Where iPhones can't go: Rugged Cat S61 enhances thermal imaging, adds laser measuring, air quality sensor

While millions work in office environments where an iPhone or Galaxy phone work just fine, there is a segment of the population that functions in adverse environments where a glass sandwich phone just doesn't cut it. That's where Cat phones step in to shine.

Image: Cat Phones

Field workers, adventurists, farmers, and those who work daily with tools and machinery appreciate the rugged build of Cat phones. The last generation thermal imaging phone, the S60, brought this advanced technology to many who were unaware of its capability. The new Cat S61 improves upon the S60 while bringing some features requested by users to make it an extremely capable tool.

Cat phones are not designed and built to compete with the camera of the Google Pixel 2 or the sleek modern gesture-based UI of the iPhone X. They are optimized for adverse environments and provide capability not found in any other smartphone.

The FLIR thermal imaging capability was a major feature in the Cat S60 and in the new Cat S61 that camera has been improved to provide high definition detail with the ability to measure temperature up to a value increased from 120 degrees Celsius to an impressive 400 degrees Celsius.

A new feature of the Cat S61 is the ability to measure distance with an embedded laser. The laser can measure point-to-point distances up to 10 meters and also calculates areas. The areas can later be adjusted to fit, which can prove valuable for remodels or customizing solutions in spaces with limited area.

Another new feature is the ability to provide constant indoor air quality assessments. The sensor samples the air every 30 seconds and notifies the user of high levels of volatile organic compounds, such as paint, solvent, carpets, furniture, and other items.


  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 octa-core 2.2 Ghz
  • Display: 5.2 inch 1920x1080 pixels resolution Gorilla Glass 5
  • Operating system: Android 8 Oreo (Committed upgrade to P)
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64GB internal with microSD card slot
  • Cameras: 16 megapixel with phase detection auto focus. Front 8 megapixel camera.
  • Battery: 4500 mAh with Quick Charge 4.0 fast charging
  • Water resistance: IP68 and MIL-STD 810G shock and drop resistant, waterproof up to 3 meters for 60 minutes
  • Wireless connectivity: FM radio, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, NFC, Bluetooth 5, GPS, Glonass, BeiDou, Galileo
  • Sensors: Thermal camera (FLIR), indoor air quality, compass, proximity, accelerometer, gyro, barometer
  • Dimensions: 150 x 76 x 13 mm

It's great to see this new phone launching with Android 8 out of the box and a public committment to upgrade the phone to Android P after it is released by Google. There are just a few apps installed in addition to stock Android to try to help you maximize the functionality, but these can also be removed by the user.

The improvements in the Cat S61 are not all hardware related either. The MyFlir application now features live streaming of thermal imaging, on-device tips, and tricks and a community forum to help users get the most out of the S61's thermal imaging capabilities. There is also a store front arranged by different use cases, such as farming, fishing, and construction.

According to Cat, the new S61 can be used for vehicle diagnostics, asphalt monitoring, higher temperature equipment monitoring, detecting heat loss around windows and doors, spotting moisture and missing insulation, identifying over-heating electrical appliances and overloaded circuitry, and seeing in complete darkness or through obscurants such as light fog or smoke. When I was serving on a USCG ship, our fire fighting team had a FLIR device to help us find hotspots in shipboard fires and help us find shipmates who were in trouble in the fire.

I recently reviewed the Cat S41 rugged smartphone and was very impressed by its capability. As a professional engineer who surveys ships, observes testing of various marine equipment, supervises ship construction in the yard, and provides technical assistance during marine casualties, the ability to have a portable, high-powered tool like the new Cat S61 is very attractive.

The Cat S61 will be demonstrated at MWC next week and available outside the US in the 2nd quarter with US availability planned for the 3rd quarter. It will be available for €899/£799/$999. This may seem like a high price, but when you understand it has a FLIR camera, laser distance tool, air quality sensor, and is also a phone that does it all it is a solid deal for such a powerful combination.