The Best Rugged Smart Phones for Construction Field Workers

best construction smartphone 2021The mobile phone has become far more than a personal device for remote workers. In the 2020 Construction Technology report from JB Knowledge, 93 percent of construction industry workers surveyed used their smart phones for work. Mobile apps have exploded and the phone provides access to productivity-boosting tools for documenting work progress, accessing project plans, dispatching and payroll. The functionality of these devices continues to expand with devices such as the Cat S61 incorporating thermal imaging technologies, an indoor air quality sensor and laser-assisted measurement. Make no mistake – the smart phone is a critical tool on the jobsite.

The majority of the industry’s 7.5 million workers spend a considerable amount of time in the field, often facing the elements, many working at heights and without access to a traditional power source. What construction field workers are looking for from a smart phone is something that is waterproof, shockproof, and drop-proof, with a long-lasting battery. Considering that more than a third of cell phones are damaged in use1, it’s not surprising that rugged smart phones are finding their way onto the jobsite. According to Caterpillar, the bring your own device trend across mobility, sees employees purchasing their own choice of handset, with the expectation that they will be able to use its features for work.

An industry standard rating system helps buyers identify devices with the best ingress protection. A rating of IP68 means the device is fit enough to withstand dust, dirt and sand, and is resistant to submersion up to a maximum depth of 1.5m underwater for up to thirty minutes. The first number (6) relates to the protection level against dust or similar – 6 is the highest number you can get, meaning total protection. The second digit relates to liquid protection. A rating of IP69 can also withstand high-pressure, high-temperature jet sprays, steam-cleaning, or washdowns.

Another standard buyers can use to evaluate smart phones is based on military specifications for testing equipment developed by the Department of Defense. Manufacturers who want to demonstrate a level of ruggedization beyond IP ratings can conduct environmental lab testing according to the MIL-STD-810 standard to validate their product’s durability.

Another useful feature for construction field workers is a screen that can be read in direct sunlight. The Cat S42’s super bright 5.5" HD+ 18x9 display allows for this, and is protected by scratch resistant Corning® Gorilla® Glass. Its touch screen can be controlled with wet fingers or when wearing gloves.

Battery life is important when in the field. The Samsung XCover Pro, introduced in January 2020 features pogo pin charging support and compatibility with third-party charging docks to ensure the phone is powered as soon as the workday begins, and a 4,050mAh battery lasts long after the day is done. The battery is also replaceable, in case a spare is needed. Cat smart phones also feature batteries that remain powered well beyond a typical day’s use.

best phone for construction workersProtecting valuable business data

Reports such as Verizon's Mobile Security Index, detail the threats facing companies globally. According to Verizon, one of the first steps a company can take to ensure devices are secure is to take a mobile security assessment.  The right network security, device management, and mobile threat defense are key to keeping sensitive material and information safe and out of the wrong hands. Solutions such as Samsung Knox  offer advanced security features like hardware-backed protection, data isolation and encryption and boot- and run-time protection to ensure that business-critical information is protected against intrusion, malware and other threats. Device security also helps.  Samsung’s XCover Pro includes a fingerprint reader and facial recognition that enable touch-free accessibility for security while out in the field.

Cat’s rugged smartphones support Google’s Android Enterprise (AE) feature set. Using these tools in conjunction with an enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution, businesses can manage the devices used for work by their employees. This includes securing valuable to sensitive data, and ensuring devices are set up correctly to maximize productivity. Cat also conducts provisioning testing with leading EMM solutions such as SOTI MobiControl, VMware Workspace One (Airwatch), IBM MaaS360, Mobile Iron, and 42Gears Sure MDM. With Google zero-touch device enrolment, devices can be registered to a customer’s organization by participating channel partners and preconfigured remotely. That means that when they are powered on, set-up is automatic, hugely reducing the time and resources required from the business.

cat s42 rugged smart phone5G is transforming construction

5G is the 5th generation of mobile cellular communications, which first launched in April 2019. With faster data speeds, greater reliability and massive capacity, 5G connects users, machines, and devices anywhere operations are being conducted. The use of new sensors and 5G is enabling better data collection from construction sites to achieve real-time synchronization from start to finish of a project. This means material tracking and dispatching technologies and technical support can be done visually in real-time, reducing dependence on technicians or managers on-site, which can help boost productivity.

To take advantage of 5G, your phone needs to support it. 4G phones won’t work on the 5G network. To prepare for 5G Verizon suggests companies review their digital transformation agenda and have a full understanding of their technological infrastructure. Having the right technology infrastructure and tools can allow companies to utilize 4G LTE and other current technologies while setting the foundation for the path to 5G. 

“The new smart construction sites bring vast benefits through adoption of AI and big data,” said a spokesperson for Cat phone.  “Some useful benefits are better safety and compliance, mitigation of risk and a reduction of security concerns.”

1 Source: Bullitt Group Research and YouGov, Damage Report 2017, (5,130 Respondents)

Featured Rugged Smart Phones

  IP Rating MIL-STD Rating Battery Life Security Features Additional Features MSRP
Cat S42 IP68 IP69 810H 4,200mAh Battery Google Android™ 10 (with upgrade to 11) and quarterly security patches   $299
CAT S48c IP68 810G 4,000mAh battery Google Android™ Oreo Safe to use in most hazardous environments $499
Cat S61 IP68 IP69K 810G 4,500mAh battery Platform/OS - Google Android Oreo (with update to P) Laser-assisted measurement; indoor air quality monitor; thermal imaging $729
Kyocera DuraForce PRO 2 IP68 810G 3,240mAh battery Fingerprint reader   $444
Samsung XCover Pro IP68 810G 4,050mAh replaceable battery. Fast Charging (15W), Pogo Charging Samsung Knox, Fingerprint reader; facial recognition   $499


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