Time for me to get stuck into the review of the CAT S75 phone from Bullitt. I have been using the phone for the past few weeks as my daily driver and I have been able to put it through its paces as my daily use device This has allowed me to get a good grip on the capabilities of the phone whilst also allowing to test the camera and what it is actually like to live with.
I want to get this out of the way first and foremost this is not a phone that is going to be high on people’s wish list along with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy lineup, the iPhone range or Google’s Pixel devices. this is a phone that is built for a reason, and that reason is to be tough and durable. It is unashamedly butch but under that tough exterior is it any good. In a word yes. it is good but good and great have a big space between them and this is where I feel his phone sits in between good and great. I come into this phone off the back of the review for the ONeplus Nord 3 CE Lite, which given the bang for your buck is a great phone for the right buyer the CAT S75 will also be great for the right buyer but not for the mainstream masses.
Design and Hardware
What Bullitt has done here is create a good phone with some extra heavy-duty padding to toughen things up. in doing so they have created a phone that is chunky and solid which I do like despite my feeling like I need a weapons licence to carry it in public! Not once have dealt even the slightest bit concerned about throwing this in my pocket while I have been out mountain biking with my son or capturing photos of historic places with the rest of my family. I even felt comfortable handing the phone over to my 10-year-old to take some pictures while we had a look around some old palaces.
The build quality gives a reassurance that if you were to drop this then it would be fine and you can just dust it off and crack on with the rest of your day. I had the opportunity to use the CAT S75 in the rain as well where it performed perfectly thanks to the incredibly high IP68 and IP69K rating which stems from the tough soft-touch rear body which envelops the internal structure of the phone like an antimicrobial security blanket. When it gets dirty it goes in the sink and I wash it as if I was washing a plate or glass!
If you haven’t taken the time to go over my unboxing article on the phone I would strongly encourage you to do so as it gives my thoughts on the hardware and a tour of the device.
There is of course one other big selling point of this phone and that is the integration of MediaTek’s state-of-the-art NTN (non-terrestrial network) chip that enables direct connectivity to geostationary satellites above the earth making it possible to send a message or make an SOS assistance request. Thi is different tot he system that Apple use as they have to use propriety satellites where as the CAT S75 should in theory use any satellite that can be found by the phone. I have spent some time trying to test this out I have had mixed results, which you can see in more detail below. I was only trying to use the satellite messaging service as I didn’t need the tracking ability or the SOS function during my time with the phone. This seems as good a time as any to remind you that these services are extras and they will require that you use the specialised sim that is provided with the phone in one of the sim card slots.
Another little gem that I discovered during my testing was that the phone does actually have built-in Wireless charging which I had missed during my unboxing which is a nice feature to have as I do use this function a lot. However, I have to say that I had mixed results actually getting the phone to share wirelessly. I was unable to use the Wireless charger built into my desk which works for pretty much any other wireless charge-enabled device that I have ever tried on it. I was also unable to get it to work on my Pixel Stand 2 charger as the coil on the charge and the one in the rear of the phone just would line up. I was however able to get it to work on my old Samsung fast wireless charger and an unbranded pad that I have next to my bed. You may find that mileage will vary using this feature.
That concludes the design and hardware part let’s look into how this chunky boy performs now.
The performance of the CAT S75 is perfectly adequate for a phone that is being used as a daily driver and I have not found much in the way of things that will trip it up it is pretty swift at moving through apps and loading up games and streaming services. I have not had problems with having multiple apps running in the background and the phone stays cool.
This is not going to be an out-and-out gaming beast and the likes of Shenjen Impact will not be the smoothest experience on the higher settings however given that is not my type of gaming I went ahead and fired up F1 Mobile Racing instead. On my Pixel 7 Pro this game runs fluidly with minimal frame dropping or stuttering. when I loaded it up on the CAT S75 it felt a bit more sluggish and I am quite certain that the graphics detail was not as good in terms of the track textures and details. I did try and check what level of graphics it was running at and I was unable to see this information. I did also try running another of my favourite games Grand Mountain Adventure and this ran smoothly for the most part apart from when you switched between the game and the Mini Map the were some distinct slowdowns. I can only put this down to the level of detail that is shown on the mini-map and then the phone needs to catch up on the rendering which would explain the short lag. Again this is not something I have ever noticed on my Pixel 7 Pro.
In terms of the longevity of the battery on the phone, the large 5000 mAH battery presented no problem in my daily use which consists of checking emails, mixed messaging across various channels including social media, some light camera use and approx an hour o sat nav and media streaming via Bluetooth when driving to and from work. On top of this, I am also using it a lot for web browsing as I am currently planning a trip abroad next week. I have been able to get through a normal day like this with no need to worry about when my battery will run out as the phone will gently sip power during the day and by the time I call it a night I will easily have double figures in the battery percentage icon. I have on some days been able to stretch the phone out to last up to two days but by the end of the second day, it is normally screaming out for a recharge. It will take a recharge fairly fast either via the wireless charging I mentioned above or via the USB Type C port which will allow the phone to pull in power at 15 watts which is not that fastest by any means but more than adequate for an overnight charge.
I have been trying to use the phone while I have been out trying to enjoy the sunshine when we have had and I have found that the screen is somewhat lacking in terms of the brightness. I prefer to use dark mode for my UI and this means that the brightness needs to be high in order for me to read text on the screen in bright conditions. Now because the backlight levels of this screen are not that high I do struggle to use the phone in any sort of sunshine when outdoors. I feel that this is a big weakness for a phone intended to be used in an outdoor environment. It had been my plan to take the phone on holiday to Turkey to test the underwater photography aspect but as I was going to be in the mids of a Europe-wide heatwave that wasn’t gonna work! I have found that the phone is great inside but under very bright outdoor conditions it just didn’t work for me.
The software of the CAT S75 is where the phone has a chance to differentiate itself, however, I have to say rather thankfully they have not fiddled too much with the stock Android UI and I do like this however before you Pixel UI fans start jumping for joy there are some things that are missing here from the UI that I have found annoying in day to day use. it is also on a version of Android that is now nearly 2 years out of date. Bullitt has stated that they will; be updating the phone to Android 14 but we don’t have any sort of time frame on when that will be I expect that it will be at some point next year, especially as the phone is running on a relatively unknown chipset (The MediaTek Dimensity D930 octa-core 2.2GHz) that will require custom coding to make it work with the updates before they can release firmware revisions. The good news is hope to see Android 13 before the winter however again this is not confirmed so only time will tell on that front.
I have grown used to some of the tweaks that have been enabled in the UI on Android 13 and these are not present on the CAT S75 which is a shame. For example, there is no ability to allow for the customisation of default icons in either the settings or the home screen menu which is a feature that I really like using as it allows me to personalise my phone a little bit more.
I have not been able to find a way to remove the recent apps option from the app drawer as well I really don’t like that function as it is just duplicating the existing app menu so is not needed.
The whole phone just feels like it is missing the little extras and tweaks that I have become used to when using the more flagship-grade phones that I normally use. Even when I compare it to the OnePlus Nord CE3 Lite I feel myself being left wanting on certain aspects of the software.
Dont get me wrong the phone offers all the things you need from a phone and for normal users or for those rallying on the phone as a tool this will be great as long as they keep the phone updated with all the security patches.
At the time of writing this, the phone is on 1st May 2023 in terms of security patches hopefully they will be adding a more up-to-date one soon as this will give businesses the peace of mind to invest in getting these devices for their field workers which I feel is a target market for these phones. I know that when I used to work in the field as an engineer, I would have been much happier using one of these over the iPhone 7 that I was issued as that was not really useable in the rain at all which we have a lot of in the winter in this country and the “glove mode” would have also been very useful as well.
The difference between the sensitivity is all software driven in “glove mode” and it does seem to offer a marginal improvement when I tested it with some random woolly gloves I found but it would be fine with the typical style nitrile gloves that I used to have to wear.
So all in all the software is good but it does not come with some of the niceties that are found in more consumer-based phones which is hardly surprising. As a company phone admin, I would be more than happy rolling these out to my engineers as there is not much they can do to screw things up in terms of the settings as they are simply not there! I presume it would also be very simple to implement some sort of management tool on these devices for companies to use via an app linked to a back-end solution. Ironically this is a speciality of the sister phone to the CAT S75 the Motorola Defy 2 as that is being built for Motorola Mobility Solutions who are widely regarded as experts in this area.
I do like the fact that some of the “Pixel” features that I have grown to love are still here, for example, the location of the search widget being at the bottom as can be seen on the home screens and that this continues to be available regardless of the screen you are on.
I am also a fan of the UI scaling as the icons are not too big and the text size is a good scale even when dialled down to the lowest setting. I have been really annoyed in the past by most non-Pixel and Nexus phones for the fact that the icon and text size is too big due to the limits implemented by scaling this is a big win for me. So with that, I can happily say that I am pleased with the look of the software and the way they have implemented the look of things. So without further ado let’s look into the camera and how it performs.
This was one of the areas I was not expecting to be anything special and my expectation for the most part were met. As an experiment, I gave the phone to my son while we took some time to explore some very old buildings in London on a family trip recently. Now if the camera was kept perfectly steady and till the results were not too bad but as soon as movement is brought in things start looking a bit dodgey.
I have included some examples below the 1st batches are taken with the phone being for the most part stable
Here are some of the more blurry shots
Finally here are some Zoom samples for you to check out
While this is by o means a bad camera it is also not a great camera, I feel that again when the target audience is considered then it works but I wouldn’t want to rely on this as my main shooter either. This is again another reason why I decided to not take this on holiday as my Pixel 7 pro was much more up to the task of taking photos that I want to keep forever.
As for the selfie camera, this is more than adequate for basic use and has the ability to shoot with adjustable Bokeh which is a nice touch that is actually executed reasonably well!
Something that I did notice when I was playing around with the camera modes is that the front camera will not allow night mode to be used which is a bit strange and something I have not seen before on other devices I have compared it to.
Now it’s time to look at night mode now first up is with night mode on and you can see that while the light levels are good as the sensor does well to capture the available light it is a bit of a grainy mess.
It is a much better result than if you shoot without night mode on as seen below,
Another feature that i would find useful for the target audience at least I would have found it useful in my previous role in the field, is of course Super Macro mode.
You can see that when Super Macro is on the detail in the foreground is a lot crisper but it drops out as you get deeper into the shot, however, it does look like there is some noise being picked up by the 2MP macro camera which is a shame but it will be fine for taking an image of stuff that you want to get that close too.
Finally, I captured this quick video of my shortlived ownership of a Pixel Fold and it is not too shabby
The camera software is in itself fairly easy to use and it does have some extra modes as well arguably the most interesting of these modes for me is the Underwater Mode, which I regrettably was unable to use in anger. There is a rather helpful tutorial that will take you through some of the controls on the UI.
So in conclusion for the camera, it is serviceable but nothing to right home about but again I draw you back to the target market piece again which is those who are using the phone as a tool. In a push, you will be able to get some good shots out of it but once you start getting close up or things get dark then it starts going sideways.
Time to wrap things up then.
This phone has very clearly been designed for a target-specific market and also one with a very specialist set of needs. If I am to look at both of these sectors of the mobile user markets then it keeps bringing me back to the same two groups. people who use their phones outdoors and people who use their phones as work tools. Now the neat thing is that these two market segments are actually looking for a phone that ticks quite a lot of the same boxes. It needs to be tough, it needs to last a long time, it has to do the basics well and it has to be simple to use.
The CAT S75 in my mind ticks all of these boxes and then it adds the extras that will really appeal to outdoor users as well with the enhanced tracking functions and offline SMS services. however with the see all requiring extra costs, I think the amount of users that will be buying the phone specifically for those functions is somewhat niche. Now to be fair this is not the first ruggedised phone we have seen but it is one of the better-specified ones and the fact that the software is relatively unencumbered is a nice bonus. The only other widely available ruggedised phone I was able to find while doing this review in person was a Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro which is actually no longer available but it has much weaker specs and is a much older model. It can still be bought but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are looking to buy a phone that is now 4 years old and will be reaching the end of its update cycle in terms of software support. The only other option is the sister phone the Motorola Defy 2 but if you are based in the UkKi don’t think you can get one yet as they are only showing as being available via preorders with no indication of pricing.
So if you want a well specced hardcore phone that will allow you to use your device outdoors or on the work site then the CAT S75 get my recommendation with some caveats regarding the screen brightness and camera quality. But at the price of £499.00 from the CAT phones website then it is well worth getting