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Cat B15 Rugged Android Smartphone Hands-On

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Can being rugged and tough really be a substitute for style and sophistication? The B15 puts the theory to the test

Price: $449.99

Website: www.catphones.com

The B15 is never going to win any style points, but then this isn’t your typical phone. At its core, the B15 is all about being tough and is primarily aimed at those needing a phone to keep up with their rough and tumble lifestyle. If you don’t fancy your HTC One’s chances of surviving your workplace then this is the kind of the device you need instead.

CAT B15

CAT B15

The hardened exterior of the phone lends itself well to this and the IP67 rating for ruggedization means it is waterproof at up to one meter for 30 minutes and is also dustproof. It can also withstand drops from up to 1.8metres. All the standard ports can be found around the edging and each has their own rubberized cover to keep them well sealed. Our testing gave us no reason to doubt the phone’s rugged credentials.

Between the side volume rocker and headphone jack is a dedicated camera button. It can be a bit temperamental to use, but you won’t really want to use it too much, anyway, as the five-megapixel camera offered here isn’t really that good. Colors certainly look vivid, but overall image quality is slightly grainy and a lot of our images came with a small level of distortion added.

CAT B15’s camera

CAT B15’s camera

Removing the backplate can be a bit of a pain, but for a phone that’s meant to be tough, perhaps that’s actually a good thing. What you’ll initially find when the plate has been removed is a large 2000mAh battery. It can easily provide you with a whole day of average usage before needing to be charged, but if you plan on streaming a lot of media the battery life will lessen considerably.

Also there is a micro SD slot that can handle a storage card up to 32GB. With the B15 you get a paltry 4GB of internal storage, so the option to expand is very welcome. What you’ll also find under the backplate is arguably the best feature of the B15. There’s room for dual-SIM cards which helps give you superb network coverage wherever you are, and to ensure you can keep your work and business lives separate. We don’t see many phones with this feature included, so to find it in a phone like the B15 was a really nice surprise.

Turning on the phone reveals Android 4.1 in all its glory and even better when you consider the phone runs the stock Android OS. The four-inch screen is decent enough and includes a handy wet finger tracking software enabling you to use the capacitive screen when it’s pouring down, but the poor 800x480 resolution leaves the colors looking grainy and pretty dark throughout.

Moving through the phone is fairly nippy, thanks to the dual-core processor and you’ll find a selection of decent apps already pre-installed. On top of that you’ll also find the full range of Google apps already at your disposal and a handy Bluetooth Proximity app that gives your Bluetooth connection a bit of a boost when needed.

If you’re already a CAT customer, then you’ll be pleased to see the range of CAT-based apps available to you as well.

Where the B15 does let itself down is with its sometimes sub-par performance. The lowly 512MB of RAM is somewhat less than we’ve become accustomed to and is very noticeable when using more intensive apps, or trying to use multiple apps at the same time.

But then perhaps that is to be expected. Although priced in line with a typical mid-range device if you take off $150 or so for the ruggedisation then you’re very much into entry-level territory, and that is where the specs of this device lay. So in all it’s very much a love-hate relationship with the CAT B15. The device is fine for all basic tasks but nothing more ambitious and the camera is underwhelming.

But it absolutely excels in being a rugged, tough and durable smartphone that will be useable in nearly any situation, and that is the priority of a niche device such as this. If you can look past its faults and enjoy a hectic lifestyle, then the CAT B15 is a well-priced device in a market with relatively limited options.

But it absolutely excels in being a rugged, tough and durable smartphone that will be useable in nearly any situation.

But it absolutely excels in being a rugged, tough and durable smartphone that will be useable in nearly any situation.

Stock Android

You’ll find a vanilla version of Android 4.1 pre-installed on the phone without too much interference from CAT involved. There are some official CAT applications which are helpful if you regularly use the company’s store

Hard exterior            

Both the metallic and rubber edgings make sure that the B15 can withstand the harshest of conditions. It’s waterproof up to one meter, dustproof and can withstand being dropped on to a concrete floor without breaking.

Both the metallic and rubber edgings make sure that the B15 can withstand the harshest of conditions.

Both the metallic and rubber edgings make sure that the B15 can withstand the harshest of conditions.

Lack of power          

Despite the dual-core processor doing a good job at keeping things ticking over nicely, the 512MB of RAM lacks the power to help the B15 complete some more of the advanced tasks that are occasionally required

More storage

The 4GB of storage won’t be enough for people who want to put some media files on the phone, so you’ll need to use the B15’s micro SD slot to expand the memory up to 32GB

Wet, wet, wet

Although the display may include a rather basic 480 x 800 resolution, one of its outstanding features is its wet finger tracking software that lets you use the capacitive touchscreen no matter how wet it is

Dual-SIM

We don’t encounter many dual-SIM phones, so to see the B15 include this feature is a massive plus. It’s simple enough to change between the two if you aren’t sure how the process works too

Battery life

2000mAh battery copes well with the phone’s dual-SIM capabilities.

Good for

Being tough

There’s no need to worry if you drop your device on the floor or in water

Stock Android

Running a stock version of Jelly Bean means you get Android’s best features

Apps

There’s a good range of pre-installed apps included and more available on the Play store

Browsing

Chrome is readily available for you to use and browse the internet

Verdict

·         Ratings: 3/5

·         There’s no doubting the B15’s tough credentials, and though it lacks in certain areas should fulfill its main purpose well

Performance

·         Ratings: 3/5

·         Not slow by any means, but the lack of RAM hinders the phone occasionally

Design

·         Ratings: 3/5

·         It’s not sleek, obviously, but the rugged build lends it a reassuring toughness

Features

·         Ratings: 4/5

·         Stock Android is a big plus and the range of CAT-based apps are good too

Value for money

·         Ratings: 2/5

·         You do pay a small premium for the ruggedization, on top of average specs

Technical specs

·         Operating system: Android 4.1

·         Processor: Dual-core 1GHz processor

·         Memory: 512MB RAM, 4GB storage (expandable to 32GB)

·         Dimensions: 125 x 69.5 x 14.95mm

·         Weight: 170g

·         Display size: 4-inch

·         Display resolution: 800 x 480 pixels

·         Expansion slot: micro SD

 

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