CAT B15 Phone Review

CAT B15 Phone Review

  Over the years there have been a number of rugged phones released. Most of them fairly ugly and simplistic, often lacking decent specifications or the latest versions of Android. Sure, there have been a few water resistant phones released such as the Xperia Z and the Motorola Defy range, but none of these are …

Review Overview

Build Quality
Value For Money
Ease of Use
Battery Life
Performance
Camera

Total Score

Summary : A rugged phone that isn't the ugliest thing you have ever seen, packing a near stock Android experience with decent every day performance.

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Over the years there have been a number of rugged phones released. Most of them fairly ugly and simplistic, often lacking decent specifications or the latest versions of Android. Sure, there have been a few water resistant phones released such as the Xperia Z and the Motorola Defy range, but none of these are particularly rugged. Then comes the CAT B15.

Featuring Ip6 and 7 ratings, meaning it is “waterproof up to 1M for 30 minutes and impervious to dust”. It even has Jelly Bean (4.1) thrown in for good measure.

Not bad, right? Whether you’re a bit of a clutz like myself, or maybe you happen to work underwater whilst sawing down some trees, or even if you just want a slightly sturdy phone to take on holiday, the CAT B15 looks like it could certainly be something to consider.

Price & Where To Buy

Price & Where To Buy

In the UK the going price seems to be around £280 inclusive of VAT, and is available form the usual places such as Clove, Handtec, and Expansys.

For a more extensive listing, especially for your own region, CAT have a rather useful page listing, what I presume to be, it’s approved suppliers.

In The Box

In The Box

Your pretty standard affair here, you get a region specific charger, USB cable, quick start guide and obviously the phone. You do get a pair of headphones, but they’re really not even worth contemplating.

In the box contents

In the box contents

Specifications

Specifications

Release-Date: March, 2013
Dimensions: 69.5 x 125 x 14.95 millimetres
Mass: 170 grams (battery included)
Software_Environment
Embedded_Operating+System: Google Android 4.1.2
Microprocessor,;Chipset
CPU_Clock: 1000 MHz
CPU: MediaTek MT6577 
Memory,-Storage:capacity
RAM+capacity: 512 MiB
ROM+capacity: 3.7 GiB
Display
Display-Type: Supported
Display-Diagonal: 4 “
Display:Resolution: 480 x 800
Sound
Microphone(s): mono
Loudspeaker(s): mono
Audio_Output: 3.5mm
Cellular_Phone
Cellular:Networks: GSM850, GSM900, GSM1800, GSM1900, UMTS850 (B5), UMTS900 (B8), UMTS1900 (B2), UMTS2100 (B1)
Cellular_Data;Links: GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA
Call_Alert: 64 -chord melody
Vibrating+Alert: Supported
Speakerphone+: Supported
Control_Peripherals
Positioning+Device: Multi-touch screen
Primary;Keyboard: Not supported
Directional+Pad: Not supported
Scroll;Wheel: Not supported
Interfaces
Expansion+Slots: microSD, microSDHC, TransFlash
USB: USB 2.0 client, 480Mbit/s
micro-USB
Bluetooth: Supported
Wireless_LAN: 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Infrared_Gate: Not supported
Multimedia:Telecommunication
Analog-Radio;Receiver: FM radio (87.5-108MHz) with RDS
Digital+Media:Broadcast:Tuner: Not supported
Satellite;Navigation
Built-in_GPS-module: Supported
Complementary;GPS-Services: Assisted GPS, QuickGPS, Geotagging
Built-in-Digital+Camera
Main:Camera: 5 MP
Autofocus_(AF): Supported
Optical-Zoom: 1 x
Macro_Mode: Supported
Secondary_Camera: 0.3 MP
Additional;Details
Built-in:accelerometer: Supported
Ingress;Protection;Level: IP67
Battery: removable
Battery+Capacity: 2000 mAh

Device Layout

Device Layout

The back of the device is actually really quite grippy and seems to have some kind of rubberised coating on it. The ridges are quite deep and far apart, allowing a decent grip even with slippery(ish) hands

There is one issue that has been hard to capture on camera, but due to the design of the USB port I have found that not all cables work; some are too wide and do not quite connect far enough in. Ones from my HTC devices work, but not my Motorola or some third party cables. This was a bit confusing to start with and may have lead to me being rather frustrated that it wouldn’t charge of my usual cable… Go me!

Software Overview

Software Overview

One of the biggest plus points for me has to be that the B15 runs almost perfectly stock android. There are a few tweaks (and inconsistencies) due to the dual SIM setup, and a couple of short-cuts that forward you off to CAT websites.

The customisations they have put on are actually pretty cool. My favourite, whilst rather simple, is the ability to change the status bar colours for the images of the different SIMs. Sure, there are only 4 options, but it makes it very clear what account has signal and where your data connection is coming from.

The dialler has also been modified a little as well, as you would expect, to allow you to pick which account you want to actually call from – again this has your accent colour next to the SIM selector so you can pick quicker than reading.

The last noticeable difference, from my point of view, is the auto on and off feature. More phones need this. It’s quite simple in what it does, but it makes a whole lot of sense. You can set a time that it will automatically turn off, say 23:30, and back on, say 06:58. No more annoying phone calls whilst you try to sleep after passing out in a less than coherent state. Score! I do believe it will also let you disable it if you are using the phone at off time.

There are also quick settings in the notification drop down which makes changing a few settings a bit easier. This is set into 3 pages so you get a fair few options.

As I said, there is a bit of an inconsistency in one of the changes they have made to stock Android. They have made a nice change to the lock screen to show what networks you are connected too, but in the status bar it only shows what is in SIM slot 1. Inconsistent, yet minor, but rather noticeable.

Other than that, it is pretty much stock Jelly Bean, with the Google Play apps thrown in – again another plus point.

Camera

Camera

I initially wrote a quite bad review of the camera as every image I was taking was turning out rather poor with a horrible purple ting to the corners and the colours being incredibly washed out. Luckily, it turns out I have turned on a setting called ZSD or Zero Shutter Delay. In short, do not use this unless you really have to – It is probably the second worst camera feature ever (the first being digital zoom).

Anyway, back to the camera. In daylight it works pretty well for a fairly basic 5MP snapper. I did get some issues with focusing, but I think that may have been more to me. Colour reproduction was quite good, provided there was not too much going on in the picture, and the contrast ratio was a little out of it at times.

For everyday use, I’d say it’s definitely usable. If you’re just going to post stuff to twitter and Facebook, or even that Instagram thing, you won’t be disappointed. Not bad for a 5MP camera.

I was surprised to see one additional feature in here. HDR actually makes an appearance and seems to work rather well improving images. It is actually quite quick as well, so there is less of a ghosting effect then can be had from other devices.

Display

Display

Initially, I was very impressed with the screen. It’s viewing angels aren’t too bad for what is a lowish mid range phone. Everything seems to display nice and crisp, and the colours are more or less what I would want.

Outside is a different issue entirely. The screen just doesn’t seem to be bright enough to be able to read outside, even with cloud cover. You can make out shapes or very large text at a normal distance, but if you want to check your twitter stream, or even line up a picture, expect to get very close and find a bit of shade.

Performance

Performance

The B15 was actually quite surprising in terms of performance as well. It is perfect for day to day use; handling web, mail, and phone calls with no issue at all. But as you would no doubt expect for a device with a less than awesome 512mb of RAM.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun at all though. Asphalt 7 certainly runs reasonably smoothly, as do games such as Gunslugs and Pocket League 2.

The OS as a whole is very responsive and I have not yet suffered any input lag, apart from when installing a few apps during first set-up. The touch screen is really quite decent and accurate, but it does suffer if you are exploiting it’s water resistance whilst trying to change song when in the shower… As you’d expect. It is also gorilla glass, of some variety anyway, so is quite well protected there as well. The we finger tracking does work if you are just outside in the rain, or have wet fingers for some other reason.

The speakers are a little weak though. Sure, this is expected from rugged or waterproof phones to an extent as they need to protect the electronics, but I can’t help but feel corners have been cut here. The ear speaker seems to suffer from distortion with quite little volume, and the rear speaker is exceptionally tinny and not really suitable for listening to music, but more for being used as a speaker phone.

The battery seemed to be a bit of a mixed bag. likely due to me using it fairly hard and with both SIMs running. The 2000mAh battery does lasts a day comfortably, but with the scheduled reboot on, it seemed to have a massive drop come the morning.

It’s also quite hard to put a value on how well it performs for day to day use, so I shall now have to resort to benchmarks…

Modification Status

Modification Status

I’d be tempted to leave this alone. I have done a bit of research into rooting and it is not as simple as some processes that I am used to, and may not be for the faint hearted. It does seem that there may be root out there, as people are discussing it here on XDA-Developers, and user rayoo has made a decent guide on page 6 or so.

I haven’t been able to find any custom ROMs yet, so rooting becomes an argument between stopping any future updates from the manufacturer vs root abilities. I wouldn’t bother, personally.

Good Points

Good Points

  • Waterproof and dustproof
  • Bounces surprisingly well from a fall at waist height
  • Dual SIM
  • Actually runs Jelly Bean
  • Stock like experience
  • Scheduled on and off is pretty awesome.

Bad Points

Bad Points

  • Stupid USB Port
  • Screen in sunlight is not bright enough
  • Only 512mb RAM
  • Too heavy to be used as an exercise phone.

Conclusion

One of the better rugged phones that I have had the pleasure of using. The stock feel and fluidity of the phone when in use is a pleasant surprise. If you work on a building site, or have a habit of dropping your phone from your face when on a call, this could well be a decent option. It isn’t the slimmest device on the market, but due to the aluminium and rubber surround, you wouldn’t really expect it to be. Don’t expect to be running the latest games released on it, but for everyday tasks it performs incredibly well.

About Stu Alsford

IT Support by day, gamer by night. Happily married father of two who plays far too many games, likes the shiny phones, and starting out with app development.
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