Cat shakes up SA’s rugged smartphone market

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The rugged smartphone market is set to heat up in South Africa, with vendors bringing new devices into the country.

A rugged smartphone is a device which is completely sealed within a thick housing to protect it against damage from, among other things, water, shock, dust and vibration.

This week, ruggedised smartphone maker Cat introduced its Cat S62 Pro to the South African market. A Cat phone is a ruggedised phone designed, manufactured and sold by Bullitt Group under the licence of Caterpillar.

The range includes smartphones running on the Android operating system, standard feature phones and accessories. The first phone, the Cat B25, was announced and released in 2013.

The Cat S62 Pro smartphone has a suggested retail price of R15 000 and is available through multiple retailers and operators.

“Compared with its predecessor, the Cat S62 Pro is 12% more compact, with a 10% bigger screen. It is faster, more powerful and incredibly tough, making it the ultimate work phone,” says the company in a statement.

“It achieves and surpasses an ingress protection rating of IP68 and US military standard Mil Spec 810H. It has undergone rigorous testing, including repeated drop tests from 1.8 metres onto steel, with multiple drops onto every side and corner, as well as extensive water-, dirt- and dust-proof, temperature extreme survivability, and vibration and tumble tests,” it adds.

In July, French mobile phone and ruggedised mobile technology company Crosscall introduced new mobile devices in SA, targeting outdoor enthusiasts.

“South Africa is an important market for Cat phones with a strong mix of workstyle- and lifestyle-led customers who have more demanding needs of their mobile devices,” says Phil Goodwin, sales director for Sub-Saharan Africa at Bullitt Mobile, in an e-mail interview with ITWeb.

He adds that the company has been in SA since 2013.

“Understanding our customers and giving them what they need in a mobile phone is core to our business. Our global customer surveys, well supported in South Africa, give us in-depth insight into who our customers are what they need from their phones.

“Our heartland has traditionally been in verticals like construction, engineering, agriculture, security, logistics and all associated trades, but we have also earned a strong following in lifestyle-led verticals – outdoor and sporting pursuits. Over time we’ve evolved our portfolio to reflect three core segments within our customer base.”

Goodwin explains the updated Cat rugged smartphone range is made up of three models that suit different users.

“Cat S42 is the essential work phone for daily hard working conditions and is ideal for those who need a solid all-round long-lasting rugged phone. This is favoured by first responders, mechanics, plumbers, electricians and users in tough work conditions.

“Cat S52 is the slimmest rugged smartphone available and bridges a gap between work and play. Cat S62 Pro is the ultimate work phone and features next-generation thermal imaging. Combined with the MyFLIR PRO App, this smartphone provides incredible tools to users in various industries for detection and diagnoses through thermal imaging. The use cases for this phone are from medical to construction. Cat is very excited to see how the S62 Pro is used in South Africa.”

According to the company, all of the phones have a long-life battery, tough screens backed with a 24-month warranty, and are drop-, water-, scratch- and dust-proof.

It plans to expand into specific market segments that can make use of a tough smartphone that is built to last. These include agriculture, wildlife, security, construction and mining.

“The current pandemic has reminded us all of the importance of resilience – both as individuals and in our consumer choices,” Goodwin says.

Cat is also actively engaging with businesses to demonstrate the value of the phone in the field and in enterprise.

Asked if Cat competes with mainstream smartphone makers like Apple, Samsung and Huawei, the spokesperson says: “No, not directly. Rugged phones fulfil a need in a rapidly-growing market segment as consumers look for devices that are built to last.

“Everyone has experienced the trauma of a broken screen or has dropped their phone in water. With Cat rugged smartphones, you can lose that fear. You don’t even need to buy a phone cover. Research has shown that users are wanting a device that is tougher and more durable to mishaps or misuse.”

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