Smartphones with the ability of taking a hit or two are steadily growing in popularity. The Xperia Z proved that tough smartphones didn’t need to have pathetic hardware under all that protective exterior. But even with the IP57 certifications, phones like the Xperia Z and GS4 Active are not what you’d call rugged devices. Sure they can take handle themselves in water and take a drop or two, but you’d never drive an SUV over one, or something along the same lines (not that it is a common coccurence). That’s where the Bullit Mobile B15 comes. The company has licensed the phone as a CAT-branded product, as the Caterpillar B15, so it’ll reach out to a much wider audience. Is the B15 really worthy of the CAT name? Let’s find out.
Design and Build
The Caterpillar B15 instantly strikes the eye as rugged and purposeful. The designers haven’t bothered with trying to make it a beauty queen, and all the better for it – unlike the broken personality of the GS4 Active which tries to be both appealing yet rugged. The Caterpillar B15 phone is a bit on the bulky side with a weight of around 180 grams, but that just reinforces its stance as a durable and rugged device. The sides of the front bezel have a bit of silver garnish on them, which we think slightly breaks the whole rugged appeal of the device. The back of the device looks like a big sole of a CAT working boot. There’s a huge and unapologetic CAT logo too, so if you’re a fan of discreet minimalism, you’re going to be disappointed. The right side of the Caterpillar B15 has bold-colored buttons that look like they can take some heavy mashing. The sides of the device also have some bare screws, which we think really just serve an aesthetic purpose. We would’ve loved for the design of the Caterpillar B15 to be modular, like a proper tool. Caterpillar claim that the smartphone can survive drops on concrete from up to 1.8 metres, and is good for around half an hour underwater. However, independent tests conducted by review sites have had no troubles with the phone after dropping it from 3 metres and leaving it under water overnight. Make no mistake, this is a seriously tough smartphone.
The Caterpillar B15 sports a 4 inch WVGA display using a LCD unit. The display is really basic and doesn’t seem to be using IPS either. The colors and sharpness of the display are reasonable but it’s really the viewing angles that disappoint. For a utilitarian device the smartphone could’ve benefited a little from a anti-sunglare coating as well. Thankfully, Caterpillar B15’s screen is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass. The phone has wet finger tracking, so you can use it without fuss in the rain or after you’ve fished it out of a swimming pool.
Hardware and Performance
Armed with a dual-core Mediatek 6577 chip clocked at 1.2GHz and 512 megabytes of RAM, the Caterpillar B15 is hardly a Galaxy S4 competitor. But despite this bargain basement processor, the performance of the UI is perfectly fluid thanks to the stock Android JellyBean 4.1.2 that comes with the phone. And because the phone has the Mediatek chip, it has dual-SIM capabilities as well.
The device has a 5MP rear-facing camera that does an acceptable job of capturing the occasional still. Really, this device was never meant to be a serious cameraphone, but what strikes us as unusual is the designers’ decision to exclude an LED flash. Not only does that limit the device’s low-light photography abilities, but deals a serious blow to the device’s pragmatic claims.
Software and UI
The Caterpillar B15 runs on stock Android JellyBean 4.1.2, with the only visible bloatware being a link to Caterpillar’s website. Thanks to the stock Android skin, the UI is wonderfully fluid and lag-free. Caterpillar B15 is really is a no-frills, gimmick-free smartphone.
The Caterpillar B15 is a very focused device. It doesn’t try to be glamorous or a fashion accessory. We’re happy that the designers took a no-frills approach to this device and didn’t cave under the pressure to make it a mass-market friendly device by garnishing it with a gimmicky UI and colorful body shells. If you’re looking for an honest experience in rugged and reliable smartphone ownership, the Caterpillar B15 really deserves a serious consideration. It might not be seriously powerful, but for people constantly on the move in need for a device that can survive the elements, the Caterpillar B15 is a wonderfully realized device.