My first 48 hours with the CAT S61


There are few flagship phones in 2018 that really, really stand out. Sure, the Huawei P20 Pro and its three cameras make an impression, and so does the iPhone X with its notch. But there’s not much development going on in other smartphone tech among the elite.

On Wednesday, manufacturer Bullitt Group held an event in Johannesburg to showcase its latest CAT-branded smartphone.

Dubbed the S61, the phone’s about as different and unique as anything you’ll see this year. But there’s a key question that needs to be asked: does it immediately make it better than anything else on the market?

No, but if you’re a handyman, carpenter, outdoor professional or interior decorator, you may be interested.

With that said, here are my initial impressions after using the CAT S61 for a few days.

The oh yeahs

  • The CAT S61 is probably built more sturdily than most houses. It’s really heavy and about 50% thicker an an iPhone, but it feels tremendously solid
  • It’s not even ugly. While the CAT S31 is an eyesore, the S61 boasts some sleek yet utilitarian metallic lines and a host of buttons with a practical rubberised back
  • The screen is extremely responsive and precise
  • Physical buttons have a nice clunk to them, and are as responsible as the screen itself
  • It’s running the June 2018 patch of Android 8.1, so stellar support shown thus far. The company’s also promising updates to Android every 90 days, and support for two years
  • There’s virtually no bloatware bar a few essential apps to command the FLIR infrared camera, measuring laser and air quality monitor
  • Its upgraded HD FLIR camera is stupidly fun to use, but really lacks practical daily uses for the average smartphone user
  • I found its laser measurement system and app a bit tricky to use initially, and setup requires a tape measure
  • Battery life is remarkable but unsurprising: its has a massive 4500mAh reservoir

The umm okays

  • Bullitt Group went with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chipset. It’s a great piece of silicon — both frugal and sprightly when needed — but it’s not cricket in an £800 smartphone
  • My initial experience with the 16MP rear camera has been underwhelming, but it’s too early to say if its as bad as other CAT devices
  • Thanks to its weight, it’s a chore to handle, especially when watching video horizontally or typing a message with one hand

The hell nos

  • There’s no pricing information available as yet (because cellular networks suck) but if the international price is anything to go by, alongside our disgusting exchange rate to the Pound Sterling, it could cost quite a bit
  • The CAT S61 is only offered in single SIM configuration in South Africa
  • There’s no fingerprint or face unlock, so you’ll have to punch in a password or PIN to unlock the device
  • I found myself wanting to hang a lanyard from the phone for better grip and security, but there’s no lanyard loop

So initial thoughts: the positives outweigh the negatives, but the CAT S61 will undergo a few more days in my pocket before a lengthier review is published.

Feature image: CAT Phones/Bullitt Group

Andy Walker, former editor


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