YBLTV Review: The Caterpillar Cat® S41 Smartphone
The question on everyone’s mind prior to a device’s release is “What is the design?” Design is an intertwined dance of smooth operation and appealing aesthetic - one without the other throws the entire system out of balance. The balance between design and functionality has illustrated the flow of technology’s progress throughout human history - how can we streamline? How can we minimize or maximize? How can we market mass aesthetic appeal with reliability?
Within the last thirty years, cell phones (and later smartphones) have become one of the tech world’s primary testing grounds for innovative looks and expanded utility. Cell phones have moved beyond the simple functions and basic novelty of ownership of the 90’s - with our population growing ever dependent on our phones for communication, we crave attractive pieces of tech that can keep up with the demands of an interconnected global era. Now, the expectation is of ownership and the novelty emerges from the industry trends.
However, often times we as consumers are so inundated with flashy advertisements depicting the industry’s current aesthetic trends that we fail to look outside the box for other concepts. When introduced to Caterpillar’s CAT S41 Smartphone, I admit I was somewhat stuck inside the same box as most - images of glass and aluminum danced through my head and I was not sure how the CAT S41 could compete on the same level. With a 5-inch screen and a rugged body design, it brought to mind old brick flip-phones that were popular with my dad’s friends in the mid-2000’s. Looking back as I write this review, I was wrong to think there was no aesthetic appeal to the CAT S41 - I was simply not appreciating the aesthetic match to Caterpillar’s durable design.
According to Caterpillar’s website, the CAT S41 smartphone is certified MIL SPEC 810G and IP 68 water and dust resistant (currently the highest IP rating for waterproof classification) and utilizes a Corning Gorilla Glass 5 screen for increased protection. The Cat S41 is even rated to stand up against concrete from a fall of 1.8 meters (a 5’10” drop), tackling one of the biggest failures of current smartphones.
Over the period of my review, I found myself focusing on four primary features of the CAT S41 that really appealed to my personal taste, listed below:
- Outward Aesthetic: As far as the phone’s operating system, the CAT S41 utilizes Android, maintaining a familiar system to many. However, what I really appreciated about this phone was the external design. Part of the rugged look Caterpillar was showcasing was a thick, drop-proof body housed in a grip-friendly cover (it had the grip of a tire to me, but I loved the security of holding the phone) and three hard, raised buttons on the front. While many no longer see a need for physical buttons, I always appreciate them (mostly because I have large hands and my thumb or hand often trigger actions I did not intend for). Another oddly interesting feature of the outward design was the vibration strength - when I tested the keyboard and touch screen, the vibration was extremely strong. There was something very satisfying about this feature to me personally. This feature seems greatly beneficial to those who work with gloves or protective equipment; however, if you’re used to the gentle vibrations of higher-end smartphones, it may be a turnoff. While the first response might be to cast this design aside to “older folks” who are often depicted as requiring “simple” technology, I feel that this design could really appeal to a large number of people of all ages who find newer smartphones to be frustrating to use, especially in rough conditions.
- Specialized Caterpillar Apps: Another interesting feature of the CAT S41 is the App Toolbox. The S41 offers the Google Play Store (as all Android devices do) for apps; however, Caterpillar also offers the App Toolbox - these were apps that were compiled for specific consumer groups. Once I opened the Toolbox, I found apps for fishing, construction, farming, GPS tracking, sports - you name it. These weren’t run-of-the-mill apps either - most were highly rated and seemed to offer specific tools for consumers in those areas. Having been raised in a fishing and cycling family, I appreciate these apps and how Caterpillar is looking to provide easy access to relevant tools while maintaining frustration-free use.
- Talk-Time/Stand-By-Time: The CAT S41 utilizes a 5,000mAh battery that boasts up to 38 hours of talk-time and 44 days of stand-by-time. The talk-time and stand-by-times of other flagship phones are some of my least favorite features - having been a student and living in the desert, the ability to contact loved ones is incredibly important to me. During several emergency situations in my early college life, I was often caught with a dead battery and begging for a charger. Now, I’ve been converted into something of a battery/charging addict - I always carry backup banks and cords with me wherever I go, even other styles of charging cords for friends. However, during the testing of the CAT S41, I found myself loving the battery capacity more and more; while it does seem marketed heavily towards professionals on construction sites or sportsmen out in the middle of nowhere, I really appreciate the concept of the CAT S41 as device for the prepared - reducing the number of power sources I’m forced to carry at a given time is always a plus. As a side note, I also appreciate the stand-by-time for the fact that if I were to lose this phone, I would be almost certain that I would find it before the battery died.
- Battery-Sharing: This is, by far, my favorite feature of the CAT S41. As previously mentioned, I have been forced to become a power hoarder after years of limited battery power on my phones. Power strips and banks, 10ft cords and AC adapters - I never leave home without a bagful of these products. However, the CAT S41 utilizes battery-sharing as one of its highlighted features; included with the device is a mirco-USB to USB battery-sharing cord. Power is shared between phones via the sharing cord and the secondary device cord. The CAT S41 uses a battery-share app that allows you to control how much of your own battery is drained and how fast the charging process is (standard keeps your phone on while fast powers your phone off). The appeal of this feature reaches the base Caterpillar consumer market while extending out to those who want to minimize their battery consumption. I absolutely love the battery-sharing feature of the CAT S41 and find it to be a practical addition to the overall design.
“The Caterpillar CAT S41 Smartphone provides a rugged design and tough-as-nails battery that one can appreciate in everyday situations and depend on in moments of crisis,” - Katie Hernandez, YBLTV Writer/Reviewer
- Rugged design - waterproof up to 2 meters and shockproof
- Very physical features - appeals to those who dislike just touchscreen devices
- Battery life - this is the phone to have in an emergency situation
- Battery-sharing - really maximizes the new battery size and provides a very useful feature
- Coordinated apps - really enjoyed the targeted apps from the Caterpillar Toolbox
- Price: $450 (USD) - a reasonable price for the capabilities this smartphone contains, and with a durability that will protect your initial investment
- Not as sleek as high-end phones
- Screen is smaller than most (5 inches)
- No wireless charging or fingerprint identification
The Caterpillar CAT S41 may not appeal to those loyal to a specific aesthetic design preference, but this is the phone I would want while I was hiking, camping, or in an emergency situation. While it may seem trendy to have phones with glass bodies and sleek metal components, the CAT S41 provides an extremely durable body with reliable power, no matter where you are.
Disclosure of Material Connection: YBLTV Writer / Reviewer, Katie Hernandez was provided on loan the Caterpillar CAT S41 from Caterpillar in consideration for a Product Review.
Caterpillar Cat® S41 Smartphone. YBLTV Review by Katie Hernandez. Image Source: Caterpillar.