We tested CAT's claimed tough and strong CAT B15 to the most extreme levels. In our complete CAT B15 review we did experiments in which we washed it, dropped it down flight of stairs and fed it to dogs.
Myself have experienced the bad feeling when my brand new HTC one X suffered breakdown after I accidentally dropped it while going downstairs and back it went to the service centre. Luckily
This cellphone has saved my day several times. But the main question is will CAT B15 stand a chance with our tough beating.
It is quite rare enough that a cellphone review includes throwing a handset down a flight of stairs, forcing a dog to take a bite of it and throwing it in water and washing it under a tap but that's what we exactly did with Caterpillar's CAT B15 cellphone to test its quality standard. So the question is did CAT B15 survive? Lets find out.....
As expected from a manufacturing company like CAT which specializes in manufacturing heavy duty construction equipments and the odd footwears this cellphone falls into the unglamorous group of rugged cellphones.
Earlier the ruggedised cellphone buyers had to forfeit the style quotient but with the latest technology and ideas this is no longer the case.
Like its main business, this handset is designed best to bear a beating and this is what we wanted to test besides the performance of the phone.
All areas of the phone are fully covered. For beginners the CAT B15 is IP67 certified meaning that it is completely dust and water resistant. Thus it is an ideal product for those working in outdoor conditions.
The CAT B15’s external casing is made out of a mix of aluminium and a shock absorbent rubber which is placed around CAT’s edges and back.
It has a large four inches capacitive touch screen made out of tough scratch-proof gorilla glass i.e. the likelihood of getting a cracked screen is almost eliminated.
Such is the company’s confidence that it claims the CAT B15 can sustain a drop from 1.8 meters without damages both inside or outside, it was something that we tested ourselves and it was unbelievably well up to our expectations.
Making a phone that tough have often resulted in devices becoming larger and heavier, but CAT is an exception here . The company has clearly worked very hard on its design by keeping weight to as minimum as possible.
Of course you can say it is still bigger than anything else found in the best sellers section. The depth of the phone is 15mm, a thickness almost twice that of the iPhone 5. And it’s not light either, weighing in at 170g, again around 60g more than Apple’s flagship device.
Can iPhone pass out a drop down the staircase? I doubt.
we have seen many slim beautiful smartphones spoiled by plastic coverings some of which exceed the dimensions of the device.
CAT has decided not to put its prominent black and yellow brand logo on the device, which we think was a good move. The mixture of black and silver is more appealing to the eye without screaming out it's a rugged handset, say, the bright yellow splashed over the JCB Tough phone range.
The only yellow coloured thing on the B15 is the physical buttons along the top (power) and down the right hand side (volume control and camera).
All charging and headphone ports are well protected with a rubber seal and require opening before use. It’s important to note that the micro USB charging point is based slightly deeper than most devices, thus many of the universal USB cables won't fit.
Specifications of CAT B15
OS Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Processor Media Tek MT6577 Dual 1GHz CortexTM-A9 Size 125mm x 69.5mm x 14.95mm Weight 170g
Screen 4" WVGA480x800 LCD, Gorilla glass, wet finger tracking Memory 4GB storage + 512 RAM Camera 5.0 MP Rear, VGA Front camera, Capacitive Multi-touch screen
Video 720P recording 30 FPS H.264/AVC, Codecs H.263, mpeg4/ SP, VP8
Talk time Up to 9 hours
Standby life 9.5 days
Connection microUSB, 3.5mm audio,microSD 32GB, GPS A-GPS mode
Temperature Operational range -20° C to + 55° C
Drop testing 1.80m on Concrete
IP rating IP67 waterproof to 1m for 30 minutes, dust impervious
At the back
The device's back is made up completely of hard rubber, displaying the large CAT logo in silver in the centre, and the silver coated camera lens towards the top left.
It's worthy to note that how simple is it to open the device's back in comparison to the history with rugged handsets till now. For eg: the Nokia 5210 handset had very deep styled rubber case which takes much effort to separate. Later Sonim XP3300 launched last year, that actually needs a screwdriver to reach the battery and SIM card. Thus it is not ideal.
Instead, the B15 has a simple sliding unlocking button at its base. Its important that the button should be closed because water will leak into the handset if left open. To ensure that the users don't commit this error, a yellow colored strip is revealed if unlocked.
Once the device is unlocked then also removing the back cover still requires a strong force with a fingernail, but given that due to the design for keeping it airtight and waterproof this is required.
Inside CAT B15
Here are a few surprises, firstly the sheer dimensions of the 2000 mAh battery that makes up around half the size of the complete handset.
According to company, the impressive battery provides 9 hours of talk time with a standby life of 9.5 days.
But it isn't the only surprise. Underneath the battery there is space provided for not single but for two SIM cards a thing that is rare among many such handsets. Just underneath that is the micro SD card slot.
The device has a 800 x 480 mega pixel screen, which is a far cry from some of the new HD handsets coming into the market, and by no means it is terrible.
Switching on the device for the first ever time needs the user to go through the whole of the standard Android setup menu, before reaching the traditional unlocking screen, where the user can slide the padlock to use either the camera, web browser (Google) or the unlock screen. Its all very easy.
The home screen as expected, has four home screens that can be scrolled laterally and are loaded with your favourite applications and widgets.
Astonishingly, CAT has decided not to include a dedicated time and weather widget, or a calendar that is often times a standard for other devices. Instead, there are just four pre placed shortcuts: Playstore, Camera, Gmail and Maps. The other three screens are blank.
Below them there are usual android functions to send emails, make calls, accesing main menu, text and surfing.
Inside the main menu with three screens there are widgets, about 53 applications and options. All the usual Google apps are present and correct, besides a few dedicated CAT specific apps that are centred around its core construction business viz. GPS to find nearest stockists, hiring equipment.
Testing CAT's claims
Any review of a rugged cellphone can't be considered complete without testing its durability and strength and especially when there are bold claims.
We had to test the handset against the most common mobile phones ruiners such as dropping the device, contact with water and pets.
Will it survive water?
It's not hard to believe that water is the most common killer of cellphones. There are many people who need to use their handset whilst in the bath or the need to use device outside in case of a thunderstorm or have a job with humid conditions around.
People try a variety of drastic methods in order to save their cellphone and many can't save their beloved handset. Many a times it works fine but mostly it has to sent back to the shop or there is need for insurance claim. Its quite common to leave the handset in wet conditions in kitchen. Can CAT B15 beat this?
Firstly, we submerged the handset in a glass of water. There was absolutely no effect. The inside of device was dry and everything worked to its perfection. The screen even responded well inspite of wet hands.
So we went a step further, and we held the handset under a fast flow of tap water. The water stream turned on many of the applications and options but there wasn't any damage. The handset was in perfect condition.
Will it survive fall from heights?
According to claims of the company CAT B15 can bear drop uptill 1.8 m without getting any damage. We used a measuring tape and dropped it with screen down onto concrete. There was a loud bang and the handset bounced a couple of times but there wasn't any damage whatsoever.
Just to be assure, we repeated it over several times from the same height but still the handset worked normally. The handset survived each and every drop but on many occasions the phone's back pop opened even though the lock prevented it.
Will it survive my dog tipsy?
Most dogs like to bite away whatever they catch but unfortunately my dog Tipsy is not like them. After a lot of persuation to bite off the device I got an idea of smearing phone with peanut butter. And to my surprise the idea worked well as she took it and pushed her teeth into the screen and took away the phone. There were some heart-stopping creaking sound one among them I guess was the sound of the screen cracking. Later Tipsy felt that she had been fooled because of the taste of plastic and she left the wet device on the floor.
A quick wash with water I saw that there was no damage by my dog's canines, not even a single scratch.
How good is it for social purposes?
Many people can't live without social networking. It has become a part of our daily activities. You have to add social networking applications viz. instagram,twitter and facebook via playstore because the company doesn't provide them pre installed.
The CAT B15 has a dual core 1GHz processor, that works decently with applications running smoothly as a hot knife on butter. Nowhere during the test did we experience delays when shifting between the menus.
Surfing the web was a decent experience. The websites loaded fast esp. while using Wi-Fi. However there was an issue with the screen quality which drops the overall experience especially when it comes to smaller images that appear washed out and poor but you can always zoom in to see them clearly.
Streaming vids from websites viz the You Tube, the BBC news (which are already installed) worked excellent to our surprise. Their video and sound quality was good.
How's the camera?
We don't expect much from the camera of a rugged cellphone and so far it is the biggest disappointment so far we could find.
The CAT B15 has both a front facing VGA camera and a rear facing 5MP camera. It can be used via a shortcut button on the side. The 5 mega pixel camera provides average results at its best but the VGA camera is just the old stuff.
Images clicked using the 5 mega pixel camera are usually washed out and dull especially in dim light. All the colors in the image tends to blend into each other. There is no auto focus feature that means pictures are captured quickly without any delay. The quality obtained was very hit and miss.
The camera also does not have any flash, so don't think of using it in the dark or in dim lit environments. The same problems were there when it comes to B15’s video recorder. Here also the B15 has to struggle in case of poor light and colors appear washed out.
Nowadays a HD camera is often required and there are many phones launched with HD thus had there been an HD camera it would be an advantage, but still the camera does a fair job and for those special occasions we have separate cameras available for them.
But despite the average camera there is one feature that is surprisingly good is the recording of sound especially from close ups.
You can buy CAT B15 between 360$ to 380$ from stores or you can buy it cheaper online. The best being Amazon. There are many sellers on amazon ranging from 320$ to 420$. The lowest price for brand new device that I could find is below link:
The B15 is never gonna be a mass market phone and will never pose any threat to the world's leading manufacturers. With that said, it absolutely has a place in the market. The builders, construction workers and those working in harsh conditions are the key customers for it but the CAT B15 has enough to appease anyone as simply as a device to rely upon, whatever the environment maybe.
SpaceShanty from United Kingdom on January 24, 2014:
Wow, I never knew these existed. I have a toughbook which I use for work, I think I need one of these to go with it!
LaThing from From a World Within, USA on December 02, 2013:
Good review! Didn't know CAT was coming out with a smart phone. Looks like it's well made, but is it good enough to switch with your existing phone? I guess it depends on where you will be using it......
Thanks for the info, voting up and interesting.
iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on December 01, 2013:
I didn't know that Caterpillar also has released its own smartphone. It looks really good and really tough and solid. And it's a dual-SIM phone... sweet! :)
Mark Morgan (author) on November 24, 2013:
Cat has worked on making durability, trust, quality and dependability. The phones are built under the experienced Bullitt Mobile Ltd in making rugged mobiles. This results is a brand new product in the smartphone market that challenges to meet challenging lifestyle needs.
Hezekiah from Japan on November 24, 2013:
Interesting phone. Just wondering what the makes of the components are. Not CAT ??
Dil Vil from India on November 18, 2013:
Good review, the phone looks rocking :)