CAT, which is normally best known for the heavy earthmoving machinery work on various construction sites fo for housing and some high rise developments alongside various mines around the country, have for the last few years been slowly dabbing into the rugged smartphone devices market, looking to aim it’s tough, rugged devices at the employees and tradies in the more physical industries but we really haven’t seen them being taken up by the major telco’s.

However, this is no longer the case, with the company partnering with Telstra to offer its latest device to the Australian market. Business customers can now get the CAT S42 a rugged, waterproof, dust and shockproof device for tradies who’s everyday device might not suffer the work

So can the CAT S42 really look to be the possible perfect tradie phone who need a rugged water, shock and dustproof device, let’s have a look shall we.

What’s in the box?

Pretty much the usual as expected – the Phone itself, charger cord and power brick. Interestingly there is no included earbuds/earphones, however, given normally the included earbuds generally tend to be rubbish, I guess this could be a good thing.

In terms of design, the CAT S42 is much thicker, bigger than my Galaxy Note 10+, original Google Pixel XL heck even my partner Galaxy S10. The CAT S42 dimensions are approximately 161.4 x 77.3 x 12.7mm @ 220 grams which of course is much thicker to hold in the hand. This is mainly down to the rugged build of the device.

The CAT S42 comes with a 5.5-inch display with bezels surrounding the display. It would also seem that the display is not fully set into the front screen compared to my Galaxy Note 10+, having seemed set down slightly below the front gorilla glass.

Included on the front display is the 5MP selfie front-facing camera located just off to the left of the front top speaker grill. Near the right-hand corner are the front sensors.

The main housing around the sides and back of the device is made of a very smooth, yet hard rubberised material, with the back material of the device having slightly sounded grooves built into the device to assist maintaining grip which provides a sort of weird yet comfortable hold in the hand.

Talking of the rear of the device, this houses the single 13MP rear camera, with a single LED light just below the camera which is all framed in an oval glass surround set into the body of the device.

The left-hand side contains the SIM and MicroSD card slot which is protected via a rubberised tab enclosure. Interestingly, just below the combined SIM and SD card is a push to talk button. Given this technology is not widely used here,

I feel that this button will be rarely used if at all unless your workplace still utilises this technology. Also, I did find this button never worked during the review so unable to make really any further comment on this feature as I had no one to push to talk with.

The right-hand side of the CAT S42 holds the volume rocker (up/Down) with the standby/power on/off button located just below the volume rocker. To help ensure there is no confusion, the volume buttons are smooth to touch, with the power button having grooves on it. This is something that I very much liked and wish would be available on other devices.

The top of the S42 houses the 3.5mm audio jack which again is also enclosed via a rubberised material to keep it sealed off from any dust or water damage.

The rear bottom of the device houses the MicroSD charger port, which I do believe is an oversight given the new standard going forward is for USB-C charger ports/cords, with the rear bottom speaker being located just to the right of the charger port.

The Internals

The CAT S42 comes with a quad-core 1.8GHz Mediatek MT6761D Helio A20 chipset along with 3GB of RAM inbuilt all being powered by a 4200 mAh battery which does provide a somewhat ok experience.

Sadly with just 3GB of RAM, and the 32GB onboard storage means that memory can be used up quite quickly, especially when taking photos as I know tradies tend to do for jobs on the go, inspection photos or videos and more. This does mean that it can get a little slow when the memory does get towards the full end of things. Granted you can expand the memory via microSD card which can give you an extra 128GB which is fine but again this can get quite full if you don’t have cloud storage available.

When considering gaming, sadly the CAT S42 just can’t really compete on this front. When playing PUGB Mobile or Asphalt 9, the game would be jumpy and static. In some parts extremely slow. So if you’re going to be playing games like this, might be best looking elsewhere.

There is also NFC included which is a pleasant surprise as I actually expected the device to be lacking this feature. Albeit was a little fiddly to use, trying to find the right spot for the NFC to activate on EFTPOS machines, but was useful at the supermarket which I tend to use a lot to pay for groceries and utilise rewards cards.

Furthermore, the CAT S42 comes with Bluetooth version 5.0 which worked really well when pairing to my Bluetooth earphones or speaker. Wi-Fi is also available at the standard 802.11 b/g/n along with hotspot, though I did notice that wifi was a bit slower on occasions and not sure if that could be due to the rugged case but there were times it was a little bit slower than my usual device.

Lights, Camera, Action!

The CAT S42 comes with a single 13MP rear camera with a single LED flash placed directly underneath the rear camera. Settings or features of the camera software includes photo, video, HDR, Flash, Manual or Pro modes, Night and Time Lapse. Interestingly Panorama hasn’t been included but given the market, this is aimed for not overly needed.

There are various filter options which are great but personally, I don’t generally use them but I can see how they might be useful when required.

Shots taken with the single 13MP camera are ok and not something that did “wow” but was still good. Colours were clear and a little vibrant but were also a bit soft. Also, the lack of a live focus means that you can’t cut out or blur the background out when you may need it.

The front-facing camera is a single 5MP camera with flash provided by the front display which is fine but no smoking gun.

The front display camera is fine for those typical selfies but nothing to be honestly wowed over. Slow light selfies do suffer from noise whereas selfies are taken with a lot of light or high brightness also do suffer from some overexposure.

Also as noted with the primary rear camera, the front-facing camera doesn’t offer live focus mode which does again mean that you can’t cut out or blur the background out when you may need it.

Software Performance

The CAT S42 comes with Android 10 right out of the box and the company has stated that there will be an update to Android 11 coming in 2021, however, no time frame has been given or provided.

That said, the device does seem to come from a vanilla stock android beginning, meaning there is less clutter and no skin provided over the top of the main OS. This provides a clean and consistent UI experience.

There are several preloaded CAT and service enabled apps that include:

  • OnGuard Solo – a kind of check-in security app that allows users and family members, friends and co-workers who have the app keep in contact, advise work locations or other locations in general, set timers when working in hazardous locations and even alert one another in distress situations.
  • Toolbox – which very much is another version of the Google Play Store that directs you to download apps from the Play Store or online.
  • CAT Phones – which directs you to the CAT phones website to check out either details on your phone or other phone devices available through the company.
  • Zello – A push to talk messaging system that enables your device to become a walkie talkie. Again something that I believe would not be useful here

The inclusion of a ‘toolbox app’ which acts as another app store, effectively replicating the Google Play Store. In our review, we found it superfluous, OEMs should honestly not duplicating the Play Store as this just complicates the user experience in my book and these apps are unable to be removed from the device entirely.

Should you consider buying one?

Given the lack of any fingerprint sensor or even facial unlock does seem a small oversight and honestly does make using the device a little cumbersome, having to enter in a passcode each time.

Furthermore, I feel the inclusion of MicroUSB charging given the market is now moving to the new standard of USB-C and the lack of a fast charger does make this device a bit of a hard sell.

Given the market the CAT S42 is aimed at, it’s not for the general population, however, if you require dust, water and a shockproof smartphone the CAT S42 does offer some decent specs for the price when thrown in the ruggedised aspect of the design.

Personally though, if you’re in the market for more than just a ruggedised device, then you might want to look elsewhere, with other devices from the Samsung Galaxy A series that includes The A21s, A31, or the Moto G9 Plus in the similar price range

That being said, if you’re in the market for a ruggedised device, then the CAT S42 will be available from Telstra through their small to large business users with plan starting at $18 a month over a 24 month period, $36 for 12-month payment plans + monthly plan costs on top of this, alongside retail partner, Harvey Norman, for $439 outright.

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Peter V

How do we get Telstra to sell / package the upgraded Cat S62 Pro? The Cat S62 Pro is now available through Harvey Norman. Cat web site: https://www.catphones.com/en-au/cat-s62-pro-smartphone/ Harvey Norman Cat S62 Pro: http://www.harveynorman.com.au/cat-s62-pro-rugged-smartphone.html I have no interest in the Cat S42, however I will be getting the Cat S62 Pro. Everything is updated above and beyond the S42. They are definitely a niche phone and they are not aimed at mainstream users. I have travelled through the Galaxies from S5 through to Note 8 and have always required a tough case, usually an Otterbox Defender or equivalent. With the… Read more »

AdamM

I find it hard to believe that anyone is selling a device with 32GB of storage these days and expecting to be taken seriously. You’ll lose half of that to the OS before you start loading apps or taking photographs. I don’t even look at a device with under 128GB anymore.