DOOGEE S98 PRO Wärmebildkamera Outdoor Smartphone ohne Vertrag, 8GB+256GB, 48MP Dreifach-Rückfahrkamera (20MP IR Nachtsicht), IP68 Wasserdichtes Android 12 Handy, 6,3″ FHD+, Kabelloses Laden NFC GPS (WHL #82)

Just in – a very special combination of Expensive and Cheap – the Doogee S98 Pro.

Since changing jobs also means giving back the old company phone, the CAT S61, I needed to get something else. Buying a used S61 would be an option, buying a new S62 not so much (still using FLIR sensors – sensor great, software and licensing a disaster), and basically all of their competitors use FLIR as well. With three notable exceptions: (as far as I know!)
* InfiRay PX1 5G
* AGM Glory G1S
* Doogee S98 Pro (similar to the Blackview phones, the “Pro” part is important)

The InfiRay seems to be a phone made by the FLIR competitor itself, so that is an interesting concept – however, they’re not available or even EOL already, and there’s no used market either. So these are generally unobtainium.
The AGM phone has a steep 750€ price tag and is available from one source only – the manufacturer itself. While this isn’t my first choice, I might need to default to that one.
And the Doogee S98 Pro is somewhat available, mostly from foreign sellers (within the EU), very few used units available. After being on my watch list on eBay and several price check websites for months, I picked one up for 467€ on Amazon. Seller apparently is from Ireland, item was shipped from a German warehouse.

Well, this won’t be a full review, if you need like comparison shots of the cameras, runtime tests, performance figures and in-depth specs discussion, you need to look elsewhere. Those are available, but of course not as plentiful as every friggen new iPhone. This is just a somewhat quick roundup of how I tested my unit and why it will go back to Amazon early next week.

So, here’s one of the press photos of the brick – the additional cover (wtf?) not present, it’s just another protection for the edges and probably the front, not so much for the camera assembly. The center one is the infrared camera, with a regular sensor and a black-and-white “night vision” camera with infrared LEDs on the side – both of them are accessed in the regular camera app, and the additional (constant) IR lighting is activated automatically based on ambient light levels. It’s actually pretty useful, but not a game changer like the thermal camera. Not the term “Rückfahrkamera” in the original product description on Amazon – Rückfahrkamera is the reverse/back-up camera on a car. Guess that refers to the cameras in back…

Two comparison shots of the thermal camera: S61 first, S98 Pro last. This is a gate valve for hot water at work, on the ceiling, where the valve is exposed between the insulated pipework. The S61 only produces a diffuse blob which is enough to spot things that shouldn’t be there, and the S98 Pro has a really crisp version of that. I mean there’s a lot of post-processing involved nowadays and the S98 Pro has a 256×192 px resolution sensor (an order of magnitude more pixels than the S61’s 80×60!), so that’s an easy win for the S98 Pro. This resolution advantage also helps in terms of reflections, e.g. I looked around for a f-shaped thing in the same room, only to discover that this was another warm water pipe reflected in a large window. The same thing is impossible to see with the S61 due to it being a diffuse blob – sharp reflections are very easy to spot when moving the camera, blurry ones aren’t.

The temperature reading overlay in red is a downside, maybe that can be moved or changed – it’s annoying and not very helpful. The clear cross or area functions of the FLIR are much better, although tracking the hotspot isn’t as fast as it is on the S98 Pro.

Here’s just a bunch of benchmark figures (3DMark for Android) that I produced during error analysis, I have no idea what a “good” phone has to have these days, all I can see is slight throttling on the more intense tests and an overall rating that is usually not in the top tier of gaming phones (wtf again).

That’s all fine by me, I won’t be playing stupid P2W games like Diablo Immortal, so if it can play the occasional video in full 1080p, that’s all I need.

Primary reason for this blog entry however is why I need to return it – unsure if in exchange for another unit, or changing model and make entirely. This might not be detected by the hyperactive phone testers of today: It has a serious bug when going to idle. It’s fully capable of running all the benchmark crap shown above, and it is fine as long as the display is on (WakeLock and similar apps). However once the screen goes black, regardless of reason (timeout or pressing the power button), it does reboot.
Random delay, but certainly not as part of “saving power”, since the lock code has to be entered, and (both) SIM cards have to be unlocked as well. This is beyond frustrating and does not change (read: to the better) by resetting it via recovery bootloader or in the system settings when fully booted. Initially this was like every hour or so, and I was curious about the behaviour. It also sometimes ended up in bootloader menus when buttons were accidentally pressed while being in a pocket, which is beyond useless for a camera gadget that should be available within seconds all day every day. Now, after some poking around, this is basically constant behaviour. Screen goes off – phone reboots. Screen stays on for hours – nothing happens.

Here’s a bit of timelapse footage from half an hour of doing “nothing” – the darn thing reboots 14 times. FOURTEEN TIMES.

(Please do not watch it all the way, it’s a waste of time and it also includes loud bits since I demolished furniture in the meantime. All reboots except for the first one that presented an error message never seen before are identical, just with different timing)

Since I cannot re-apply the V3.02 firmware via adb sideload or other means, I’m out of luck here and won’t be digging deeper. Sideload usually returns “not authorized”, and when it doesn’t, it reports a signature mismatch so it won’t do anything. It does not accept the freely available ROMs from the manufacturer on a SD card, I tried FAT32, ExFAT and ext4, the first one both formatted via PC and the phone itself. /sdcard cannot be mounted – not happening.

Verdict: Nice phone, shame it’s a useless brick that slowly vibrates off every table that is on an angle. Useless as a phone, although quicker to boot than a regular (standalone) thermal imaging camera.
Amazon, I want my money back…

Side note, since I will forget that stuff if I don’t write it down: Video Speedup via ffmpeg is done via this command:

ffmpeg -i input.mkv -r 50 -filter_complex 
-map "[v]" -map "[a]" output.mkv

(all in one line)
atempo is, according to the manual, limited to a range of 0.5 to 2.0, but can be applied multiplicatively. So atempo2,2,2,2 yields a 16x speedup that is also applied to the audio. The setpts 1/16 factor is used for timestamp correction, and -r limits frame rate to twice the original 25 fps. Also run with atempo=1 for untouched footage, then stitch together with mkvtoolnix.

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