CAT S22 Flip joins the latest ‘new’ trend of flip phones. It takes a slightly different path than say Samsung Z Flip 3 or Motorola Razr. The CAT S22 Flip is a rugged smartphone in the traditional clamshell form factor from about 15 years ago.
There is a market for people who want just a basic phone, especially in a harsh working environment. Construction workers, oil riggers, and farmers come to mind. These people want a phone that is mostly for calls or use it as a walkie-talkie. But when the need arises they want access to the internet and Google Play Store apps. CAT S22 Flip is a phone for these people in mind.
Bullitt group sent AndroidHeadlines the CAT S22 Flip for review. So let’s get the unboxing done out of the way so we can test drive this unique rugged clamshell smartphone.
Unboxing the CAT S22 Flip
Most unboxing experiences are very ho-hum these days. This is because the form factor is not very different between various smartphones. I was excited to see a tiny box pop out of the envelope. I haven’t seen such a small phone box in quite a long time.
Flip-up the cardboard and you see the CAT S22 Flip, underneath the fold is a power brick, USB-C cable, and a headphone jack dongle along with some paperwork. There’s no SIM tool and we’ll get to that in a bit. Extremely minimal and fully functional packaging, just like the phone itself, I guess.
Design is very old school and that is a good thing
The CAT S22 Flip reminds me of my first cellular device – Samsung XGH-475. But the similarity between the two devices ends at the clamshell form factor. The CAT S22 Flip is however IP68 and MIL-SPEC 810H rated device.
I like the rubberized exterior of the CAT S22 Flip. Build quality is excellent, with no squeaks or creaks, or rattles anywhere. While the phone fits in one hand easily, it requires two hands to open it so you can use it.
This device will survive drops, water submersion along with bleach and alcohol so go ahead and use it anywhere without worrying about a case or screen protector.
Oh, and before I forget, this device comes with a removable 2000 mAh battery. The silver button on the top back can be opened with a screwdriver to remove the battery. Underneath the battery, you will find the SIM and SD card slots. I like how you can slide the covers for the card slots to pop them open, place the SIM or SD card and then click them back in.
The back cover has a red rubber lip which seals the battery inside once you tighten the screw at the top. There are two pogo pins on the back cover for charging the device but I am unsure what charger is compatible with those so you might have to do a bit more research there.
On the right-hand side, there is the orange programmable button. The opposite rail has the volume rocker and USB-C charging port with a flip cover.
Once you flip the phone open there’s a 2.8-inch screen with Gorilla Glass 5. You can use gloves or wet fingers on the display and it responds to taps and touches just fine. Instead of on-screen navigation, you use the three buttons at the top of the keypad. This is good because you can utilize more of the screen for viewing the content which is useful since the actual screen is quite small.
On the outside, there is a small secondary 1.44″ display again with Gorilla Glass 5 protection. Overall, I think this is a well-executed clamshell design with all the modern smartphone amenities onboard.
But how well does the CAT S22 Flip perform?
While the overall hardware is excellent the silicon hardware is decidedly more towards the basic functionality end from a smartphone perspective. The CAT S22 Flip is powered by a Snapdragon 215 chipset. And it runs Android 11 Go Edition. Onboard storage is 16GB along with 2GB RAM. There is a micro SD card slot for pictures, videos, and other document files.
But let’s set aside specs for a minute. Because in terms of browsing the web, catching up on Gmail, or watching YouTube videos I encountered no issues on Android 11 Go. And I had no hiccups with Google Maps, Google Assistant, and YouTube Music. So for the most part, I think you should be okay using this mainly for calls and 2-way radio along with occasional internet use.
I can definitely see this phone as sort of a second device for people who only use their large screen devices in their work truck or office and use the CAT S22 Flip while on the job site.
How are the cameras on the CAT S22 Flip?
The main 5MP camera takes good pictures in daylight and at nighttime with ambient lighting. Colors are generally quite accurate. You will find that you need to tweak the exposure in broad daylight as it tries to blow the highlights. Since it is only a 5MP camera details are a bit lacking if you pixel peep the pictures on a 22-inch monitor. But on the small screen or a regular smartphone display, the pictures are good enough for sharing on social media. I would say that the same observations apply to the 2MP selfie camera.
CAT S22 Flip Camera Samples
As far as video is concerned, the main camera can take 1080p resolution videos at 30fps. There is a slight lag in terms of processing the image since there is a Snapdragon 215 onboard but after a couple of days of use I was able to calibrate myself to that expected delay.
In short, the cameras are serviceable but if you are a photography buff then this is not the camera for you.
Connectivity, Battery Life, and Audio are quite good on the CAT S22 Flip
I am a T-Mobile customer and so there were absolutely no issues connecting to the T-Mobile LTE network here in Southern California on the CAT S22 Flip smartphone. Calls are loud and clear. Texting is a non-issue once you get used to using the touchpad and the buttons. I used the buttons for entering numbers and the screen for the text. Even though the screen is small, I didn’t have too many issues typing on this phone.
Even though this phone is a T-Mobile exclusive, it is factory unlocked so I am hoping it should work on AT&T’s GSM network. Besides the network and WiFi, there’s Bluetooth and Nearby Share in terms of connectivity. It does not have NFC for contactless payments so keep that in mind.
Audio-wise the single speaker at the bottom of the clamshell is loud and quite clear. I like the speaker grille placement which makes it difficult to cover up while making calls. This is something a lot of phone makers don’t pay attention to so kudos to CAT for paying attention to this detail.
The old-school clamshell design lets you prop up the screen so you can watch YouTube videos while munching on your food during lunch break. I think most outdoor site workers would be happy with this little feature!
A tiny screen phone means a smaller battery as well. However, since there’s only a 2.8″ to be powered the 2000 mAh battery is quite adequate. You can easily go a full day and maybe even two days if you mainly make calls between charges. I found myself charging the device every two days during the review period. Granted I did not use a lot of apps outside calls, text, camera, gallery, YouTube, and Chrome. This is exactly what CAT is hoping most users will do so battery life is more than adequate in my opinion.
Should you buy the CAT S22 Flip?
The answer to the question is strictly dependent on priorities, preferences, and use case scenarios. There are people who may want some sort of digital detox and/or work in harsh work environments and for those people, the CAT S22 Flip is a great device.
The Cat S22 Flip supports MDM (Mobile Device Management) and EMM (Enterprise Mobility Management) which make it attractive to Information Technology departments in companies that have a lot of people working in harsh environments.
On the other hand, this is a $234 T-Mobile exclusive device albeit one with a 2-year factory warranty. For that price, however, there are plenty of good smartphones you can buy and put a rugged case on. So the choice of rocking a clamshell design smartphone comes down to personal choice.