back to article Ruggedized phone group takes the Bullitt, calls in PWC as administrative receiver

UK-based ruggedized phone maker Bullitt Group has called in PWC as administrative receivers after its management team seemingly failed to pull off a proposed restructure. Bullitt designed and sold ruggedized smartphones with brands such as Caterpillar, JCB and Land Rover, and also had a deal with Motorola to develop Moto- …

  1. tmTM

    There's a ton of these types of phones being knocked out by no-name Chinese manufacturers.

    Grated they're probably buggy and not as good, but for a niche market to be flooded with cheap copies, it's never good.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re. 'probably buggy and not as good', this is a mega-understatement. And even this understatement might be an Understatement, apparently some of those Chinese no-names (there are a couple), are just put together by several other no-name-no-names, which compete against each other, and not on quality.

      Ironically (?) the branded rugged phones are increasingly moving in the similar direction. In theory, you're paying a lot of money and getting a shitty specced handset, but that money's supposed to go towards quality control and customer care, but unless you're a corporate customer, you're practically left to fight it out in court, which you'll never do. At least, with mainstream, 'rugged' phones you hope to be shielded by their brand name and basic consumer protection, if you buy new...

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      And if a company wanted guaranteed support for a phone of this type they'd just buy a Samsung XCover.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had a cheap rugged chinese copy of one of these. It was pretty good for an £80 phone, so long as you don't mind getting absolutely no software updates. When it prematurely died, I spent a lot more money on a non-rugged phone (a fairphone) to ensure I got regular software updates.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Alternatively ...

      "to ensure I got regular software updates"

      To me, 'regular updates' merely means they still can't get it right. Personally, I'd prefer the product to be properly debugged from the start. Of course, if we assume nobody will ever get software right, I do see your point. But surely we, the customers, should complain loudly enough for this idiotic situation to be fixed.

      1. Mobile Mole

        Re: Alternatively ...

        More important than software updates are the regular security updates that reputable manufacturers provide. I wouldn't touch a device by a manufacturer that doesn't do this.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Alternatively ...

          "Buy our product. It's full of security holes, but we'll send you fixes for them every time criminals discover one."

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Alternatively ...

            Buy our product. It's full of security holes, but we'll send you fixes for them every time criminals discover one

            That's just pragmatic. If they said "Buy our product, it's 100% secure" I would say no thanks bullshitter.

      2. Julz

        Software

        Is just like any other goods or service and should be treated as such. If they do not work as described, then they are not fit for purpose. The consumer Rights Act 2015 and the amended Sale Of Goods Act 1979 are quiet clear on that. Well, in the UK at least. Other jurisdictions may vary.

        https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/15/notes/division/3/1/4

        https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/faulty-goods-digital-content-services/

  3. Vulch

    Generally no AR-Core

    I favour ruggedised phones, but whenever I go looking for a replacement one of the most common comments in reviews is "Why won't this do AR?". Apparently there are a lot of augmented reality apps aimed at architects and builders but no rugged phones that will run them. Maybe not a huge niche selling to architects wanting to show their clients the Shiney (tm) new building in what's currently a muddy field, but it is a market someone could capture.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Generally no AR-Core

      The approaches to AR include photogrammetry, twin cameras, and laser Time of Flight sensors. The latter, which is capable of accurate distance measurements, is only found on higher end Samsung Galaxy S 20 Plus and Ultra phones (Samsung dropped the feature on subsequent models) and higher end iPhones. Photogrammetry, using software to infer a 3D space from a series of 2D photographs, is compute expensive so is usually done on the cloud. It benefits from good photographs and ideally knowledge of the lens. Samsung Galaxy S are the best selling high end Androids, so are a larger target for developers in this area.

      The other approach for scanning rooms involves dedicated hardware from the likes of Leica tethered to an iOS device.

      Don't use a phone to show clients drawings on site, that's what tablets are for.

  4. Art Slartibartfast
    Black Helicopters

    CAT S62 Pro, one of a kind

    My private phone is a CAT S62 Pro and no other phone offers a FLIR thermal camera with 320 x 240 pixels. Other phones only offer a quarter of that thermal resolution. With all of its features, it has quite decent battery life too, even after three years.

    Since there are no recent security security updates (last one is of March 1, 2023 for Android 11), I am going to have to replace it soon. It sucks that there is no worthy successor on the market. Also, no way I am buying a Chinese brand.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: CAT S62 Pro, one of a kind

      Hmm ... where do you think CAT phones were manufactured?

    2. short

      Re: CAT S62 Pro, one of a kind

      My personal phone is also a CAT s62 Pro - a pretty decent phone and the thermal camera is earning its keep.

      Make sure your charging cable is in good nick- flakey charging (multiple repeated partial chargings) causes the battery monitor to go batshit and shut down all the time. You can reset it with a few empty-to-full-to-empty charge/discharge cycles, but getting it to do that without crashing is a (worthwhile) pain. Battery swap isn't too grim, if you have to. (this is a public service announcement, since I wouldn't have guessed it was soft-fixable without talking to a support person there)

      Anyway, I'll miss Bullitt, they seemed competent, certainly more so than no-name Chinese, but that's not always enough. And yes, the Android's getting worryingly creaky.

      1. WaveSynthBeep

        Re: CAT S62 Pro, one of a kind

        It's a pity that phone brands who focus on hardware features don't have good software platforms to build on. If this was a laptop it would come with Windows and then the brand could do their hardware party tricks - like Toughbook do. Microsoft look after updates for a decade or so, the manufacturer doesn't have to worry.

        But because Android is such a mess they have to buy a platform from Mediatek or Qualcomm that is abandoned in a few years and so the phone is junk long before the hardware is. I'd guess a lot more rugged phones are being scrapped for software rather than broken screens, water damage or whatever.

  5. Frank Long

    The final death of phone design in the Thames Valley

    I think this is the final nail in the coffin for what used to be a thriving industry in the UK.

    Moved to the UK 20 years ago, there were well over a dozen companies within 20 miles of Reading designing mobile handsets. NEC (Reading), Nokia, Vertu (Fleet/Camberley), Motorola, Sony, Ericsson (Basingstoke), RIM/Blackberry (Slough), Panasonic (Bracknell & Thatcham), Sharp (Bracknell). There's almost certainly more than that, e.g. I believe Hitachi in Bourne End were designing some from the UK at the time.

    Vodafone, Three and O2 were all designing phones too, e.g. the XDA, or custom versions of phones from the other suppliers.

    There was an entire ecosystem of equipment suppliers, manufacturing, test, chipset vendors, etc...

    Bullitt were essentially one of the last vestiges of that industry in the Thames Valley area.

    And now they're gone too.

    1. ARGO

      Re: The final death of phone design in the Thames Valley

      Several of those even manufactured handsets in the UK. Such a quaint idea nowadays.

    2. elbisivni

      Re: The final death of phone design in the Thames Valley

      And a bit further way, in Birmingham we had Sendo.

      Despite them settling with Microsoft on their legal spat I'm still not entirely convinced that MS didn't do what Sendo accused them of. At least in part.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: The final death of phone design in the Thames Valley

        When it comes to Microsoft, I generally assume the same likelihood of probable guilt as with Jonathan Wild Thief-Taker General.

        .

        ( Born in Wolverhampton, incidentally. )

  6. JamesTGrant

    Niche market

    Unless the hardware does something specific, getting a really rugged case for the phone you actually want is much cheaper AND you get the phone you either want, or know how to use.

    I can see it being a tough market. Also, not sure that Caterpillar et al would know much about making a mobile phone - though I’m sure the logo on the case is cool - to not enough people to run a business.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Niche market

      exactly what I came to say.

      You can make your phone exceptionally rugged these days for about £10 down the market.

      Slapping these protectors on phones and reselling them to companies at ten times the price is a bit of a gamble.

  7. Necrohamster Silver badge

    Incredibly niche lifestyle phone, depending on which Bob-The-Builder brand you identify with.

    And there lies the problem. As a tough-phone maker, is it better in the long term to develop your own brand or piggyback on the brand recognition of Land Rover or Caterpillar?

    As others have pointed out, you can go on AliExpress and buy a no-name Chinese tough-phone for a hundred quid.

    1. short

      I thought Bullitt were a design shop - they did what the brands asked, rather than licensing the CAT (f'rex) name for their own products. I'm pretty sure they were behind other low volume and interesting devices.

      Those saying that you can buy a tough phone from aliexpress - sure. But if you're in the market for a phone with a particular feature (like the thermal camera on the S62 pro), you probably want the damn thing to be good, and work, and you're not looking to save a couple of hundred quid, not least because your company is paying for the phone.

      As usual, the volumes of the herd make anything interesting really hard to sell for a price that doesn't make you go 'ouch'. Moto Mods that added functions to otherwise normal phones were great but failed in the market. It's a shame that there's not a decent way to add things like thermal cameras (or lidar blocks, or whatever) - it's not as if Android as a platform can't cope with removeable hardware (is it?)

  8. fowljr

    I have a CAT S22 Flip. Bought it because it was going cheap, well beep...!! But I really like it apart from it being bulky and looking like it has the ability to hammer in nails. Yes, the security updates have stopped, so will probably be a problem longer term. Although I wouldn't do much on it and that was the point... Cut down what could be done!! I don't know why you can't get a decent proper Flip phone, not a folding flip with an up to date Android version on it!

    1. Claverhouse Silver badge
      Unhappy

      I miss the Razr. The old long one.

  9. simmondp

    Looks like the https://bullitt-group.com is down, however https://shop.motorolarugged.com will still try to sell you a sat dongle - question is for all of those with Sat Dongles, is the service still working, particularly the SOS button??

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