CAT's S60 turned heads at MWC 2016 when they unveiled the S60, a waterproof phone with thermal imaging capability, but is it a practical phone for consumers?

A Comparable Phone

Most of us, have now seen the “Ashton Kutcher Science Butcher” commercial where various individuals are strapped to a polygraph machine and are told that their precious phone will drop from several feet in the air if they lie to him. Of course, they drop identical phones which are not their own into a marble slab causing debris to fly all over. Before the tears start to flow, they are then shown their unharmed phone, alongside the same drop test with Motorola’s Droid Turbo 2 over and over without any shatter to the screen whatsoever. Really impressive to anybody that has experienced the typical drop and shatter with their glass-screen phones. That’s the first way Motorola really solved the screen issue- they used plastic. And within the five layers of this resilient rascal is a flexible, AMOLED display next to a Qualcomm SnapDragon 810 processor with Octo-Core CPUs supporting up to 2.0 GHz. Question: why is this information necessary in regards to the CAT S60?

 

There needed to be a product currently being sold on the retail level of similar  specifications to compare to this digital pocket knife. Just unveiled at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), the CAT S60, a dust proof, drop proof (up to 1.8 meters), and waterproof (up to 5 meters for an hour and functional with wet or gloved fingers)  phone that is also the first of its kind with its capability of thermal imaging (including still, panorama, video and temperature spot meter and temperature data) all run by the Snapdragon 617 Octo-core processor running with about 1.5 GHz.  

The S60 conveniently has some of its best features written on the backside

 

Infrared versus Thermal

Real quick, let’s absolve the common misconceptions of thermal being the same as infrared, or that infrared is the same as heat. Neither are true, especially concerning a conversation of infrared photography. (Be sure to get a real perspective of the electromagnetic spectrum and the small bands of human-visible light within it.) Typically, this is describing ‘near infrared’- the part closest to red light generally within 1000nm to 750nm in wavelengths. It behaves almost like light visible to human eyes that can be focused using glass lenses, and easily detected by the sensors used in digital cameras. You find infrared in conventional night vision products and remote controls everywhere. Thermal imaging operates in a much farther infrared region with waves as much as fifteen times longer than the typical ‘near infrared. This is not visible to human eyes and requires specialized sensors and exotic glass that are completely opaque to visible light and cannot be used for standard photography. Thermal can be utilized for many purposes including not only the obvious sight in complete darkness/smoke, but also detection of heat loss or moisture, insulation efficiency, or over-heating in circuitry or electrical appliances. In short, think about color-emphasis for infrared and actual temperature for thermal.

 

Image credit: Florida Atlantic University

 

Who makes the Thermal Imaging Technology?

There happens to be a world-renowned leading company in thermal imaging that has provided their services for many specialty and tactical professions, such as emergency first responders and marine biologists for decades now-- Flir. Or, “the world’s sixth sense”, as they self-proclaim is now partners with not only Caterpillar but Corning the makers of the popular, military-grade Gorilla Glass protecting the front face of the S60. Flir, also previously designed and released a thermal phone attachment called Flir 1, that was applicable to most popular brands. Of course, the smartphone will be backed by the latest Android software, Marshmallow, out of the box. Motorola says it will have a download soon for the DT2, but look at their track record; Lollipop took almost nine months after release to be available for the first Droid Turbo.

 

Flir likes to have fun with their social media #Thermalcats

 

The Verdict

Since we are back to the competition, I forgot to mention that the Droid Turbo 2 is advertised as being water repellent and shatter proof. It is not officially rated as shock proof which raises concerns for that pricey processor and is also unable to hide from an accidental bath. So really, it’s designed for the accidental drop while being able to do all the things your previous smartphone could do, given speed or multi-tasking aside. Equally, they both have a 21MP camera, 32GB of storage, 3GB of RAM, and comparable batteries around 3800 mAh. Meanwhile, the CAT S60 alone, allows users to not only experience a realm that is invisible to the naked eye, but they can be at ease when it falls out of their hands into a body of water and snap a picture while retrieving it because it sports thirteen megapixels for underwater photos (this is all of course, after thermal filming the bear in complete darkness that caused you to drop your S60 in the first place).

 

Alright, so there has to be a price for all of this tech. The Droid Turbo 2 has an MSRP of $624 for a completely shatter proof screen (and there’s a 4-year shatter proof warranty available for some reason). It performs all the typical smartphone abilities coinciding with the Motorola software. You would have to assume that the CAT S60 is only going to contractors and firemen of companies or organizations with bulkier budgets, right? I don’t think so, since its projected MSRP (to be released later this year) is only $599… Considering the team of expertise (Catepillar, Flir, Corning, and Android) combined to back the S60, versus Ashton punking random people with a drop test- my vote goes to the one maximizing its processor potential to back tech that has barely been used by the retail consumer market. This is much more advanced than Beats by Dre jumping into HP computers. Professionals and techies alike will find countless uses for this innovative product. Droid Turbo 2 buyers won’t be completely left in the dark...there is, like many smartphones of the past, an infrared setting on the camera.    

 

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