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[Hands-on] The Cat S61 is a more refined rugged smartphone

The Cat S60 of 2016 was a decidedly interesting phone, and it was good in context. The Cat S60 was not intended to compete with a Samsung Galaxy or an iPhone—it was big, heavy, and had a built-in thermal camera. The new Cat S61 is much the same, but the design is more refined, and the thermal camera is more powerful. It still feels more like a tool than a traditional smartphone, but whereas the Cat S60 was a cheap Craftsman hammer from Sears, the Cat S61 is a high-end professional tool.

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The Cat S61 packs an improved FLIR thermal camera and rugged design

The Cat-branded S60 was a very interesting phone, even if it wasn't the best phone for most people. This phone was the first and only Android device to have an integrated FLIR thermal camera, but it won't be the only one for long. Now, Cat is following it up with the Cat S61. It has a lot in common with the S60 (as the name implies), but all the specs have gotten a boost—even the thermal camera.

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FLIR One Pro review: An excellent mobile thermal camera, for a price

FLIR's name is essentially synonymous with thermal cameras from cheap mobile sensors all the way up to industrial and military applications. The company first got into mobile devices with an iPhone-specific camera case and later a dongle. FLIR One came to Android a few years ago with a microUSB-equipped version, but that was right at the dawn of USB Type-C. Consequently, that first camera became obsolete quickly. Now there's a new FLIR One, actually two of them. The third-gen FLIR One costs $199 and the FLIR One Pro will run you $399.

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FLIR announces updated FLIR One thermal cameras for Android with USB Type-C, a revamped app, and more

The first gen FLIR One was only for iPhone, but the second gen had Android support. The problem: in those days microUSB still reigned supreme, and it was non-reversible. That meant some phones had the port facing the "wrong" way to use the FLIR One dongle. Today, FLIR is announcing a new third generation FLIR One thermal camera that adopts the Type-C port. There are plenty of other changes, too.

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FLIR announces third-gen FLIR One smartphone thermal camera with USB Type-C, plus drone thermal cameras

FLIR has been dipping its toes in mobile over the last few years with products like the FLIR One and Cat S60 smartphone. The FLIR One that came out a couple years ago added thermal vision to (almost) any smartphone, but it was microUSB. Not all phones had the port facing the "right" way, but now the company is fixing that and getting with the times. The third-gen FLIR One is official, and it has a USB Type-C port.

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Cat S60 review: The only phone that gives you Predator vision

The Cat S60 is the very first Cat phone we've reviewed on Android Police, and it should be obvious why. These are niche devices that mainstream consumers mostly don't care about. They can take a beating, but they're also big and heavy. The S60 isn't necessarily different in that respect, but it does have one very interesting feature that other phones don't—this is the first phone with a built-in FLIR thermal camera. It would be silly to compare the Cat S60 (manufactured under license by Bullitt Group) directly to a phone like the Galaxy S7 or HTC 10, although the $600 price tag is in the same ballpark as those phones.

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Cat S60 Thermal Camera Phone Pre-Orders Starting In June Along With SDK Availability

The Cat S60 was announced earlier this year as the first phone to have one of FLIR's thermal camera sensors built right in. The phone does look a little bulbous, but it's not bad compared to a lot of Cat's other rugged phones. Anyone looking to pick up this unusual device should start saving now. Pre-orders are going to start next month.

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Video: Quick Look At The World's First Thermal Camera Smartphone, The CAT S60 (MWC 2016)

A thermal camera smartphone may not sound like the most useful thing to you in the world, but there's little doubt a niche market for such a thing probably exists, not to mention the undeniable cool factor. And by cool, I mean hot. As in heat. Temperature jokes. The CAT S60 (our announcement post here) features the same thermal imaging sensor found in FLIR's FLIR One dongles for Android and iOS devices, and that's a damn good system - we reviewed it.

By slapping it inside a smartphone, FLIR has eliminated one of the major complaints about the device.

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The Cat S60 Is The First Phone With A FLIR Thermal Camera Built-In

The FLIR One thermal camera is pretty neat, but it's not exactly convenient to plug it into your USB port all the time. Now, Cat has announced the first phone that has FLIR's thermal imaging technology built-in, the Cat S60. The specs actually look a bit more in-step with modern Android phones than I'd expect, and it has all the usual Cat ruggedized features.

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[Deal Alert] Thermal Imaging At A Discounted Price - FLIR ONE Infrared Camera For Android On Sale For $211 At Amazon, $40 off

The FLIR ONE infrared camera accessory is a gadget that few people have heard of and even fewer people really need. It's a cool little device that attaches to the MicroUSB port on your Android smartphone and transforms your device into a heat sensing camera. Ryan here at Android Police reviewed one a while back and came away pretty impressed.

I personally have absolutely no practical use for an infrared camera. That doesn't mean I don't want one! Getting to play with a thermal imaging camera would make me feel like a Mythbuster or James Bond (he's almost as cool as a Mythbuster).

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