Cat S75 review: the best rugged phone you can get

The Cat S75 is a perfect choice if you need a capable phone that can also keep up in more extreme environments

The Cat S75 rugged smartphone on a grey background
(Image credit: Future / Sam Cross)
T3 Verdict

If you're the kind of person who needs a rugged phone, look no further. This is a good phone, but the rugged capabilities it has are second to none, and make this a no-brainer for anyone who needs to subject their phone to the elements.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Built like a brick outhouse

  • +

    Brilliant battery life

  • +

    Bullitt Satellite Messaging built-in

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Slow charging speed

  • -

    Occasional software glitches

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While the best phones on the market are packed with top-spec technology, they're often not the most hardwearing things. Fashionable glass back panels are easy to smash, while the never-ending quest for thinness can lead to flimsy parts.

If you're rarely in any kind of extreme environment, that's manageable. If you are, though – maybe you enjoy hiking, or work in a trade with lots of potential phone-smashing implements around – that can be a problem.

Fortunately, the good folks at Cat have your back. They've got a great reputation for producing some of the most rugged phones on the market – like the Cat S62 Pro we reviewed a few years ago. Now, there's a new kid on the block – the Cat S75. Read on to find out if this is the handset for you.

Cat S75 review: Price and Availability

The Cat S75 is available to buy right now. You can pick it up for £549 in the UK direct from the Cat Phones website, and at select third-party retailers like Laptops Direct.

The Cat S75 isn't available in the USA – though it's almost identical to the Motorola Defy 2 which is launching there. That's set to retail around $599.

The Cat S75 rugged smartphone review

(Image credit: Future / Sam Cross)

Cat S75 review: Design and Features

From the first time you hold the Cat S75, there's a distinct sense of heft that is missing from other phones. At 268g it's not massively heavier than other handsets – next to my iPhone 13 with a case on, there's no noticeable difference – but it just feels a lot more substantial.

In fairness, that's with good reason. This phone has been designed to withstand a mountain of abuse. For starters, the bezels extend up beyond the screen. That means you can place it face down without fear of scratches, and gives an added layer of protection.

Volume and power buttons on the right hand side stick out ever so slightly, and are smooth in finish. On the left, a mappable action button sticks out and is textured for easy access, while a similarly textured SOS button sits flush on the top. More on that later.

The back panel is a single piece of plastic. It's fairly grippy, though I wouldn't have minded a bit of texture here, just to make it feel a little more secure. That's only broken by the camera bump and the cut-out for a fingerprint sensor.

The Cat S75 rugged smartphone review

(Image credit: Future / Sam Cross)

The camera array uses the same concept as the screen, with the housing protruding further than the camera glass. This means, although the bump itself sticks out, the cameras are still given a bit of protection – nice touch, Cat. It also houses a brilliantly bright flashlight which will light up even the darkest of locations.

There are three rear mounted cameras – a 50MP main sensor, with an 8MP ultrawide and a 2MP macro sensor. The front-facing camera is an 8MP unit, too.

Inside, a MediaTek Dimensity D930 processor keeps things running, with a 5,000mAh battery for juice. That's all brought to life by a 6.6-inch FHD+ display, with a 1080 x 2408 resolution and up to a 120Hz display. It's also cased in Corning Gorilla Glass Victus for extra protection.

The star feature here, though, is the inclusion of Bullitt Satellite Messenger. This requires a separate SIM card – included in the box – and allows you to message as if you had signal, even when you don't. It's similar – though very definitely not identical – to the Emergency SOS via Satellite feature found on the iPhone 14.

The Cat S75 rugged smartphone review

(Image credit: Future / Sam Cross)

Cat S75 review: Performance

Let's start with the satellite messaging, which works brilliantly. When testing, after a short period of setup – you'll need to line the handset up with a satellite – messages were sent and received within around 30 seconds. When you consider just how far they travel, that's not bad going!

For the phone as a whole, performance is good. Transitions are slick – no doubt thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate – and the overall experience feels like what you'd expect from an Android phone. It does run Android 12 out of the box though, not the most up-to-date Android 13. It's good for upgrades through to the upcoming Android 14.

Battery life is another astounding positive here. That 5,000mAh cell is remarkably efficient, losing only around 40% in a day of use. It should comfortably last two days at that rate, which is really good going. You'll want it to though, because charging is far from the fastest we've seen. In my experience, a full 0-100% refuel would take just shy of two and a half hours, so be sure to plan accordingly.

I did also try out some mobile gaming on the Cat S75. I know, it's not a gaming phone, but it is a beast, and I figured it may have some hidden talents. And while it's not as smooth as a dedicated handset like the Asus ROG Phone 7, it gave a fairly good account of itself. If you're a hardcore gamer, you won't be satisfied, but it's more than enough for the rest of us.

Finally, the cameras. This is an interesting one. The main sensor is relatively strong – not compared to the top phones on the market, but good enough that you'll be able to snap a few decent pictures without fear of a dreadful end result. I also got some decent results with the macro sensor. Again, it's not the best we've seen, but it's likely good enough for snapping something up close and putting it on Instagram.

One thing that's really cool is the underwater camera. Once in this setting, the screen will lock, using the volume up and down buttons to press the shutter and cycle between photo and video capture. It works reasonably well, although the shots I took did miss focus. That's a shame, but with the locked screen there's also no way to alter that, so you may not be able to get the shot you want.

The Cat S75 rugged smartphone review

(Image credit: Future / Sam Cross)

Cat S75 review: Verdict

There's no getting around the fact that the Cat S75 is a bit of a beast. It's hardwearing, robust, and ready to handle just about anything you can throw at it. If you live the kind of life that could also use those adjectives, this is probably a great option for you.

If not, though, it might be a tougher sell. The Cat S75 isn't a bad phone, but there are certainly options out there with a more conventionally appealing spec sheet for similar money.

With that being said, I still think it's worth consideration. The Satellite Messaging functionality alone is worth the cost of entry, and gives it an edge that nothing else has.

Sam Cross
Staff Writer

Online news writer at, Sam has five years of experience in online and print journalism, with work featured in publications like Metro and Last Word on Sports. After years writing about music and football, Sam now turns his hand to bringing you news about new phones, smart home products, smart watches, laptops and TVs. Sam is a longtime fan and user of Apple products, including iPhones, MacBooks and Apple Watches.He’s also T3’s resident football expert, bringing you everything you need to know about the big games, including how to watch them. In his spare time, Sam is a keen guitarist, watch lover and (very) amateur golfer.