I love a tough phone. And I love a cheap phone: There need to be a lot more of both around. The CAT S42 is a tough, cheap phone. On paper it’s something I should really dig … and no, you don’t have to pardon the pun. This thing was made from the ground up to slide comfortably into both a work site and an expense report.
Here’s What We Like
- Unbelievably tough
- Glove mode is cool
And What We Don’t
- Terrible battery life, no fast charge
- Bad software performance
- No fingerprint reader
Unfortunately, the S42 leans too much on the “cheap” part of that see-saw. Its extremely poor performance, bad battery life, and a few annoying design choices mean it falls well below the mark of even adequate reliability. I can’t fault CAT for the phone’s tough-as-nails design and build, which is truly remarkable. But the bottom line is that this isn’t a phone you’d want to actually use, no matter how tough it is.
Spend your money on a quality budget phone, like the Pixel 4a or the iPhone SE, and get an Otterbox case for it. You’ll have a much better time than trying to work around the CAT S42’s shortcomings.
Table of Contents
, and I wish more phones had them, so I could quickly activate a flashlight or start and stop music without looking at the screen. The S42’s extra button can do this, through a dedicated section of the Settings menu. By default, you can assign it to the flashlight, answer/hang up, open notifications, or the recent apps button, or launch an app of your choosing. You can do that with either a double-tap or a long-press, and both programming options are available at once.
Oddly, there’s no option to assign media functions, nor is there a way to give a single button press a function. I worked around this with, but I shouldn’t have to. The lack of single-press setting might be put down to sensitivity—can’t have it activate in a jean pocket, perhaps?
The tough build has one more trick up its sleeve: The screen can work when wet and when wearing gloves. The water detection seems to be an always-on function, but glove detection merely detects all touches, not just capacitive (skin) contact. It seems to work pretty well! Water will still affect detection quality, but the glove mode (which you have to activate via the settings) means you can use it even when your hands are all wrapped up.
It’s just a shame that the screen is so dim. Despite the fact that it’s an LCD, it was harder to read in direct sunlight than a quality AMOLED. That’s one for the con column if you’re planning on using it outside most of the time.
. The S42 doesn’t appear to have any kind of rapid charging capability, so once the battery’s drained, it’s going to have to sit on a charging cable for hours in order to get back to full. This isn’t the kind of thing you want to hear if you’re planning on 12 hours of contract work, using battery-hungry GPS navigation to get around town.
In contrast, call quality is surprisingly good, both on the phone’s integrated speaker and over Bluetooth. Considering the rest of the phone’s performance, I was expecting it to be sub-par, but I can’t knock the LTE reception indoors or outdoors.
But hey, CAT isn’t pushing this phone towards shutterbugs. As long as you can accurately get the text on a receipt or an invoice, and maybe shoot a selfie or two during off hours, the cameras will do fine. Just expect to do a lot of work in post-processing to make them “post-worthy,” and wait around a bit for autofocus to lock on.