Bullitt is turning smartphones into toolboxes

Given the fact that we already rely on them for pretty much everything else, why not just go all in and turn our smartphones in to literal toolboxes? Bullitt, the UK-based licensed phone manufacturer behind those Kodak handsets was on hand at Mobile World Congress this week, showing off a pair of super rugged handsets.

They’re not for everyone, sure, but in a world where most phones feature similar designs built around the same components, it’s always nice to see something potential useful that’s out of the smartphone mainstream. US-based heavy machinery manufacturer Caterpillar was always a weird choice for a smartphone partner, but hey, it worked for the CAT S60.

The phone actually racked up some pretty decent reviews, becoming one of the more noted ultra-rugged smartphones on the market. So, naturally, the company’s back at it with the CAT S61. It’s not a major departure from its predecessor, as the name clearly implies, but it does bring a couple of new tricks to the toolbox.

The Flir-designed thermal camera is back and slightly improved. It’s able to get heat images for a broad range of temperatures, from -20°C to 400°C. The image is higher res this time and can be streamed through Facebook Live — which has to have some sort of practical application, I suppose. Like I said, this all pretty hyper focused stuff, and it’s true that you can just buy a Flir camera plug-in, but some professional definitely wants that functionality built-into a phone.

A rep tells me it’s great for checking how a horse’s leg muscles are reacting to new horseshoes, so there’s that. Also on-board is a laser point that lets you measure and triangular distances — apparently the most requested feature on the S60. A built-in in air monitor, meanwhile, could also come in on a job site, to detect noxious fumes.

And, naturally, the thing is super rugged, capable of 1.8 meter drops and being submerged in water for up to an hour. So, too, is the company’s other new handset, the Land Rover Explore, which continues the company’s tradition of unusual partnership deals. The phone takes some design cues from the car market and adds some solid features for hikers, including a 4,000mAh battery augmented by modular 3,600mAh back plate.

The add-on also features an additional GPS module, boosting the phone’s signal for when you’re out of range of cell towers. The phone ships with that, along with an even more rugged rubberized case that can be clipped to a backpack via carabiner.

Both phones are pretty okay looking, at least as far as super rugged handsets go. The company says they’re designed for every day use as much as in the field, but you’ve really got to be committed to the cause to carry these things around, day to day.

Of the two, only the CAT is coming to the States for sure.