REVIEW | Cat 52 Rugged phone


Rugged does not mean big and ugly, and the latest Cat 52 phone could pass for any of the newest modern devices with one big bonus. Rain nor shine nor snow nor water will stop that call or picture or whatever it is you want to do, as the Cat 52 is built tough from the outside in.

Steven Ambrose tried to fault the Cat 52 with some shock and water tests and came away impressed.

The mobile phone has become an indispensable part of modern life, and they go everywhere you go and what if where you go is simply the wrong place for fragile glass and metal or plastic smartphones. The solution is a ruggedized device, which up to know meant something big, tough, ugly, and merely unwieldy in regular use. The new CAT 52 solves all that with a handsome tough and rugged device that can be used everywhere from office to mountaintop.

The hardware

Cat branded smartphones are chunky, rugged devices aimed at construction and other related workers. The launch of the Cat S52 unveiled a device that retained CAT exemplary ruggedness, but was aimed at a broader market with a sleek consumer-friendly design.

The Cat S52 does not look like a tough phone. The Cat 52 is slim at 9.69mm and light at 210g. A modern upmarket aluminium frame with a textured rubber back gives the S52 an upmarket look. The large bezels, by current standards, provide the 5.65-inch screen with a somewhat conservative look.

The screen is an IPS panel with HD+ resolution (1,440 x 720 pixels, 285ppi), decent specifications which in actual use offer excellent brightness and wide viewing angles. One key point is that the CAT 52 is usable with wet fingers and even with reasonably thick gloves. The screen has an extra thick Gorilla Glass face which makes the screen especially impact resistant compared to standard phones. The additional ruggedness is not noticeable in daily use, and the screen is responsive while being super tough.

On the right side of the body, there is a textured power button and volume up/down controls, while the SIM/MicroSD card tray is behind a door on the left. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top, and a speaker grille at the bottom, next to the USB-C port. The Audio quality from the speaker is decent for handsfree calls.

The Cat S52 ticks all the ruggedness boxes. The IP68 rating means the handset resists sand, dust and dirt, and can handle water to 1.5m depth for up to 35 minutes. The Cat S52 is also MIL-STD 810G compliant, which means it can handle thermal shock, vibration, humidity and salt mist. The handset has also been drop-tested on every side and corner 30 times from 1.5 meters onto a concrete surface. I tried to put many of these to the test; however, either I was not brave enough, or the CAT 52 is tough, I am leaning toward robust.

A mid-range MediaTek Helio P35 chipset drives the Cat S52. It has 4GB of RAM and an average 64GB of internal storage; additional storage can be added via a micro Sd card. All the LTE bands are supported, and as a bonus, there is an FM radio built-in

The camera

The Cat S52’s primary camera is a 12MP which is competitive in the midrange and better than most rugged phones. The camera offers a Sony sensor with 1.4μm pixels, an f/1.8 wide-angle lens and image stabilization for video shooting. In my testing the Image quality is suitable for a midrange phone and in good light can even be very good, the camera struggles with low light. The front camera is an 8MP unit that offers very acceptable selfies.

The battery is a 3,100mAh unit with fast charging support. There is no wireless charging. The battery life is reasonable for the price and size of the battery but a top-up around 4 in the afternoon is necessary to get you through the rest of the day.

The software

Android 9 is available out of the box, and CAT has promised an upgrade to Android 10 shortly. The CAT 52 is standard Android which is a good thing as the standard Android interface is clean and easy to use.

The is a fair amount of pre-installed software. As a shoutout to the technical nature of the device, there is the Toolbox, which offers a selection of apps categorized in folders named, Business Tools, Outdoors Construction, Farming, Rugged Tools. Many may not be relevant to your usage, and they can be deleted and uninstalled to save space.


The Cat S52 performs well for a mid-range rugged smartphone. It won’t, however, break any speed records. Apps load quickly and operate smoothly, and switching between apps is smooth with little lag. For the intended audience, its perfectly adequate but the gaming crew should look elsewhere.

Overall performance is more than acceptable in the context of midrange phones and no app I generally use had an issue running smoothly.


The CAT 52 looks and feels like a solid midrange to high end device. You don’t have to be ashamed to leave in on the table in any situation, yet out in the field it is a solid rugged and pretty much unbreakable. Dropping the CAT 52 standing on it and getting it wet is no problem at all.

Performance is excellent; the camera works well, and the pricing is also right for the market. If a workhorse device than can move from building site to the lounge is what you need, then the CAT 52 is the right device for you.

Available from Dealers and networks countrywide for a recommended retail of R11,999.00.

Steven Ambrose | Techhuman | @ambio | mail me |



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here