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The most obvious place to start is it does indeed float! This is a weird site to behold, but also prodding the Tradesman under water sees it immediately bob back up to the surface. We found no ill effects to getting it wet either despite deliberately leaving it wet once we'd taken it out of the water. Given the price, this alone will be a deal maker for many.
As for the toughness, the Tradesman also passes with flying colours. We didn't have a JCB GT to drag it behind or two tonnes of rubble handy (despite claims that Ed's car could be described as such), but repeated drops onto grass then concrete with our arms stretched above head height refused to bother the Tradesman one little bit.
We do have some reservations over whether repeated direct impacts to the screen could prove vulnerable, but the reinforced display suggests it will stand up well. Given the Tradesman is made out of a strengthened plastic rather than shielded with soft rubber it does pick up scuffs and scratches, but far less than your average phone – especially considering there is no paint to chip.
So the Tradesman certainly lives up to its billing as a cheap tough phone and one with an extremely practical world first, but what about the rest of the package? Truth be told there's not a lot to say. The software is extremely basic – you've seen something similar on a Nokia about 10 years ago, but that's not really the point. You'll never get lost in the menu and this is a phone for making phone calls, sending text messages and surviving rough treatment.
It is also worth pointing out that the Tradesman is pretty good at making phone calls – something many high-end smartphones seem to have forgotten – with dual built-in speakers to ensure you can be heard in noisy environments. You'll find push-to-talk functionality as well, handy for organising groups if you all have PTT capable phones.
The ultimate goal of the JCB Tradesman TP121 is not to replace your cutting-edge smartphone, but to allow you to leave it at home when the going gets tough. For technophobes the Tradesman's simple user interface offers a reassuring blast from the past, while simultaneously providing futuristic durability. With prices online as low as £69.99 (RRP £74.99) it is an ideal stocking filler for children and relatives.You should pick one up too...
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