Would you buy an antibacterial smartphone?

26 Jan 2021

The Cat S42 rugged smartphone. Image: Cat phones

Cat has enhanced its rugged smartphone range with the inclusion of a device that has an antimicrobial coating.

Caterpillar is best known for its Cat utility vehicles. The company’s stark yellow and black branding is frequently seen on building sites, around quarries and mines, and anywhere that work such as construction and excavation is being done.

Its reputation as a heavy duty brand is carried through Cat phones, which are built with the same durability and resilience in mind. But the company’s latest device is resistant to much smaller stressors.

The Cat S42 is said to be the world’s first fully antibacterial smartphone. The exterior of the device has been treated with an active antimicrobial agent to inhibit bacteria cells from replicating. According to the phone-maker, device testing showed a reduction in bacteria by more than 80pc within 15 minutes and up to 99.9pc within 24 hours.

‘Throughout 2020 we have consistently been driving awareness of the importance of mobile hygiene’

Researchers have found potentially pathogenic bacteria to be common on personal devices such as mobile phones. When these devices are so often in use – and sometimes held right up to our faces – this can become a cause for concern as a contributing factor to the spread of infection in a community.

The Cat S42 aims to address this with antimicrobial additive technology from Biomaster, which uses silver ions during manufacturing. These ions bind to bacteria cell walls, disrupting growth and preventing the cell from producing energy. They also interrupt the cell’s DNA, preventing any replication.

Cat phones are also designed to be resistant to water, dust and dirt, so the S42 can be thoroughly washed with soap, sanitiser or even bleach to ensure its cleanliness. The smartphone has been tested to survive drops on every side and corner, negating the need for any protective accessories that can trap and accumulate bacteria if not regularly cleaned.

A woman’s hands washing a Cat smartphone in a sink under a running tap.

The Cat S42 rugged smartphone. Image: Cat phones

A key target market for the new rugged smartphone from Cat are first responders and key workers involved keeping people safe and healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Throughout 2020 we have consistently been driving awareness of the importance of mobile hygiene for us all, but this is vital for those among our customers working within a health or social care setting, and those visiting multiple sites for their job,” said Peter Cunningham, VP of product portfolio at Bullitt Group, the global licensee for Cat phones.

The S42 will allow users in clinical and other settings to have a rugged device that can be washed and sanitised regularly, while the added antibacterial protection adds an extra layer of safety. “Such an important feature in the current climate,” Cunningham added.

Other specs for the Android-based device include 3GB RAM and 32GB ROM with the option to extend available storage with a micro-SD card. The S42 is equipped with a 13MP rear camera and 5MP front-facing camera.

The five-inch HD+ display is optimised for outdoor use with a touchscreen that can be used with wet fingers or when wearing gloves. As well as Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC capabilities, the S42 includes a waterproof 5mm audio jack.

With a suggested retail price of €249, the antibacterial version of the Cat S42 will be available early this year, while the antimicrobial Biomaster treatment will be rolled out to all other devices in the Cat phones range later this year.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.