24 September 2014

REVIEW: CAT B100 Rugged Phone

More than nine lives.

Last year we got a bit giddy over the news that CAT, makers of tough diggers and even tougher boots, were bringing out a range similarly rugged mobile phones. Our review of the CAT B15 Rugged Smartphone involved a paddling pool and lots of bravery - and we weren't disappointed. Now CAT have... well, not gone one better, but actually taken several steps back to produce a lo-tech phone (note the lack of 'smart') designed to survive the roughest of environments. So we took it to the toilet.

The CAT B100 looks just like phones used to look when we first had a mobile phone. Ah, those glory days (that we mention briefly here) of buttons and tiny screens and batteries that last longer than an hour. Well, they are yours once more my friend, as the B100 has classic phone advantages in droves... and a lot more to boot.

Just like its bigger brother the B15, the B100 is encased in tough body armour which can not only withstand knocks, bumps and drops, but is also water and dust proof. If you're taking this onto a building site you'll be fine, even if you have to throw it to your colleague who is in the path of an out-of-control digger. The phone even works very happily down at temperatures as cold as -25°C and as high as 55°C! So you'll also be okay if you're at the North Pole or if you've got a job on inside an oven.

But the most striking thing from a user perspective is the OS. There's no Android in sight on this, and although it worked fantastically on the B15, CAT have decided to run their own basic operating system on the B100. And... well, it's okay. Again it is reminiscent of manufacturers' systems of older model mobiles. You have a home screen with on-screen info like reception, battery and time, and then you have a menu screen with the various apps (in the archaic sense of the word). You do get a multimedia application included and, thanks to the MicroSD slot, you'll be able to upload images and videos, and you can also record your own thanks to the passable 3MP camera.

Having said that you'll still be able to access the internet via the built-in Opera Browser, and depending on your network coverage, this ran pretty quickly for us. There is Bluetooth on the B100, but no WiFi - another indicator that this is a phone designed for those who don't spend all that much time indoors.

A big selling point of the CAT B100 is the noise-cancelling microphone which means you can have a fairly clear conversation with someone while standing next to one of the aforementioned diggers. So although it might be lacking a few of the more modern features we've come to expect, in terms of sheer usability and practicality this is incredible. And think about the price; most heavy-duty protective mobile cases can cost upwards of £50 before you even think about buying the phone. Take our advice, save the cash and get this all-in-one product.


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