more than a year, the Cat S60 is a mainstay on our list of top durable phones, thanks to its ability to survive water and drops while lasting a long time on a single charge. And now it's about to get some company.

The new Cat S41 (Credit: Philip Michaels)

(Image credit: The new Cat S41 (Credit: Philip Michaels))

Bullitt Group, which makes the Cat phones under a license with Caterpillar, unveiled two refreshed models joining the Cat lineup. The Cat S31 and Cat S41 lack some of the higher-end features found on the S60 — so much for that thermal imaging camera — but they offer the same durability at lower price tags.

Cat phones aren't exactly designed with a general audience in mind. Instead, Bullitt and Caterpillar target construction workers, contractors and anyone else who spends a lot of time at a worksite that's not particularly forgiving to smartphones.

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While you and I might fuss over how much power a phone's processor packs or what OS version it's running Cat phone users have different priorities, a company rep explained to me while I handled the new phones at this week's IFA trade show. Battery life is top-requested feature since your typical Cat phone owner may not be working where an electrical outlet is nearby. Cat's audience also wants a rugged phone with a screen that can be easily seen in direct sunlight.

The Cat S31 and Cat S41 certainly deliver on durability. Both phones can survive 1.8-meter falls onto concrete, and both boast a MIL SPEC 810G rating for durability. The Cat S41 can stay submerged in up to 2 meters of water for an hour — just wipe it down afterward — while the S31 can withstand a 1.8 meter bath for up to 35 minutes. If you're wearing gloves or have wet fingers, you can still use the phones' touch controls.

The 5-inch S41 boasts the bigger battery, a 5,000 mAh power pack. You could conceivably go days without charging your phone. If you happen to be alongside people who can't claim the same, an included cable lets other phones charge off of yours, and you can even set the percentage at which you want charging cut off.

The Cat S41's 13-megapixel rear camera and 8-MP front shooter both work underwater. Just lock the screen, and you can use the volume rocker to snap photos and the programmable key to toggle between still photos and video.

As for the 4.7-inch Cat S31, an air-gap that existed underneath the screen of the previous S30 model has been removed, for an improved display. The 4,000 mAh battery should offer plenty of up time, too.

The S31 has a 720p resolution to the 1080p screen on the S41. Both phones are running Android Nougat.

Don't expect the latest and greatest processors from these new Cat phones. A MediaTek P20 powers the Cat S41, while the S30 runs on a Snapdragon 210. Those aren't going to set any speed records, but that's not really on the agenda for Cat devices.

The phones are set to ship in Europe first, with U.S. availability coming later this year. U.S. pricing hasn't been set, but you could probably take the €329 S31 and €449 S41, swap out that Euro symbol for a dollar sign and come pretty close to the price range for the new Cat phones.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.