The Cat S42 H+ is for clumsy people that drop their phones, let the dog eat it, and generally expose it to harsh conditions. And that is the sole reason to buy – tradies, firies, essential workers we are looking at you.
The key is that the Cat S42 H+ has IP68, IP69K and MIL-SPEC 810H. It is so tough that bleach, soap, and water are afraid of it (yes, you can pressure wash it). We see many cafes, takeaways and stores using these as they are unbreakable.
However, reviewing this, we found that the normal smartphone review parameters don’t really cut it. Yes, it is an Android smartphone, but its focus is on survival, with extremely loud ringtones and a glove-friendly screen. But things like speed and camera prowess are not fundamental to survival.
What is Cat?
The Caterpillar Orange and Black, the rugged design and of course, the CAT name is associated with Caterpillar earth moving equipment.
In fact, it (and several models) are made by Bullitt Mobile Limited (part of the Bullitt Group Est. 2009). It aims to bring brands together with technology. So, it licenses the Caterpillar name to make a range of rugged mobile phones. It has a deal with Land Rover for an Outdoor Phone. It also has arrangements with Ted Baker, Kodak, JCB, Ministry of Sound and more.
What are Cat phones?
CAT makes a range of phones that have different environmental tolerances and features
Australian review: Cat S42 H+ 4G, single SIM, microSD, 3/32GB
Deep-Dive review format
It is now in two parts – a summary and a separate 300+ line database-driven spec, including over 70 tests to back up the findings. It also helps us compare different phones and features.
We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass(able) rating that is not as good as it should be and a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed.
You can click on most images for an enlargement.
First impression – Pass+
We came across Cat when researching Waterproof phones – fact or fiction (smartphone guide), and it was the only brand we could find that went the extra distance to IP69K – the ability to pressure wash and use beach etc.
We also came across it at our local Café, where the owner was sick and tired of breaking phones, especially when they drop or are around fast-food kitchen conditions. She has had a Cat 42 for about 18 months, which is as good as the day she got it. She also appreciates the amazingly loud 90dB Noisy One ringtone.
I reviewed Telstra Tough Max 3 and said café owner destroyed one in about five months before buying the Cat 42.
Rugged rating – EXCEED
It also has IP68 for continuous immersion in 1.5m water for 35 minutes.
It also has the highest IP rating – IP69K with the rubber plugs in place. This means protected against close-range high pressure, high-temperature spray. Yes, you can Karcher this!
And MIL-STD-810H (above 810G) means -25°C (-13°F) to +55°C (131°F) for up to 24hrs. it is also resistant to vibration and has category four resistance to humidity and salt mist.
It is also resistant to bleach, alcohol, and various industrial chemicals.
Cat S42 H+ base specs – all fit for purpose
We want to focus on the device as a whole – not individual specs – so we will get these out of the way first. We have run the standard 70+ tests as well.
- 12nm MediaTek Helio A20 1.8Ghz quad-core
- 3GB LPDDRX4 /32GB eMMC, dedicated microSD to 128GB
- 4GX, Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, Single Sim, VoLTE, and VoWiFi
- 5.5”, 1440 x 720, 18:9 GG5 IPS LCD screen
- Wi-Fi AC, BT 5, FM Radio, GPS, NFC, micro-USB 2.0
- 4200mAh battery, micro-USB charger 5V/3A/15W, 9V/2A/18W, 12V/1.5A/18W
- Android 10 (update to 11 coming). It runs Android in 32-bit mode
- Read 13MP, Samsung S5K3L6 f/2.0 camera with LED flash
- Front 5MP GalaxyCore GC5035 with screen fill
- Programmable Key for Push to Talk via double tap or long press
- All Google apps, On Guard Solo worker protection
- Silver Ion impregnated body for germ resistance
Screen – Bright enough – Pass
The maximum brightness is 540 nits. It is daylight readable (out of direct sunlight). It has wet finger and glove mode to increase touch sensitivity and lift to wake. Haptic feedback is light but adequate.
The screen is a fingerprint magnet with Gorilla Glass 5 for added impact resistance.
CPU – Does the job – Pass
The MediaTek Helio A20 is an entry-level 12nm, 4 x 1.8Ghz SoC – fit for purpose as a phone.
Geekbench 5 single/multi-core is 131/437 – it is about 10% slower than a Qualcomm SD429.
It has 43,014 GIPS and averages 35,529 losing 28% of its performance over 15 minutes. But as a phone, it will never reach those stress levels.
Comms – PASS
Wi-Fi 5 AC 2.4 and 5GHz band reaches -27dBm/390Mbps (maximum is 433) at 2m from our Netgear RAXE500-AX11000 router. At 5m, it drops to –39/390, 10m to -45/390 and 15m to -59/270. Excellent signal strength.
NFC- it supports Google Pay.
The single GPS has SBAS to enhance accuracy. We measured it to about 1m.
LTE – PASS+
Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28 – all you need for all Australian Telcos but not a great international phone. Single sim supports VoLTE, VoWiFi, and 4GX (2CA)
Tests achieved 43/27.2Mbps/29Ms DL/UL/ping in a three-bar reception zone. This is very good and supports up to 300/1250Mbps DL/UL.
Signal strength is -77dBm/2 to 20pW – excellent, but as is typical of MediaTek, it only found other towers intermittently, which were unusable.
It is a good city/suburbs phone.
Battery – PASS+ but micro-USB is so yesterday
It has a 4200mAh battery that should go a couple of days without charge. Over seven days of typical use, I charged three times.
The Supplied micro-USB Charger 5V/3A/15W, 9V/2A/18W, 12V/1.5A/18W is unusual in that it appears QC 2.0 compatible, but the device only accepts 5V/1A/5W charging for a linear, not fast charge. It will charge from 0-100% in around 3.5 hours.
Battery discharge at idle is around 200mA, meaning around 20+ days standby.
Given the excellent video loop (18 hours and 10 minutes), PC Mark figures (16 hours and 33 minutes), and a low screen on drain, this should last 2-3 days of typical use.
Sound – Mono – Pass(able)
It has a single mono earpiece speaker and a front-firing bottom speaker. It is designed for a clearer voice with no bass, emphasised mid and treble for a clear voice. Music is not its forte.
The maximum volume is 85dB is loud, and the Noisy One ringtone is startling.
The dual mics have good sensitivity but no ANC, so I cupped the bottom mic for clarity.
Hands-free is reasonable, although I would expect a little more volume from a tradies phone.
It has the standard BT 5.0 SBC /AAC codecs and provides ample clarity and volume to BT headphones and speakers.
Build – So tough – say no more – Exceed
The rubberised back and the sides are grippy even with wet or gloved hands. The edges are reinforced, the screen is recessed to protect it from fall damage, and the screen is covered in Gorilla Glass 5.
It is 161.3 x 77.2 x 12.7mm x 220g. We have covered IP68/69K and MIL-SPEC 810H elsewhere, but add Gorilla Glass 5 (drop resistant) and rubber bumper corners (drop resistant), and it is virtually unbreakable.
Add bleach, alcohol, soap, water pressure washing, and it is a clean phone for sterile environments, important in times of Coronavirus.
Apart from the Charger and USB-A to micro-USB cable, no accessories come in the box.
It lacks fingerprint ID but does a 2D face ID.
Android – Pass(able)
Pure Android 10 with Android 11 is on its way. In fact, Cat Australia has a written policy for the S42/H+ - Quarterly (~90 days) SMRs for two years, then ad-hoc ESMR cover for one further year. It is not living up to that.
It has Android Auto, Google Assistant, OnGuard Solo, and Cat Toolbox, which contains a range of useful, hand-picked apps for Cat phone users. The apps are tailored both to work and recreational activities. It also has a Microsoft Office compatible mobisystems OfficeSuite (advert supported).
The Cat 42H+ has Google’s Android Enterprise (AE) feature set. Using these tools in conjunction with an enterprise mobility management solution, businesses can manage the devices used for work by their employees. Businesses can secure their valuable or sensitive data, ensure devices are set up correctly to maximise utility and enforce policies to encourage and support employee productivity.
Cat S42 H+ rear camera – PASS
I was pleasantly surprised because the Helio A20 SoC does not offer a lot of post-processing power. The 13MP rear sensor is a Samsung S5K3L6, f/2.0, 1.12um, which has improved low light sensitivity. It has both a software and hardware button for underwater photography (maximum 1.5m).
The front camera is a 5MP Galaxy Core GC5035 with f/2.0 and 1.4um pixels.
Overall, it takes decent, if little soft images and videos in day and office light.
CyberShack’s view– CAT S42 H+ is tough and fills a much-needed niche
Cat phones are for people who need a robust, waterproof, and durable smartphone with enough performance for day-to-day tasks. If you want a reasonably priced device, this is it. Although some of the other CAT models may interest you too.
As far as a phone goes – it will make and receive calls and SMS – what more do you need? And being Android, it will run all the apps, albeit slowly in some cases.
Over the review period, I kept thinking this is the perfect phone for school children – unbreakable. But alas, it does not have an expensive fruit logo on it!
I like the device. It is reassuring to know you can mistreat it, and it will still work well tomorrow.
Rating this is easy – it is a rugged phone, first and foremost, and the specs are pretty respectable.
Who is it for?
Tradies, construction workers, miners, farmers, outdoor adventure enthusiasts or anyone seeking extra protection and durability in a smartphone. The Cat 42 H+ model is receiving considerable interest for use in sterile environments.
We have to rate it as a rugged phone; frankly, it is very close to 10/10. But to be realistic, it is a relatively low-powered Android 32-bit phone with a decent screen, battery life, strong single tower reception and erratic Android updates. So, it drops a few points in performance and features that will not worry you if you want a rugged phone.
CyberShack Smartphone comparison v 1.1 (E&OE)
Cat S42 H+ 4G smartphone
|Model||Cat S42 H+|
|From||Harvey Norman, Good Guys, Retravision, Telstra|
|Country of Manufacture||China|
|Company||Made by Bullitt Mobile Limited (part of the Bullitt Group Est. 2009). It aims to bring brands together with technology. So, it licenses the Caterpillar name to make a range of rugged mobile phones. It has a deal with Land Rover for an Outdoor Phone. It also has arrangements with Ted Baker, Kodak, JCB, Ministry of Sound and more.|
|More||CyberShack Cat news and reviews|
|Test date||1-9 September 2022|
|Other models not for Australia (Don’t buy)||If buying from other sources, the Australian Consumer Law warranty will not apply,|
|Flat/ Curve/ 2D/ 3D||Flat|
|Resolution||1440 x 720|
|Screen to Body %||62.7%|
|Colours bits||8-bit, 16.7m colours|
|Refresh Hz/ adaptive||60Hz|
|Nits typical/ test||Typically, around 250 nits with Adaptive Brightness off|
|Nits max/ test||550 (540)|
|Rec.2020 or other||No|
|Delta E (<4 is excellent)||6|
|Blue light control||No|
|PWM if known||No|
|Daylight readable||Not in direct sunlight|
|Always on Display||No|
|DRM||L3 – SD streaming only|
|Gaming||Not intended for gaming|
|Comment||It is the screen you need rather than a big glossy screen. It is surprisingly bright and usable.|
|Brand/ Model||MediaTek Helio A20|
|Cores||4 x 1.8GHz|
|Modem||4G LTE Cat 4/6|
|AI TOPS||Limited AI capability for Night mode and Face Unlock|
|Geekbench 5 Single-core (power/battery)||134|
|Geekbench 5 multi-core (power/battery)||487|
|GPU||MG PowerVR GE8300 550Mhz|
|RAM/ type||3GB LPDDR4S|
|Storage/ free/ type||32GB eMMC (20GB free)|
|micro-SD||microSD to 128GB|
|CPDT internal seq. Read MBps||288|
|CPDT internal seq. write MBps||60|
|CPDT microSD read/ write MBps||82/20 mountable|
|CPDT external (mountable?) MBps||Not tested as all our external devices are now USB-C|
|Max GIPS (power/battery)||44876|
|Comment||It holds well until 14 minutes, then dips a little. As this is not intended for game use, it is acceptable.|
|Wi-Fi Type/ model||Wi-Fi AC Dual-band|
|Test 2m -dBm/ Mbps||-27/390 – a strong signal|
|GPS single/ dual||Single|
|USB type||Micro-USB 2.0|
|ALT DP/ DeX/ Ready For||No|
|Accelerometer||Yes, combo with Gyro|
|Gyro||Yes, combo with Gyro|
|Comment||Screen rotation is really touchy, indicating a combo sensor. I had to turn auto-rotate off.|
LTE and 5G
|SIM||Single sim and dedicated microSD|
|Active||One at a time|
|Ring tone single/ dual||Single sim and dedicated microSD|
|VoLTE||Yes, carrier dependent|
|Wi-Fi calling||Yes, carrier dependent|
|4G Bands||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28|
|Comment||All Australian bands|
|Test Boost Mobile/ Telstra|
|UL/ DL/ Ms||43/27.2/29ms|
|Tower 1 -dBm/ fW or pW||-77/2-20pW (exceptional)|
|Tower 2||Found but unusable signal strength|
|Tower 3||Found but unusable signal strength|
|Comment||Extremely strong single tower reception|
|Charger/ type/ supplied||micro-USB charger 5V/3A/15W, 9V/2A/18W, 12V/1.5A/18W
It tends to charge at 5V/1A/10W.
|PD/ QC level||No|
|Reverse Qi or cable||N/A|
|Test (60Hz or adaptive screen)|
|Charge % 30mins||12%|
|Charge 0-100%||Approx 3.5 hours|
|Charge Qi/ W||N/A|
|Charge 5V/ 2A||N/A|
|Video loop 50%/ aeroplane||18 hours 10 minutes|
|PC Mark 3 battery||16 hours 53 minutes|
|GFX Bench Manhattan battery||897.9 minutes (14.97 hours) 500 frames|
|GFX Bench T-Rex||800.1 minutes (13.34 hours) 1028 frames|
|Drain 100-0% full load screen on||7 hours|
|Watt full load||600mA|
|Watt idle Screen on||200-250mA|
|Estimate loss at max refresh||N/A|
|Estimate typical use||Given the excellent video loop, PC Mark figures, and a low screen on drain, this should last 2-3 days of typical use.|
|Comment||It may have an 18W capable charger, but the charge rate is between 800-1000mA.|
|Speakers||Mono earpiece and mono bottom firing|
|Dolby Atmos decode||No|
|BT Codecs||SBC, AAC|
|Dolby Atmos (DA)||No|
|Test dB – all on EQ flat DA off|
|Hands-free||Decent hands-free – no better or worse than most phones|
|BT headphones||Lots of volume and decent L/R separation|
|Deep Bass 20-40Hz||No|
|Middle Bass 40-100Hz||No|
|High Bass 100-200Hz||No|
|Low Mid 200-400Hz||Building|
|Low Treble 2-4kHz||Flat|
|Mid Treble 4-6kHz||Flat|
|High Treble 6-10kHz||Flat|
|Dog Whistle 10-20kHz||Gentle decline|
|Sound Signature type||Clear voice|
|Comment||Decent clear voice sound – not for music. Use a BT speaker or earphones.|
|Size (H X W x D)||161.3 x 77.2 x 12.7mm|
|IP rating||IP 68 and 69K as well as MIL-STD 810H|
|Pen/ Stylus support||No, but wet finger and glove support|
|In the box|
|USB cable||USB-A to Micro-USB|
|Security patch date||N/A|
|OS upgrade policy||11 coming|
|Security patch policy||Infrequent|
|Bloatware||Pure Android with some Cat tools|
|Other||Supports Google Lens and all Google Apps|
|Comment||Cat needs to improve its Security Patch update policy|
|Fingerprint sensor location/ type||No|
Cat S42 H+ Rear Camera
|FOV° (stated/ actual)||60|
|QR code reader||Google lens|
|Night mode||Yes, but limited|
|Sensor||Galaxy Core GC5035|
|FOV (stated/ actual)|
Cat S42 H+ 4G – rugged, rubberised, tradie-proof smartphone
- Uber-rugged – Tradies and emergency services – need we say more?
- Does everything you expect from an Android phone
- Decent two-three-day battery life
- Quite loud ring tone
- Wet fingers and glove hand suitable – you can pressure wash it
- It is no powerhouse processor
- Incredible city/urban reception but may be patchy in the bush