What is it?
The CAT S41 is a rugged mid-range smartphone made by UK-based Bullit Group. It’s water, dust, shock, and weather resistant, rated IP68 (6.5ft/2m underwater for 60 mins) and Mil-Spec 810G (drops onto concrete from up to 6ft/1.8m) — that’s seriously tough. This handset is primarily made of plastic and rubber, so it’s pretty thick (12.9mm) and somewhat heavy (218g — about the same as an iPhone 8 Plus). For additional protection, the 5-inch 1080p IPS display is covered with a sheet of Gorilla Glass 5, and the ports (micro-USB, headphone jack, nano SIM, and microSD) are sealed from the elements with flaps. The Android navigation buttons are physical keys, and there’s a programmable button on the left edge.
Spec-wise, the S41 features Mediatek’s octa-core Helio P20 chip mated with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of built-in storage. It runs Android 7.0 (Nougat) with very few customizations, which is nice. Performance is decent, but battery life is impressive, thanks to a massive (non-removable) 5000mAh cell. This phone is able to charge other devices via a standard micro-USB OTG dongle (included) and there’s even a bundled app that lets you set a charging limit — clever. Radios include LTE (some models support dual SIMs), WiFi b/g/n (dual band), Bluetooth 4.1, A-GPS/Glonass, and NFC. Unfortunately, there’s no fingerprint reader, which is this handset’s biggest downfall.
The S41’s main shooter uses a 13MP sensor and f/2.2 lens with phase-detection AF and a single LED flash, while the selfie camera is 8MP. As expected, the resulting photos and videos are alright, but nothing to write home about. There’s no auto-HDR mode and video recording tops out at 1080p. On the audio front, the speaker is surprisingly loud and clear, and sound quality over headphones is better than average.
- Extremely rugged: water, dust, shock, and weather resistant
- Massive 5000mAh battery
- Speaker is loud and clear
- NFC for Google Pay
- No fingerprint reader
- Screen is hard to read in direct sunlight and lacks anti-fingerprint coating
- Cameras are merely OK
- $450 is a lot considering the specs
Is it a buy?
The S41 is a competent mid-range smartphone, hampered primarily by its lack of fingerprint reader. But other than being seriously rugged, it’s a completely forgettable handset, and $450 is expensive for such generic specs, even with the tough-as-nails exterior.
Are you a contractor who measures phone life-expectancy in weeks? If you need a bulletproof handset (maybe literally) with extreme battery life, I think the S41 is definitely worth considering. You might just want to wait for a sale.
Otherwise, I think you’d be better off buying a better mid-range phone like the excellent $200 Honor 7X (which is rated IP67) and put it in a rugged drop-resistant case.